Archive for the ‘Winter in Oysterville’ Category

Another of Life’s Little Mysteries

Monday, February 25th, 2019

The Little Bedroom

In our house, if something strange can’t rightfully be attributed to Mrs. Crouch (our resident ghost), Nyel has the perfect catch-all category. Mrs. C. usually gets credit for doors that swing open for no reason or for pictures that suddenly fall off the wall and, always, for anything that goes missing.  She still has Nyel’s car keys from last March!

But, in a big and ancient house like ours, “shit happens” as they say.  Nyel, ever the gentleman, has never adopted that particular phrase (no matter how descriptive.)  He simply shrugs and says, “another of life’s little mysteries.”

A prime example has happened within the last few weeks.  Or more accurately, the discovery has been made that recently. I was upstairs laying out fresh towels and double-checking for dust and cobwebs last week in preparation for a visit from the cousins and, much to my amazement, found a large paint-less spot on the floor of the “little bedroom.”  It’s a room seldom used and has a brightly painted teal-colored floor.  There, between the bed and the nightstand was an area about the size of the lid of a small yoghurt  carton that is completely devoid of paint!

Mystery Spot in the Little Bedroom

How could that have happened?  Maybe something spilled and took the paint right off?  But what?  And when?  As always in situations like this, I wonder if it’s been like that for some time and I just now noticed.  But wouldn’t some guest have mentioned it?  Actually… probably not.  People are usually too polite to point out household defects or blemishes.

So, the only thing to do is to move forward.  As in, do we still have any of that particular floor paint left?  And if I just sand the edges around the area and clean the surface carefully, will a couple of swipes of paint do the trick?  Of course, it’s one of those things that I’d ordinarily leave to Nyel, but his going-upstairs days are on hold for the foreseeable future. Where are the relatives of those shoemaker’s elves, anyway?


Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

We watched the State of the Union address last night.  I had vowed I wouldn’t, but then… thought I “should.”  I had told myself I would remain silent throughout.  Promise broken in the first five minutes.  I told myself I’d stay seated – or at least in the room. Promise broken many times over.  Couldn’t stick it.  I vowed I would be attentive.  Vow broken – or at least I think it was.  Certainly, I’m very fuzzy about most of what was said.  Trump seemed to be taking credit for D-Day…  Huh?

I do remember a couple of my reveries, though.  One was about the two old guys who were holocaust survivors.  Judah Samet is two years younger than I; Joshua Kaufman, six years older. I remember the newsreels we saw after the war – I was nine when the war ended and, although my folks still monitored which movie I could go to – no violence, sex, or other inappropriate stuff – I don’t think they thought much about the Pathé News that always accompanied the main feature. The 1922/1945 newsreel images of the holocaust victims and their liberation remain clear in my mind to this day.  Mr. Trump, of course, hadn’t been born yet.  And his point was…Huh?

Louise and Willard Espy, Oysterville 1981

As I listened to the summary of our economy (“never been better”) my concentration wandered again.  This time, I went back to the 1970s or so.  I don’t remember who was running for President, but whoever it was had decided that a good ploy would be to get acquainted with “the common man” – you know, people like us.  Louise Espy, Willard’s (third and final) wife saw something about the plan in the New York Times and wrote a letter to the editor (somewhat scathing, as I recall) essentially saying, “Yeah!  Right!” and offering to host the Presidential hopeful at their NY apartment.

Much to everyone’s surprise, she was soon notified, “Game on!”  She and Willard were vetted by the FBI, as was their apartment building, their friends and associates etc. etc.  They passed all the background checks with flying colors, Louise was sent a list of requirements (type of mattress acceptable, food allergies and so on), the date was set, arrangements were made for nearby accommodations for security personnel and on and on.  Louise had the carpet cleaned, hired a bevy of housecleaners, laid in special wines and, in general, upgraded their “common folks” surroundings” big time.  Two or three days ahead of the big sleepover, the candidate’s schedule changed and it was the end of the story.

By the time that reverie was over, the focus had shifted.  And I was in the kitchen fixing a snack.  Best to eat those comfort foods while I can still afford them, eh?

Yesterday: A Perfect Winter Day!

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

Our South Garden

We woke up to a frosty white world – five or six inches of snow blanketed Oysterville.  And, by mid-morning the sky was blue and here we were surrounded by a winter wonderland!  Perfect!

For dinner – two of the biggest, sweetest, fullest Dungeness crabs you’ve ever seen!  The bounty of Willapa Bay, brought to us ‘on the hoof’ by a crabber friend and cooked on a hot plate in our kitchen garden following my grandmother’s recipe of a hundred years ago.  They were perfect!

Nyel Digs In

Truly, winter days don’t get much better than yesterday was!  Not for this former California girl who isn’t a fan of freezing weather and snowy sports.  But…  truly, the day was a feast from beginning to end and I think I’m good now, at least winter weather-wise.  I hope Punxsutawney Phil is right – an early spring!

As for the crab part – I wish our local crabbers a long and fruitful season!  I, for one, could manage a dinner like last night’s many more times before those pesky quotas are reached.  Absolute perfection!

Of White Snow and Sooty Sweeps

Monday, February 4th, 2019

Early Morning Out My Window

Sometime in the early morning hours I woke up to find that the world of Oysterville had turned white.  The rhododendrons and lilac trees and the railing of our porch were blanketed in three or four inches of snow.  I almost couldn’t wait for morning light so I could go outside and see beyond what the porch light revealed.

I went back to a dozy reverie until the alarm went off and our day began in earnest.  Over coffee Nyel asked if I’d seen the latest comment by an academic who suggests that the ‘Steps in Time’ scene in the Mary Poppins movie is racist.  According to Metro News:  Classic Disney film Mary Poppins has been branded ‘racist’ by a university professor who believes the scene with Mary and Bert dancing with the chimney sweeps features blackface.

The  university professor making these claims is Daniel Pollack-Pelzner,  an English and gender studies professor at Oregon’s Linfield College who, says their website “is a member of the faculty at the University of California Dickens Project and is the Shakespeare Scholar for the Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association.”

Tracks Left by the Deer People

If those really are his credentials and if the Metro News story is correct, then shame on Professor Pollack-Pelzer!  Surely, he’s read Oliver Twist.  Surely, he knows something about chimney sweeps and soot.  Surely, he is trying to make a name for himself by taking a quantum bigoted leap equating Mary Poppins and Bert and the dance of the soot-covered sweeps to a black-faced racist parody.

My mind went back into my snowy reverie. So much more pleasant there, having coffee with the hummingbird at his feeder.  And, as I gazed out at our snow-covered world, I wondered if there might be another professor somewhere, maybe a meteorologist, who might claim that the weather gods are racist for causing snow to be white… Or maybe, soot was made to be black on purpose… Or… wotthehell (as Mehitabel would say) is wrong with people these days?

About that grocery list…

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

Nyel and Sydney, 2012

“It’s better to laugh than to cry” is always my motto.  Take yesterday, for instance.  Nyel and I were planning an “outing” (his term) to make the “dreaded CostCo run” (my term, especially right now since Nyel can’t leave the car without more wheelchair and walker fall-dee-rah than either of us can manage.)  I was doing the lunch cleanup; Nyel was sitting at the kitchen table making a shopping list.  This is how it went:

Me – I think we need tea.

Nyel – Pepper jack?

Me (a little louder) – No, not cheese.  Tea.  With a ‘T’.

Nyel – Oh, yes. Peas.  See if they have those little ones – the petite pois.

Me – (a lot louder) – No!  Tea!  Like what you drink now instead of coffee!

Both – gales of laughter.

Nyel and Sydney, 2018

We came home with the tea and the peas, but I forgot the cheese entirely.  Nyel already has hearing aids from CostCo but he hates them.  Unfortunately, they don’t have memory chips for humans yet, but if they did, I’d undoubtedly forget that, too.

Looking Forward To That Light Fantastic!

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

Sydney and Nyel, 2004

YESTERDAY:  Nyel’s heart team at the UW Medical Center gave him a great six months’ report.  Things have not looked this good for him since 2014!

TODAY: To Portland to get the report of his orthopedic team.  Hoping his leg has healed sufficiently that it can begin bearing his weight again.  First time since October 3rd!

TOMORROW:  Looking forward to planning a better future – maybe not tripping that light fantastic right away, but at least having another pair of boots on the ground.

I can’t wait to tell those chickens:  “Here comes Farmer Nyel!”

Mona and Me — Lisa, not Espy

Monday, December 31st, 2018

I really want to talk about New Years Resolutions or Why I’m Switching to Role Models, but first I think I should explain the title of this blog.  The Mona part that is.

I have a cousin named Mona.  She is the eldest (by six minutes if I remember correctly) of my uncle Willard’s daughters.  She and her twin sister Freddy grew up in New York with their two younger (not twin) sisters and they were all endlessly fascinating to me (the much older – by five years – only child, California cousin.)  But my non-resolution this year does not have to do with Mona-My-Cousin.  It’s about the other one – sort of.

First of all, I gave up resolutions long ago.  They don’t work and, besides, by the end of the first month I could never remember what they were.  So, I went to a “Letter of the Year” and aspired to all of the positive possibilities that said letter might represent.  Take 2010, for instance.  My choice was P – for projects, perseverance, publication, posterity, and positive.  I’m not sure what P represented on the balance side of the scales – maybe passive, petty, perfunctory, prosaic.

Mona (l) and Freddy (r)

That system, also, has not worked out to my satisfaction and, as I was thinking about the whole “renewal” aspect of things, FaceBook sent me yet another quiz.  I am a sucker for all those quizzes – you know, those what-city-should-you-actually-live in or how-well-do-you-know-the-famous-battles-of-Britain type quizzes.    Sadly, they are becoming fewer and further between now that the social media platforms are under scrutiny for selling your private information to advertisers – or something like that.

Over the years I’ve been told that I’m most like Lady Mary from the “Downton Abbey” series, Scooter from “The Muppet Show,” and Amy from “The Big Bang Theory.”  I’m even comparable to Yoda of “Star Wars” and, of all the characters Johnny Depp has played, I most closely resemble Willie Wonka!  So, the other day when I ran across a quiz that answered the burning question, “Which piece of art best describes you?” I said to myself, “Self,  what better role model could there be than someone (or something?) having to do with art?”


“However this turns out,” I said, “I wIill turn it into my Role Model of the Year.”  No more pesky resolutions.  No more alphabet letters that I can’t rightly remember for even six months.  Nope.  I’m going for the major characteristics of a well-known piece of art.  As I whipped through the questions (actually choices, more than questions) I couldn’t imagine what the end result would be.  “Mona Lisa” came the answer.  Really?  The Giaconda best describes me??    Deflated doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt.

Your mysterious and introspective soul can only be Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” Even though you are as calm as an infinity pool on the outside, you harbor a lot of deep thought within yourself. Your friends often wonder what you are thinking about when they see you lost in thought, but they always leave you to figure it out for yourself.


Say what?  Mona L. and I couldn’t be more opposite.  Or maybe that’s the point – maybe I need to be more mysterious and try for a “deep thought” or two.  Wouldn’t hurt to give it a whirl, I guess.  And her outfit isn’t all that bad.  I do draw the line at that greenish complexion though….

…until we don’t have it anymore…

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

It’s another one of those built-in situations.  Part of the human condition, apparently.  Whoever designed us glued the ‘appreciation’ part of the prototype onto the ‘retrospect’ component.  There was probably a reason for that but, try as I might to figure it out, it escapes me.

Why is it that we do not appreciate our youth and energy until we no longer have them?  Why don’t we realize the value of money until it’s inflated beyond usefulness?  And why didn’t I realize that getting the late-breaking news in the next day’s newspaper was so much better than these minute-by-minute tweets and snarks that arrive through the ozone.

In fact… it occurs to me that maybe the world is in its present state of constant turmoil for just that reason.  All this angst and drama and nastiness that is apparently a constant part of the cyberspace generation must be out there somewhere clotting up the ozone layer or the stratosphere.  Maybe it’s raining unseen from that “cloud” we hear about that is storing all our most precious information.

If I’d taken physics I might have a greater understanding.  I think there’s some principal that says energy can neither be created or destroyed.  I’m not sure how our thoughts play into that, but I think that once thoughts are formed and then released out in the universe, they have the power to influence us.  You know… like the power of positive thinking.  There are no doubt comparable energy forces like the power of paranoia.  Or the power of perfidy.

On the other hand… it’s raining.  Actually pouring.  A good day to clean out a cupboard or read a good book and just blame these gloomy thoughts on the weather.

Nyel’s Stone Soup!

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

As is usual when I get my tail in a knot, it was Nyel to the rescue today.   Also, as is usual, ‘rescue’ took the form of taking charge of the kitchen – not just of the cooking and cleaning up, but of the planning and shopping, as well.

Actually, for the shopping part, he didn’t even have to venture out of the house.  He shopped the refrigerator and I know for a fact it was pretty slim pickin’s.  Nevertheless, I was nose-to-grindstone on the first deadline for a new book commitment and I simply didn’t give food a thought.  I surfaced for some cheese and crackers and a few celery sticks at noon and smelled (rather than saw) dinner already in the making.


“Is it vegetable soup?” I asked.

“More like stone soup,” was the answer.

“Really?  Did you really use a stone?”  I was teasing… or so I thought.


“No.  Really.  What did you start with?”

“Really.  It was a stone.  Well, maybe more of a rock.  I found it in the crisper.”

Uh Oh.  “What are you talking about?”

“Truly.  It was a rock.  A big chunk of petrified Parmesan cheese.  I started with that and then kept adding whatever vegetables I could find – carrots, potatoes, corn niblets, tomatoes… You know.  All the usual ingredients…”

It was delicious!

Tomorrow, meet the quintessential Tucker!

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Tucler and His Pin Ball Machines

Tucker Wachsmuth is an artist, a storyteller, a collector. a photographer, a sailor, and now and then, when he leads all the kids in town on a historical scavenger hunt, he’s the Pied Piper of Oysterville.  He loves to help and is the one the neighbors count on to bring his chain saw or maybe a special tool or a ladder to the rescue.  Perhaps more than anything else, Tucker loves to have fun.  It’s almost a given that he will drop everything to play a game of whiffle golf if only you will ask!  Tucker is definitely “a man of many parts.”

Danielle and Opa Tucker, 2012

But it’s when he’s talking about his pinball collection that Tucker really shines!  Tomorrow at 1:00 he will be doing just that as speaker at the annual meeting of the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum.  He’ll be telling about some of his more unusual machines, how he came to have them, and how he came to be one of the preeminent collectors of pinball machines in the Northwest.

His pinball machines date back to the early ’30s when they first became popular in the United States. On display will be machines from that decade and on through the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.  He’ll explain how the machines gradually became more complex with electric bumpers and the addition of flippers giving the games a greater challenge.  And, he’ll point out the changes in pinball artwork as it evolved decade by decade.

Tucker Demonstrates Oyster Tongs, 2014

I hope he talks a little bit about how he got into collecting and about the discoveries he made along the way – especially about himself!  To me, that’s the most interesting part of Tucker’s pinball story!  No hints here, but I’ll surely give him a nudge if he skips over that part tomorrow!

And the best part of all – fifteen of the pinballs will be on display and available for audience members to play at the conclusion of his talk. Don’t forget your nickels!