Archive for the ‘Winter in Oysterville’ Category

…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!

Last night when the bathtub broke its leg…

Monday, February 26th, 2018

… we heard not a thing.  Not a bang or a whimper.  When you consider the weight of that old cast iron tub, you’d think we’d have heard SOMEthing.  Or that the house would have shifted just a bit on its foundation.  Or at the very least, the floor tiles in the bathroom would have cracked.

But… we noticed nothing at all until this morning.  The news was ‘delivered’ (more or less) by the duck and the frog.  And, also, by the fact that the soap holder was cattywampus.  That soap holder is also the usual resting place of the rubber duckie and the fat green frog.  They are always hopeful that the Red House cousins will come and play with them in the bath.  It has only happened once, a long time ago, and they are probably too big for a Bathtub Adventure these days.  (But don’t tell Duckie and Frog.)

I became alarmed when I saw that Duckie was pitching forward at a rather precarious angle and Frog had hopped right down to the bottom of the tub!  From my vantage point, everything else looked fairly normal.  It wasn’t until I bellied onto the floor and took a look under the tub that I saw the problem.  (And the dust!)  Her (the tub must be female with those substantial curves at the front and back ends…) right front foot was lying on its side.  Disconnected and useless!

Only the plumbing connections and the other three feet are holding her up.  And, as Frog and Duckie could tell you, not quite evenly, at that.  I’m not sure how we’ll get her ‘back on her feet’, so to speak.  And, the scary part is, the other three feet look a bit askew.  Torqued somehow.

My best guess is that those claw feet got to tapping to the music of the Skamokawa Swamp Opera last night.  (They were playing in the room just next door.)  Toe-tapping by a clawfoot tub can be dangerous!  Just ask Duckie and Frog!

The Hours in a Day

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Time is one of those concepts that I don’t understand.  I only know that there never seems to be enough of it.  But that space-time continuum thing and the-seeing-something-from-a-speeding-train-while-someone else-sees-it-from-the-platform thing… You know, that mass and energy E=mc2 thing that Einstein figured out?  That completely escapes me.

I do know that time moves much faster for those of us who are older.  Instead of waiting forEVER for Christmas, it now gallops into view at warp speed, ready or not.  Each of our days is shorter, too.  What happened to those long, lazy afternoons of childhood when we had time down at the bay to build castles and dig tunnels and slide on the moss-covered ballast rocks for hours and hours and hours before dinner?  Now, it seems to take all afternoon just to walk down the lane to the bay and back, never mind the building projects.

I was never one to waste time being bored, though.  No one ever told me that “boredom is a choice.” I always knew, instinctively, that time was precious and that once the day was done, you couldn’t get it back.  I remember thinking about that the first time I ever flew to the East Coast, back in 1957.  As I recall, from San Francisco to New York was a five-hour trip in those days, but the trip back home took a shorter amount of time.  So, did that mean I had added or subtracted a bit of time to my life?  And what if I just kept flying in the same direction every time I took a trip?  Could I prolong my allotted time on this mortal coil?

But, as we all know, time is an arbitrary measure, Time zones and the international date line are man-made concepts to help us keep track of ourselves as our planet rockets around the sun.  It was probably easier back when the earth was flat and the sun did the moving.  Although, come to think of it, I don’t think people lived longer in those days.

Bottom line: I have a lot to do these next few days and I’m not sure how to manage all of it.  Time to get on with it.  Or, as we’ve always said in this family, “Times a-wasting!”

If it ain’t one thing…

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

“Heart’s Content” by Martha Hinson

It doesn’t pay to relax.  No siree!  Not for a single minute.  Now it’s a failing drain field.  Maybe.  Pleasegodno I keep thinking.  But sometimes… you just know.

These days, you can’t just dig a new hole and move the outhouse.  And ditto a new septic tank and drain field.  There are too many of us and that means rules and regulations so we can keep our impact minimized.  Especially here near the bay.  We’re all for that.  But… now might be the time to win the lottery or, at the very least buy a ticket.  I understand these new fangled septic systems cost an arm and a leg.  At least.

The experts tell us that if Oysterville didn’t exist, it couldn’t be settled where it is today.  The water table is too high (and getting higher), we’re too close to the bay, and the million-dollar oyster industry is under enough environmental stress without our adding to the s***list, so to speak.  Fair enough.  But pleasegodno.

Our Lower Meadow in Winter

Sewage is a big problem here on the Long Beach Peninsula.  We don’t have a peninsula-wide sewer system.  Only the incorporated parts of the county have that luxury (or problem, take your pick.)  Both Long Beach and Ilwaco are struggling to keep up with state regulations.  They are dealing with ‘biosolids’ (a fancy term for certain kinds of sewage sludge, as I understand it) and trying to upgrade to Department of Ecology Standards.  Bottom line:  our winter rainfall makes the usual disposal methods unacceptable here.  Wouldn’t you know.

It all comes back to too many of us wanting to be right here on the western edge. Today it’s sewage; tomorrow a tsunami.  It doesn’t pay to relax.  Not for a minute!

Robin Cody: 1st Spring Schoolhouse Lecture

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Screenshot: Robin Cody Article, Chinook Observer Online

Sometimes, you just don’t make the cut.  Even though you meet the deadline, there’s something more crucial, more important that nudges you right out of the running.

So, it was with my news story about award-winning author Robin Cody coming to the Peninsula next week!  It didn’t get into yesterday’s paper, but it is on the online version and I’m assured it will be in next week.  And, the announcement of his talk is in Community Calendar — take a look!

Voyage of a Summer Sun

Robin lives in Estecada, Oregon — moved there from St. Helens when he was five years old and has been there more than fifty years.  Like many authors, he’s had a ‘checkered career’ — teacher, army officer, university administrator, baseball umpire, basketball referee, long-distance bicyclist, and school bus driver.  Throughout it all, he never strayed far from the Columbia River.

In 1984, he became a free-lance writer. It was while he was doing a project for the Bonneville Power Authority that he made a solo canoe voyage from the headwaters of the Columbia to its mouth.  He describes the 82-day voyage as “life-changing” and one of discovery.  The book that it spawned, Voyage of A Summer Sun, was published in 1992 by Sasquatch Press.  In 1995 it won the Oregon Book Award for literary non-fiction, and the 1996 Northwest Booksellers Association Book.

Robin was one of the first authors to do a book-signing for us at the Bookvendor in 1992, shortly after Voyage of the Summer Sun came out.  I don’t know if it was then or later that Lucille and Sam Pierce, old friends of the Codys, had us to a dinner party given in Robin’s honor.  And now, after all these years, he and Donna are coming to Oysterville to open the Spring 2018 Schoolhouse Lecture Series.  This group of talks, like last fall’s series, will be focused on the river.  I can’t imagine a more fitting person to start them off.

Oysterville Schoolhouse

Oh.  And did I say that Robin is a consummate story-teller?  Don’t miss him.  Thursday, February 1st, 10 a.m. at the Oysterville Schoolhouse.  And at 1:00 that afternoon — he will be signing three of his books at Adelaide’s!  See you both places!


Waiting for First Light

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

My first instinct this morning was to go to the west windows and take a look at the church.  Is it still intact?  And what about all the Monterey Cypress trees up the street?  Was there any damage at our house?  Are all the pictures still on the walls and the dishes safe in the cupboards?

None of these questions come from a place of logic.  Not really.  They are more visceral than intellectual – they feel instinctive.  Almost primal.  That’s what happens when you are wakened by a thunderclap so loud that your bed actually bounces from the reverberation.  Eleven by the clock and out of a sound sleep.

Our Stairwell

Nyel was already awake, thanks to the diuretics he takes.  In fact, he was awake when the skies lit up like midday immediately before the roar of the clashing clouds – and for several more just like them.  His wakefulness is a ‘usual’ condition caused by the diuretics he must take.  (And as several of his hospital nurses have noted, he’s a ‘night pee-er.’  Which, when you think about it, is better than the alternative if you want any kind of daytime normalcy…) So, he was able to report that we seemed to be at the epicenter of last night’s storm.  Not ‘we’ as in Oysterville.  ‘We’ as in this very household.

Church and Steeple

Thankfully, I slept through most of it.  It’s not that I am afraid of thunder and lightning.  Not exactly.  But, one of the last years I was teaching at Long Beach School, my class and I witnessed a lightning strike on the house across the alley.  Immediately, smoke rose from the roof and the power went off at the school (and throughout the neighborhood, we learned later.)  I sent one of the kids to the office to ‘report’ what we’d seen, the fire department was called, the school went into Fire Drill mode and my first/second/third graders felt like heroes.

As always in situations like that, I was left with thoughts of how ephemeral safety is.  How things can change in a second.  Without warning.  With a strike of lightening and a clap of thunder.  And, though I slept through most of the storm last night, those few jarring, wakeful moments have left me a little bit jangled.  I’m still waiting for first light to see if all is well in the village.

As I step into my day…

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

Rosas (Courtesy Gladys Diaz)

Today in Oysterville.  Fairly normal.  The electrician comes between eight and ten to prepare our new stove for hook-up.  Tucker will be over mid-morning to talk about plans for our part in the upcoming Community Historian classes.  Spinach salad for lunch.  Lentil soup for dinner.  Two hours, somewhere, to work on a book revision.  Another two hours to continue my overdue holiday correspondence…

Those are the thoughts that I woke up with.  Plus, a clinging gloom over-riding everything else.  Today is the day of Rosas’ court hearing in Tacoma.  On this day, if all goes as planned, he will know if he will be bonded back into the community or will face deportation to Mexico.  Happy-go-lucky, hard-working Rosas.  I wonder what his waking thoughts were

Perhaps others are thinking of Rosas, too.  Those who have read his story in the newspapers or who have gone to the  Help the Gutierrez Family GoFundMe site ( may also be thinking about him and praying that his court hearing goes well.  His story is one that is all too familiar these days on our Long Beach Peninsula:

Rosas has lived here for 18 years.  His long-time girlfriend, Gladys, had been arrested in an apparent sting operation by ICE agents who had arranged a meeting to buy some piñatas she and her young daughters made.  Gladys was handcuffed and taken away as her girls, aged 4, 7, and 12, looked on.

Gladys, the first mother to be taken by ICE from this tiny community, was deported to Mexico last summer; the girls followed as soon as transportation could be arranged.  Rosas has been supporting his family from here, sending Gladys his paychecks and talking with them by telephone several times a day.  When alerted about Rosas’ arrest, Gladys burst into tears.  “How will we live?” she cried. “How will I feed my girls?”  Meanwhile, from the federal prison in Tacoma, Washington, Rosas awaits a court date as an outraged community looks for ways to help.

Maybe all of our thoughts together will create enough positive energy to cause a good outcome for Rosas and his family.  But… which is the best outcome?  An opportunity for him to stay in our community and work to provide them a livelihood?  Or deportation to Mexico and reunion with his loved ones but without a means of supporting them?  I ache for them and the thousands of others who are in similar circumstances.

How I wish that repairing our immigration laws was an easy fix.  As easy as calling the electrician to prepare my stove for hookup.  I feel shame and guilt and frustration as I step into my day.  Good luck, Rosas!  We are thinking and praying and working for you!

The Sad. The Glad. The Unexpected.

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

2017 Christmas Portrait by Tucker

Yesterday was December 26th – Let Down Day.   Like the day after most big events, it was a little bit of a bummer.  The surprises were over.  Charlie said his goodbyes and headed homeward and I know I’ll be holding my breath til he calls that he is back and safe.  There was still a lot of cleaning up to do and we felt a little half-hearted as well as a little frantic about getting it done.  All a part of Let Down Day.

Marta’s Plan

On the other hand, Nyel was still feeling well and one of the girls presented him with a gorgeous brown egg – the fourth in the last ten or twelve days!  Marta is staying for another week and, as always, is up for whatever presents itself.  She has plans to go clamming for littlenecks on the bay, to take up our neighbor’s offer of a sauna, and to spend more time looking at family keepsakes.  Her positive energy is contagious and I try not to think of the next big Let Down Day next week when she bids us adieu.

Party! Party! Party!

Late in the afternoon, we opened our front door to visitors bearing armloads of gifts!  Michael, Lynn, and Regina came laden with cookies and banana bread, and home-made manicotti!  They stayed just long enough for us to catch up with the past year and for Nyel and I to realize that, so far, this newish friendship has been pretty much one-way!  In fact, this last year we’ve experienced that feeling a lot.  We are truly blessed, but still and yet… how to reciprocate to so many for so much?

As is often the way, our thoughts are focused on a party.   A Valentines Party all about hearts – as in ‘from the bottom of ours.’