Archive for the ‘Winter in Oysterville’ Category

About Walking On Water

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

High Tide on Clay Street

The day woke up gray.  Again.  Right now at least, it’s not actively raining.  But, the meadow is still mostly water.  Lake Little is as large as I’ve ever seen it.  There is still standing water in the lane and in our yard.

I’ve not ventured out to the chickens yet.  It’s still early and, on these gray days, they tend to sleep in.  When they do decide to leave the coop and venture out into their run, they object to the puddles and try to find higher ground.  Yesterday there wasn’t any.  Even the lawn between our house and theirs was deceptive — grass growing through one big lake.

I wasn’t quite wading and not quite floating as I took them their breakfast.  It was a weird sensation — no solid footing to be found.  I walked quickly, somehow knowing that, if I paused with my full weight on one foot or the other, I’d sink down, down, down below the surface.  And who would know…

I’ll wait a bit this morning.  The girls aren’t really pleased to see me, anyway, in this kind of weather.  I think they expect me to fix it — to turn off the wet and to turn on the warm and bright.  They don’t understand that I can’t even walk on water.


Sheltering or Hunkering?

Tuesday, January 12th, 2021

Oysterville by Willard Espy

In an ordinary year, a hundred inches of rain fall on grandpa’s village; we have mutated until we breathe with comfort air that is half water, or water that is half air.  I suspect that if the Peninsula were to sink beneath our feet, a mishap that in some downpours seems imminent, we could live submerged without serious inconvenience.  So wrote my venerable uncle Willard Espy in his introduction to Oysterville: Roads to Grandpa’s Village.

Those words were written nearly fifty years ago, and I’m not so sure we still get that much rainfall in a “normal” year.  But… this year is hardly normal in other respects and, for the last few days, the rain has come down steadily.  We have taken to hunkering rather than sheltering.  There’s probably a fine line there, but to me, hunkering implies hiding out and sheltering is more about staying safe.

A Good Place for Hunkering and Sheltering

Besides the sound of rain on the roof and water swooshing down the drainpipes, we hear only the wind.  Periodically it rattles the roller door on the west side of the house and causes the rain to splat sideways against the windows.  The world — at least the part we see from our place– has lost its color; everything is curtained in gray.

I believe that this is the what grieving looks like — my feelings in 3D.  Sheltering against the pandemic and hunkering out of harm’s way — “the most we can do, the least we can do, all we can do” to quote Father Tom Williams.  Oysterville during this extraordinary year seems just the right place to be.




Nice Day For Ducks!

Sunday, January 3rd, 2021

The Freshley Boys, Oysterville Duck Hunters – a generation or two ago

We’ve had our share of rain the last few days.  Lake Little has taken over the meadow east of our house.  There are soggy spots on the lawn on the way out to the chicken coop.  Day before yesterday, I don’t think I ever could see the bay shore at the end of the lane  — not through the sheets of downpour.

My mother would have said, “Nice day for ducks!” with that cheerful note in her voice that meant “no big deal.”  Dad would have remained silent.  He was more the “It’ll burn off by eleven o’clock” kind of guy, but only if he thought it would.  He was often silent in the winter, but seldom wrong in the summer.

From the sound of things out there yesterday, it was a good day for duck hunters, too.  There was a lot of pop-pop-popping out in front of our place and toward the south.  The sound reverberates so much around our yard that it’s hard to tell just where it’s coming from.  But, as I’ve said before, it’s a nostalgic, reassuring sound to me — one of those ‘God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world” kind of sounds.  Or at least “…all’s right with Oysterville.”  (Which reminds me of what my Uncle Edwin is said to have remarked during a very loud thunderstorm, “God must be out hunting!”  He was three or four.)

My father, “a proper Bostonian” as my mother sometimes said, was not a hunter, but my mother’s brothers were — especially Edwin.  We still have his 12-gauge, double-barrel (side-by-side) shotgun    It was also Ed who dug clams commercially  during high school when times were hard.  I don’t know how much of the local bounty found it’s way to the table, however.  There are recipes in my grandmother’s “Receipt Book” for clam chowder, for baked oysters, for poached salmon, and for cooking live crab — but little else.  I have the feeling that they’d had enough of all those “treats” by the time the Great Depression was over.

Wiegardt Father and Son, South of Oysterville, 2018 — A Chinook Observer Photo

Too, my grandfather was a dairy farmer and there was always butchering to be done in the fall, so beef was plentiful.  He kept a few pigs, too, and of course, chickens.  Those provided the staple meats that I grew up with and are still the mainstays of our menus.  But I do miss the days when Nyel was one of the folks out pop-popping away on the bay and I’m so grateful that, occasionally, some of our hunter friends share their bounty with us.  Always a taste of Oysterville at its best!

Snow isn’t the issue in Oysterville!

Friday, January 1st, 2021

Six Jolly Snowmen… Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

Four cheerful snowmen are sitting on Lina and Dave’s porch just up the street.  There used to be six but two are no more.  “Melted?” you ask.  No.  Not hardly.  We haven’t had a bit of snow in Oysterville since 2017.  Or maybe even 2014.  No.  The snowmen on the porch are probably a bit of a misnomer, though I don’t know exactly what else anyone could call them.

They each have three round parts — a head, a tummy, and a base — stacked atop one another.  They have black coal-like eyes, mouth, and buttons, carrot-looking noses, and real-for-sure scarves wound round their necks.  Each is sporting a jaunty hat decorated with a sprig of holly and each carries a lantern (or is that a mason jar?) to light the way.

Snowman – Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

The two missing ones didn’t melt, of course.  I believe that Opa and Oma Wachsmuth (Lina’s parents) have them over at their place.  I don’t think it was a kidnapping as much as a family share-and-share alike situation.  Or maybe those two snowmen are just more adventurous than their companions and wanted to “make the rounds” (so to speak).

Yes.  Speaking of “rounds” — I’ve only seen a few real-for-sure snowmen in my long life.  And never any like these — made from sections of trees.  Or that’s what they look like.  I’m not sure of the protocol… Do you call them “snowmen” if they aren’t made of snow?  But what else would you call them?  Just plain “Wonderful!” I say.  A cheery beginning to a bright new year!  Thanks Lina and Dave!  And Happy 2021!


Is being kept in the dark ever a good thing?

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

Red Amaryllis On New Year’s Eve

Transparency.  It’s the hot new buzz word… or maybe not so new, now.  But it’s certainly “out there” no matter the discussion — whether it’s about science, politics, medicine, engineering or agriculture…  everyone is giving lip-service to transparency.  They either want it, are demonstrating it, or being accused of hiding it.  Somehow, none of us wants to feel that we are being kept in the dark.  But neither do many of us want to “tell all.”

Differences of opinion on the subject aren’t particularly new.  Take Santa Claus, for instance.  Some families protect his identity forever — or at least until the neighbor kid tells Johnny the truth or until Susie asks outright, “Have you been lying to us?”  Then the wriggling begins.  Other families explain the symbolism of Santa from the get-go.  Which is the better way?  Hard to know.

When it comes to “State secrets” the discussion becomes even more complex.  Ask Edward Snowden.  It’s a subject he wrestled with, became a man without a country over, and ultimately, has applied for Russian citizenship as a result of his decisions.  That seems extreme to me and, yet, when I read his book, Permanent Record,  I felt sympathetic toward him.

White Amaryllis on New Year’s Eve

Then there are the two Amaryllis plants gracing our living and dining rooms this season.  They, like  many other bulb plants, bloom in spring or summer when left to their own devices.  But, by keeping them in a cool dry dark place until fall, you can assure blooms in time for Christmas!  The perfect example of flourishing after being kept in the dark!

Happily, however, we are not bulbs.  (Although you do have to wonder about some folks.)  And, if kept in the dark completely and for too long, we would probably wither rather than thrive.  Bottom line…  the transparency issue is complex and involves far more than being kept in the dark.  The pros and cons have been discussed ad nauseum in business journals and academic treatises — with no satisfactory conclusion that I can see.   Check out the subject on the internet if you’re curious.  Or… maybe you’d rather stay blissfully in the dark on that particular subject.




It’s hard not to…

Friday, December 25th, 2020

Eagle – by Tucker Wachsmuth 12/24/20

We see them every day now
Soaring over meadows and
On out over Willapa Bay.

We hear them all day, too
High atop their Monterey Cypress perch
On Merchant Street in Oysterville.

Eagles – by Tucker Wachsmuth 12/24/20

We listen as they pipe and whistle
Talking to one another
Discussing changes in the village.

Some say their voices are weak
For such powerful birds
An odd observation, I think.

And, yet… Tucker’s photographs
Are hard to look at
Without seeing symbols and portents.

Eagles – by Tucker Wachsmuth 12/24/20

But of what, exactly?
Maybe freedom or independence
Or, perhaps companionship.

Our chickens keep their heads cocked
One eye always watching upward
Knowing it’s all up to the beholder.

Eagles – by Tucker Wachsmuth 12/24/2020

What is it about us humans
Always looking for answers and reasons?
But it’s hard not to.



Storm Damage

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

Olympia Friends: Elizabeth Ayer, Marie Strock, Medora Espy – 1912

On September 3, 1913, my fourteen-year-old aunt Medora wrote to a friend in Olympia:
We are having a regular winter storm.  Do you know what a storm is?  Not an Oysterville one.  You see we get it from both the ocean and the bay.  The wind has already knocked the remainder of our cherry tree down; the cupboard of dishes in Sue’s playhouse toppled over and consequently she will have to abandon her house till next summer; a great piece of the trimmings of our house blew off; apples and pears litter the ground.  It is a real storm.  The bay is covered with white caps, the water has covered our lower meadow, and you could almost go down the lane leading from our house to the bay in a dinghy.  To cap it all, it has rained night and day since Monday morning in regular torrents.  It is not an unusual storm.  The natives merely remark, “Sort of wet today.”

This year, 107 years later, we’ve only had one “winter storm” that has approached Medora’s long-ago description and that was day before yesterday.  Even so, the only storm damage here at our house was a swallows’ nest blown from its perch above the window on the south porch.

Last Summer’s Barn Swallows’ Nest

I blame the swallows for that more than the wind.  They had trouble with that nest from the get-go last summer and had to start over at least twice.  I don’t think their mud was sticky enough.  Or maybe it was their first nest-building experience.  They chose a place that has been used year-after-year and in the past nests have only come down through human interference.

In any event, Medora’s long-ago commentary on the weather makes me wonder if it can be counted as one more little piece of “evidence” about climate change.  I’m sure a scientist wouldn’t think so, but it’s a wonderful bit of storm damage  documentation in any case.  So far this winter we certainly have nothing comparable to report.


Jack’s, A Turkey, St. Paddy, And Me!

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

Stained-glass window of St. Patrick from Saint Patrick Catholic Church, Junction City, Ohio

This year, in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, we are having turkey.  Yep!  No corned beef and cabbage this time around, as in how can you turn down “free?”

It happened a few weeks ago.  I was doing a big shopping at Jack”s in my effort to cut down what seem like constant forays to the grocery store.  (It was BS-Q – Before Self-Quarantining and Social Distancing; I just DO NOT like to shop.)  As the clerk rang up the total, she asked if I knew about their free turkey program.

I didn’t and, for a moment, wondered if I looked truly needy, but she explained that customers who spent over $100 at one time were eligible for a free, fresh, butterball turkey.  “Would you like one?”  You betcha!  I think it’s the only free thing I’ve ever won.

“We’ll have it for St. Patrick’s day,” Nyel said.  “The luck of the Irish and all that.”  So in the freezer it went, all fourteen-and-a-half pounds!  And out it came day before yesterday to unfreeze in the fridge.  Today Chef Nyel will roast it “to a turn,” as they say and we’ll be suitably thankful to Jack’s Country Store and to St. Patrick, himself.

And, speaking of St. Patrick — I do feel a close affinity for him.  I have a good dollop of Irish in me, although my Irish connections in Enniskillen in County Fermanagh say we’re really English and never mind that we’ve been in Northern Ireland since the 18th century.

Turkey for Dinner!

St. Patrick, too, was actually English — probably born in the 4th century in Roman Britain.  At age sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders, taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland where he spent six years as a shepherd.,,,   Well, the story goes on and I can’t claim to much in common with any of it beyond the English ancestry part.

Who knew?

The Balancing Act

Friday, March 6th, 2020

Engraving – Edward Jenner giving smllpox vaccination, 1880s

If you are in an “opposites attract” relationship — and I think many of us are —  you understand completely about balance and compromise and other tricks of keeping things on an even keel.  The last few days I’ve run smack dab into couples dealing with the “possibilities” presenting themselves as Covid-19/Coronavirus  continues its insidious grand tour around the world and into the cracks and crannies of our lives.

At one end of the scale of reactions is my own husband/housemate/love of my life: Nyel-of-the-multiple-physical-ailments.  “It’s being way over-hyped by the media,” is his first and (for now) final word on the matter — although I have noticed that he keeps a bottle of Purell in his pocket these days.

At the other end of the scale are the photos on line of stockpilers with full carts of whatever they deem will keep them safe and healthy — even, as in the case of masks, the health care professionals are saying “don’t bother.  It doesn’t help.”  On the side of caution  among our own friends here are a Long Beach couple who have cancelled all travel plans until at least August and who are limiting trips to the grocery store to twice a month at most.  “We sat down and worked out two weeks of menus,” they told me.  We are trying to stock the pantry with staples, too.”

1918 Flu Epidemic

Other friends here in Oysterville have cancelled plans to fly to California.  “We can’t imagine anywhere much sater than right here,” one of them told me.  They have had some serious health problems while traveling in the past, so I can well understand their concern.  But will they be credited with an already-paid-for ticket.  They are looking into it.

Luckily, we have no serious travel plans, though I have wondered about our twice-weekly visits to the Physical Care Facility at Clatsop Care in Astoria.  Nyel is making good progress toward increased mobility and, at this point, even I (the cautious partner) wouldn’t dream of interrupting his forward movement (so to speak.)  I am trusting that the staff there is keeping on top of things and will notify us promptly if they feel the need to quarantine the facility.

As for all those forays to the store and post office and library —  I’m working on fewer — not so much because of the infection quotient but more because they eat up my time to write.  The Corona virus just gives me a greater feeling of urgency about it all.

Spanish Influenza 1918

And then, there are our Friday Night gatherings.  Neither Nyel nor I want to give those up, but… we have been discussing possibilities.  We think we’ll put it up to the group tonight — at least to those who are here.   At the very least it will be interesting to hear their thoughts and see which end of the cautionary scale each is on — for right now anyway.


The North End Is The New Yellow!!

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

From the Ocean Park Chamber’s FB Page

Have you driven north lately?  On the Peninsula, I mean.  The daffodils are out in all their glory!  And they are EVERYwhere.  Look for them on the back road beginning at the Beach Barons’ place and, on the front road about at the Peninsula Baptist Church and at Oman’s and the Ocean Park Elementary School and at Sheldon’s Field.  Heading east toward Nahcotta, the north side of Bay Avenue is glorious and Oysterville is daffy-daffy-daffy-down, all-around-all-around!

Near The Beaver Ditch on Oysterville Road

Tom Downer told me yesterday that we are looking at SIX TONS of bloomin’ bulbs?  Or did he say 60 tons?  Either way, it’s more than I can get my garden spade around.  Or my mind.

I love the plantings in clumps and clusters.  I wish we’d suggested that to Eugene-the-Landscaper when he did ours.  But I’m thinking that our rows will eventually clump up anyway, as the bulbs split and sprout.

In The Oysterville Churchyard

Big Red has apparently declared himself Inspector General.  I don’t know how he gets out of the yard (and he sure as shootin’ isn’t telling) but he was out daffodil moseying yesterday and then wouldn’t go back into the garden.  The hens stood on the other (read: right) side of the fence, but not until I walked through the gate and showed him how it was done would he return to his coop duties.

Big Red on Patrol

I know that Ferdinand truly loved sniffing the flowers but, really Big Red!