Archive for the ‘Winter in Oysterville’ Category

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.’

When “best laid schemes… gang aft a-gley”

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

New and Shiny Bright

Finally!  The new stove we had ordered on October 3rd arrived.  Day before yesterday.  The delivery men unhooked our old-and-ailing dual-fuel Jenn-Air and hauled it away.  The new, all gas, Samsung was left in the middle of our fairly small kitchen awaiting hookup.  We can sidle around it to the microwave sitting on the north counter and to the electric burner (resurrected from the back forty for temporary use) on the south counter.  There is even space to open and load the dishwasher.  Barely.

Not to worry, we thought.  We called the propane people to have them hook up the beautiful new stove.  “We are fully booked until after the holidays.  Sorry.”  Begin to worry said the small voice in my head.  Nyel called the only repair people “in our area” (Longview) who will handle Samsung. According to their Installation Department, we need to send $300 and, once they get it, they will be able to tell us their schedule.  Ramp up the worry said the voice, and add a dollop of anger – as in, is that even ethical?  Or legal?

Mysterious Stove Parts

Nyel called our handy dandy plumber who was full of sympathy and said that even though he is maxed – “It’s our busiest time of the year…” he’ll try to come by and take a look.  That was day before yesterday and, though we still hope to see the whites of his eyes, the task seems more daunting than any sane person would tackle.  Meanwhile, preparing meals is tricky-but-totally do-able.  On the other hand, yesterday Jack’s called and said that our 23-pound fresh turkey had arrived…  Worry has ramped into looking at options.

There are many.  Who’d a thunk it?  First and foremost, one of our nearby-on-Sandridge-Road-neighbors had already offered her kitchen so Marta could do some baking.  I haven’t asked yet (as in Hope Springs Eternal) but I imagine we could use her oven to roast the turkey.  We can handle everything else here – the garlic mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, the vegetables etc. – thanks to our new-found sidling expertise.

Gas and Electricity and Pipes and Wires — Oh My!

Or – we have a fine Weber barbecue and there are many online instructions of how to use it for roasting a turkey.  Once, when the power was out and we had a House Concert (which involved a potluck) scheduled, we cooked a lasagna in that Weber and it turned out perfectly.  The Weber Option is definitely under consideration.  (And whatever happened to that old electric roaster of Mom’s?  Maybe it’s still somewhere nearby and operable…)

Of course, the optimists among us feel that it’s early days yet.  After all, it’s only the 22nd and our Christmas dinner is three full days away.  All sorts of miracles can happen in the meantime.  Right?  On the other hand, I feel fully within my rights to worry some more.  Just a tad.  Ho!  Ho!  Ho!

Sticking to the Tried and True

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

Astrologers are warning us that today is not the day to begin anything new.  It’s the day of the Winter Solstice and, apparently, it’s Saturn’s fault.  According to British astrologer Neil Spencer who writes for London’s weekly Observer, any endeavors you embark upon today are likely to be frustrating, time consuming and difficult. They will also have long-term consequences.  This, he says, is because in the sky above us the sun will pass in front of the constellation of Capricorn hours after Saturn does the same.  Who knew?

Plus, it won’t even matter if you do nothing at all.  You are still doomed say other astrologers.  Basically, even if you refuse to carry out a task that is given to you, you will be charged with insubordination and rebellion.  It’s unclear who will bring forth those charges, but in today’s political climate, methinks it could be most anyone.  I say that because from this day forward (‘they’ say) Mercury will no longer be in retrograde – which is a good thing – but the shift to the dominance of Capricorn, a sign of power, patriarchy, and the law, does not bode well.

Heavens above!  That’s a fine kettle of fish!  But, I remind myself that celebrations of the Winter Solstice are not gloomy affairs.  Not at all!  They are all about looking forward to shorter days and the coming of Spring.  And, right in this household, we have two of the goddesses of such celebrations, all wrapped up in one happy package – Marta!  With her wonderful, positive energy, we should get through the day without mishap.  Even so… I’m sticking to the tried and true in the familiar surroundings of Oysterville.   Happy Mid-winter, one and all!

For the Record

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Hiway 26

We slogged and slid over Hiway 26 again yesterday for the second day in a row, but this time with another hospital stay for Nyel in the offing.  No long lost relatives or lunch at Papa Haydn’s this time.  Just a couple of procedures and hopefully home on Friday.

The world was wet and gray just as it was yesterday.  “I think we’re actually driving through a cloud,” Nyel said as we approached the summit.  “How can you tell?  It looks like the same-old, same-old,” was my somewhat uncharitable reply.

According the statistics on Mike’s Long Beach Weather, we have had rain every single day this month.  Furthermore, so far this year, we have had 56 days with rain and there have been no consecutive days without rain.  That’s wet!

On the other hand, all those rainy days are conducive to inside projects of all kinds and, if my sainted Uncle Willard is to be believed, our rain is especially helpful to historians!  In a book he began (but alas never finished) about his childhood, he wrote:

Wachsmuth Barn

The past was everywhere – in the houses and sheds that tipped further each winter, until a gale blew them down; in the Wachsmuth barn, which had been the county jail, and ours, which had been the county courthouse; in the wreckage of 50 vessels on the ocean beach, disappearing gradually under the sands and then emerging years later as the currents shifted to scour the sand away; in the overrun cranberry bogs in the marshes and the deserted launches and bateaux among the driftwood in the tidelands; in the bones of long-dead whales that made our porch chairs; in one-legged Indian Pete.  The past raged against us with every sou’wester, and drenched us with every rain; and since sou’westers and rain were the order of the day at Oysterville, we were pretty well permeated.  The past would have been hard to escape even if we wanted to.  But we didn’t; we loved it.  It shaped and sheltered us.  It wasn’t until we had to emerge from the past and become part of the present that my troubles began.

Aha!  I wonder how my fellow Community Historians would react to those ideas.  Perhaps that wily Willard was onto something.

Nothing to talk about? Surely you jest!

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

Spring Bouquet

In 1912 when she was thirteen years old, my Aunt Medora wrote from Olympia to her mother in Oysterville:  I think when people complain of the weather they just have nothing to say and want to say something…  Usually, I tend to agree with that sentiment but, this year has turned into an exception.  Even my son Charlie, in a recent phone call from his home in Los Angeles, spoke at length about their unusual weather and asked what it was like here.  An almost unheard of exchange between us!

The same day someone (maybe from Long Beach or Seaview) wrote on FaceBook at 8:30 in the morning that, since dawn, it had rained, hailed, sleeted, snowed and there had been thunder, lightning, a big black cloud and a bit of blue sky!  Yep!  That’s the way the days have been going here at the beach.  Despite Medora’s excellent observation and my own inclination to focus on something of more substance, the weather this year is definitely demanding our attention and commentary.

Snow Falling on Rhodies

Yesterday I answered our doorbell t to accept delivery of a belated birthday present – a cheerful bouquet of spring flowers that had been put on hold while we were in Portland last week.  Behind the messenger and the flowers, the snow was coming down in large, fluffy flakes.  .If spring is marked by contrasts, this was the visual proof.

As long as I am snug inside, I don’t mind the weather kaleidoscope out my windows.  But going out in it – even bundled to the max – is not my idea of fun.  And speaking of looking outside and having fun – last night after dark we could see that neighbors Carol and Tucker were having a bonfire in their backyard firepit!  Seriously??!!  I couldn’t tell if they were sitting around it roasting marshmallows or not, but somehow that wouldn’t have surprised me.  We’re in Oysterville, after all, where all things are possible!  No.  Make that probable.

Attention? Attention??

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

Despite (and party because of) a hefty wind and periodic drenching rain, there was lots going on in the Oysterville Churchyard yesterday.  Specifically on and around the flagpole.

It was one of those mornings that the wind whistled and rattled around the house.  As I walked into the dining room and glanced out the west windows, I was momentarily flummoxed.  The flags was streaming straight to the north.  Yes, flags was.  One American flag with two streaming parts.  A flag divided.  You would be an idiot not to read symbolism into that occurrence!  I grabbed my camera and took a picture.

Retiring The Flag

Later, Nyel took down the flag.  We retire it (as well as our Washington state flag) every year or so and, obviously, it was overdue for replacement.  The state flag was looking pretty tattered a while back and we took it down but we hoped the stars and stripes would last through the winter.  Who knew that the end to Oysterville’s current Old Glory would be so dramatic?  Being torn asunder horizontally was a first as far as we remember.

Churchyard Workers, Chris and Larry

An hour or so later, Brothers Chris and Larry Freshley drove a truck into the churchyard and began their magic refurbishing of the flagpole area.  Chris, a landscape architect, had designed and planted the churchyard three or more decades ago and, for years, Larry (a retired teacher and one-time tree-farm owner) volunteered to maintain it all.  They grew up in Oysterville.  They had a vested interest in the village.  And it showed.  The grounds with their lovely rhododendron borders were the perfect setting for the Historic Oysterville Church, the centerpiece of the village.

Renewed and Refreshed with Boxwood and Roses

In time, maintenance chores came under the auspices of the Oysterville Restoration Foundation and, gradually, the design focus became blurry, the gravel walkway became weedy, and time took its toll.  That’s often the way of it with volunteer institutions.  Luckily… Chris and Larry to the rescue!  It they had ridden up yesterday on white horses rather than in a white truck, I wouldn’t have been surprised.  It was just that kind of day in Oysterville.

Swamp Opera in the Snow

Monday, February 6th, 2017


Thirty-seven degrees and rainy at noon-thirty in Oysterville yesterday.  Cold!  That damp cold that grabs onto your bones and won’t let go, even when the LED read-out in the car says eighty.  By then, we were in Chinook and the raindrops were beginning to look suspiciously thick.  By the other side of the tunnel… snow!

It was coming down profusely enough on the bridge that we had to put our headlights on.  By the time we reached Commercial Street, the sidewalks were totally white and parked cars were coated.  We headed up the hill on 16th Street and I was glad, once again this winter, for our snow tires.

Skamokawa Swamp Opera: Kyleen Austin, Andrew Emlen, Eric Friend, Jillian Raye

We were early but as we made our way carefully from the parking lot to the Performing Arts Center (“The PAC” I’ve been hearing it called recently), a muffled, hatted man came toward us with the announcement that they had just opened the doors.  Already, there was a line up in the vestibule and I, for one, wished they would hurry so we could get all the way inside the main building to some heat.  As it turned out, there wasn’t any.

No one complained.  But no one took their wraps off, either.  The four members of the Skamokawa Swamp Opera were already on stage ‘warming up’ (so to speak).  Between notes, Andrew was sipping something hot – lemon and water, I think he said.  For his throat.

Swamp Opera Fan

“Yesterday we rehearsed the show but I didn’t sing,” he told me with a smile.  “I had no voice at all.”  If you know Andrew Emlen, you know that he is the consummate performer of the-show-must-go-on type.  “I’ll sing today until I can’t anymore.”

As it turned out, he made it all the way through,  although he may not have sung every number.  I confess, I didn’t notice.  The group is so fabulous, their selections so varied, that it is impossible for me to be critical.  It’s not that they are interchangeable – it’s just that they can feature one or more than one of their voices, one or more than one of their many instruments, one or more of their favorite musical styles… and all seamlessly.  Never mind that the sound system was cranky and they finally turned off the speakers.  And never mind that Andrew’s banjo broke a string. They were fabulous!

Plus, they give credit where credit is due.  Their first set include three Mary Garvey songs.  She was in the audience and when Andrew introduced her there was a small exchange back and forth about Andrew’s salmon song.  Mary told me afterwards that she wants to include it in one of her salmon CDs.  Wow!  I can’t wait!

Astoria-Megler Bridge under Snow Curtain

Meanwhile… it was still snowing on our way back across the river.  Astoria had turned into a winter wonderland and Washington was lost in a curtain of white until we got to the far north end of the bridge.  By the time we got through the tunnel – no sign of snow at all.  Just plenty of Ray R?ih?l?’s “Rain” (also part of the Swamp Opera’s repertoire yesterday.)  “And,” to quote the song, “it’s giving me a pain!”

Humans Are Not Butterflies

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

Last evening’s “Friday Night” discussion centered partly on predictions for the future.  The Grennans had been sent an article concerning future probabilities by their daughter. I’m not sure of the original source but it was not (as one might have expected on the night of January 20, 2017) full of doom and gloom.

Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution it said.  Welcome to the Exponential Age.  Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years it went on.  And, as the first examples of what and how fast changes are happening:  Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world. 

            That was the lead-in to a prediction that I think I can definitely get behind:  Autonomous cars: In 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear for the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving. Our kids will probably never get a driver’s license and will never own a car.

Fabulous!  I’ve been wondering how many more years I can get to Jack’s for groceries or even to the Post Office in Oysterville for my mail.  Maybe ten?  Unless they take my license away in the meantime.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just call for a car and leave the driving to a computer chip?  To say nothing of eliminating some of the nitwit other drivers from the road.

But… how long will it take before that automotive revolution gets to the outlying areas like Oysterville?  Will I live long enough to experience it?  I take hope from another recent change in life-as-we-have-always-known-it:  AirBNB is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties.

In Oysterville, we are actually on the cutting edge of that transformation.  Both the historic Dewitt Stoner House, and The Oysterville Guest House have been listed on AirBNB for some time now. They both underscore the fact that places to stay for travelers (to say nothing of the underlying purposes of travel, itself) have changed a good deal in our lifetimes.

I like these hopeful predictions far better than the dire predictions of the past.  I remember when, fifty years ago, biologist Paul Ehrlich concluded that the human population was too big and soon would strip the world of resources, leading to mass starvation.  He based that prediction on his studies on the population dynamics of butterflies.  Economist Julian Simon famously disagreed.  “Humans are not butterflies,” he said.