And the winner is…

November 27th, 2020

Wachsmuth Family Thanksgiving, November 26, 2020

If I were the deciding judge in a world-wide contest for  best “Holiday Gatherings During Covid” poster, I’d choose the 2020 Wachsmuth Family Thanksgiving photograph!  It arrived in my mailbox last night and I truly wish I knew if such a competition exists.  I think it would win hands down!

Our own photograph of Thanksgiving Scaled Down pales by comparison.  Besides which, even for a fabulous dinner for two, the chef here labored all afternoon in the kitchen and left ‘nary pot nor pan unused.  In fact, my first thought when I saw the Wachsmuth celebration photo was, “Lucky Carol!”  Even counting many willing hands to make light work, a virtual dinner for 17 is less work for everyone, both before and after.

I am assuming, of course, that the heavy lifting for their virtual dinner this year was done by  Tucker.  Not only is he an artist by training, but what I think of as his main body of work — A Christmas Card for each of the 50 years he and Carol have been married — has everything to do with family.  And I see by the recipients listed on the email for this Thanksgiving greeting, it had everything to do with family, as well.

Thanksgiving Dinner for Two

Besides that, the few times we’ve seen our Wachsmuth neighbors from afar in the last few weeks, the answer to  “What have you been up to these days?” has been a vague, “Oh you know… just puttering.”  “Some puttering!” we say!  Perhaps later Nyel can repeat his reaction when he saw the photograph, “This is amazing!  I wonder how much time it took him?”   And maybe Tucker will tell us.

But, maybe not.  You never can tell with artists!


In Honor of the Day

November 26th, 2020

This year, our only turkey is this painting by a long-ago second grader.

Nyel and I have decided to make this Thanksgiving as memorable as we can and for all the right reasons.  We woke up recounting our blessings which began, of course, with family and friends — so many people who have been uncommonly good to us during this strangest of years.  How we wish we could exchange real hugs for this season’s virtual ones!

We’ve decided to pull out all the stops for our celebratory dinner.  My great-grandmother’s serving dishes, my grandmother’s china and crystal, my own silver place settings will adorn our table.  The  meal will feature a roast chicken (not one of ours!), garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus, and shrimp laden avocado halves all topped off by a dessert of Pear Kuchen from a recipe by Mary Funk.  We are even “dressing” for the occasion — Nyel in white shirt and vest and me in something other than jeans and a sweatshirt — a closet search is the order of the morning.

My Grandparents’ Golden Wedding Dinner, Thanksgiving Day 1947, Moby Dick Hotel

Nyel is recording the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the National Dog Show which we’ll watch this afternoon accompanied by guacamole and chips and an iced beverage or two.  (Watching television before nightfall is the height of decadence for me.  For Nyel, not so much, but together it will feel celebratory, indeed!)

And this evening, a “conference call” with Marta and Charlie.  It will put a cap on what we hope will be an “almost normal” Thanksgiving during this strangest of times — hopefully a day of peace, safety, and good health for us and for all our friends and loved ones.  And, most of all, a prayer for better days ahead.

Our Pick For The Season… Maybe.

November 25th, 2020

As most of us know all too well, the world is full of wackos.  One of the wackiest (in a good way) is author Carl Hiaasen.  Nyel and I are reading his latest book, Squeeze Me, almost as we speak.  (Nyel is a day reader and a night sleeper; I am a day writer and a night reader…  Don’t ask.)

According to his website, Carl Hiaasen was born and raised in Florida, where he still lives.  A graduate of the University of Florida, at age 23 he joined The Miami Herald as a general assignment reporter and went on to work for the newspaper’s weekly magazine and prize-winning investigations team. Since 1985 Hiaasen has been writing a regular column, which at one time or another has pissed off just about everybody in South Florida, including his own bosses.

We met him at a Pacific Northwest Bookseller Association in the mid-’90s.  I can’t remember which of his books had just been published — the number to date is 35 — but we were already fans as were many of our Bookvendor customers.  He seemed like a “normal” sort of guy, although his ready sense of humor had just a bit of a twist to it.

Carl Hiaasen

Without revealing much of anything, I’ll tell you a little bit about his latest.  It is set in Florida (as are most of his books) and opens with the disappearance of a wealthy elderly woman.  She belongs to a group of like-minded 70-and-80-year-olds who have been married multiple times to ever-richer husbands and who have formed a group called the “POTUS Pussies” proclaiming brassy loyalty to the new, crude-spoken commander-in-chief.  The incident takes place at a high-end (so to speak) fund-raiser for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

By the time you learn this much, you are on Page 2… and the 336-page story gets stranger and more improbable as you proceed.  Although… there is enough “reality” to make you wonder,   And, if you don’t already feel a perverse affection/aversion to the “Everglade State” — also called the “Sunshine State.,” The Orange State,” “The Alligator State,” and “The Flower State,”  among others. — your impressions by book’s end are bound to be affected, or perhaps conflicted.

I’m not sure this is the perfect book for reading over the holidays.  It is anything but warm, fuzzy, and nostalgic which are feelings we’ve learned to associate with this time of year.  On the other hand… this year is different.  And here’s a book to match!


Even Granddaughters Grow Old

November 24th, 2020

Fern III with the Winter Blahs

It’s been close to ten years since I’ve “reported” on the status of Fern III — the  Deer Foot Fern (or Davallia to be more exact) who sits on a table in the bay window of our bedroom.  Right now she seems to be going through a case of the winter blahs — commiserating with us during this Sheltering Time, I think.  Perhaps it’s time for another “haircut” — an event that always seems harder on me than on her.

I’ve been reminding her of her heritage and how it is that she has been here with us for the last fifteen-or-so years.  I can’t go back to her very beginnings, there being no for ferns, but I can go back three generations. Her grandmother lived in the Ocean Park Timberland Library during the 1980s.  I often stopped to talk with her, marveling at her fury feet (rhizomes, I was told) that crept over the edge of the big pot she sat in.

Fern After A Haircut, 2015

One day, Sue Cowell, who worked at the library, asked me if I’d like a cutting.  She and Librarian Bonnie Sayce were transplanting Fern to a bigger pot that afternoon.  Fern II was sort of puny by comparison to her mother, but she liked it at our house on the bay and she soon filled out and needed to be transplanted herself. Visitors to the house often referred to her as a Rabbit or Hare Foot Fern or even a Squirrel Foot Foot Fern.  Apparently the color of the rhizomes of a particular plant determine the animal it is associated — white, for instance, with Rabbit or Peter Cottontail.

Fern II lived with us for almost twenty years and, by the time we sold the house to Ann Chiller, she was much too big to move.  Besides, she and the house seemed perfect for each other and we didn’t want to break up such a happy relationship.  So Ann inherited the plant.

In 2007 or 2008 Ann, in her turn, sold the house.  Before she moved she brought us a present — a small cutting from Fern II.  And so Fern III began her sojourn in Oysterville.  Even here in our bedroom, she is surrounded by books which must resonate in some primordial fashion, hearkening back to the library of her grandmother’s time.  She has outgrown several pots and has flourished, even with my somewhat haphazard care.

Fern III in 2011

I’m not sure where Fern’s forebears are these days.  The last I heard, Karen Pennington wrote that she had Fern II.  That was back in 2011.  Perhaps someone will write in response to this update and tell us a bit more — especially about Fern III’s grandmother who I met so long ago at the Library.  It’s hard to believe that Granddaughter Fern, herself, is forty-some years old — if you count the years since her mother left Fern I.  Wow!


I call them “My Birthday Camellias”

November 23rd, 2020

A Center Piece of Camellias

From the time I moved to Oysterville full time, and as long as she was able, my mother’s birthday gift to me always included camellias from the bush just outside the library window.  The last time was for my 60th birthday, February 28, 1996.  She came to our house on the bay for dinner and brought me camellias and a shiny yellow rain hat!

All these years later, I still wear the hat.  But I no longer count on those camellias for my birthday.  It’s not because Mom is no longer in the picture.  No.  It’s because those camellias have bloomed earlier and earlier each year until, in recent years, they are “over” by my birthday!

Three Months Early

This morning as I did my garden walkabout I saw that already there is a bud showing color on that bush.  Three full months early!!  Last year they were in full bloom in January but, at the rate they are coming on this year, we will have camellias in time for Christmas!

I’m sure it has to do with Climate Change rather than weather patterns.  It’s not like some years they are back to February blooming and other years they bud out two or three months early.  No.  It’s been a steady, gradual change.  I haven’t paid so much attention to the other garden denizens, although I did note that the hyacinths are already poking up along the bed borders.

I don’t quite know how I feel about those changes.  I’m not sure of all the ramifications.  Only that the Birthday Camellia has apparently changed loyalties.  I’m not quite sure whose birthday she is celebrating now.  Stay tuned for the full bloomin’ news — probably in late December or early January.


Feeling “very much accomplished”

November 22nd, 2020

Our Library and Living Room

Cleaning this house is not a small chore, but it is one I usually enjoy.  I do a thorough, top-to-bottom cleaning twice a year — once before Thanksgiving and once before Easter.  The downstairs (not including kitchen, bathrooms or my office) typically takes five days.  Upstairs just a day.

I have to admit that the “Covid Ennui” caused me to skip last Spring’s cleaning entirely.  It weighed on me but not heavily enough that I scurried around and caught up with myself.  Nope.  Skipped it entirely.  Which meant that last week when I began my Fall Endeavors, it took even longer.

BUT, NEWS FLASH… the downstairs is shiny bright.  Silver and crystal polished and sudsed; every surface dusted, waxed, and refurbished; pillows plumped and doilies wash and starched.  As my mother’s older sister Medora (1899-1916) wrote in her diary about something else entirely, “I feel very much accomplished.”

Cinderella At Work

It would be lovely if I could say with certainty that the afterglow from my achievements would waft me upstairs and through the rooms above.  We will see.  Somehow, with no plans for occupants over the holidays, my motivation is somewhat lacking.  On the other hand, this would be a good time to take Cinderella-the-Robot-Vacuum upstairs and introduce her to a whole new floor plan…

Wow!  I never thought I’d see the day when I’d find inspiration in AI.  Scarey.


Game On! But which one? And when?

November 21st, 2020

Tetherball for the Girls

No wind, No rain.  Cold, crisp, blue skies!  “Perfect for an outside tetherball tournament!” said Farmer Nyel,

So he sent me out to the chickens armed with a big fresh cabbage and I dutifully attached it to the tetherball rope in the chicken run.  The girls watched from afar, but didn’t seem inclined to choose up sides.  Not just yet, anyway.

I figured they might want to get their team strategies worked out in private, so I left them to it.  After all, it’s been a while since they’ve had a new tetherball installed.  The last one was sometime last summer and only lasted a day.  (And how’s that for a lot of lasts?)  On that occasion, there was only one tired cabbage leaf left hanging on the rope by the time I tucked those girls in for the night.

Playing Hide-and-Seek

Before I left, Clara (or was it IdaMae?) came over to check out the new development and I reminded her that for optimum fun, she might want to ask another girl to have a go with her.  She was non-committal so I left her to it.

I went back an hour or so later to see how it was going.  It wasn’t.  And there was no sign of the girls.  Even though I tried to lure them with the promise of treats, they were staying well hidden (except for their bare feet) back under the cypress tree.  I think they might be confusing Hide-and-Seek with Tetherball.  It’s hard to tell with chickens…

Two Thumbs Up to OBSD!

November 20th, 2020

As of Monday, the Ocean Beach School District will return to remote-only learning due to the current (and worst yet) Pacific County surge in the coronavirus pandemic.  As a retired teacher and long-time community member, I say “Bravo!”

According to the Chinook Observer, the county’s case rate works out to 438 new cases per 100,000 people over a two-week rolling average which puts us in a high risk group.  There were 55 new cases in the county during last week’s reporting period making 246 cases since the pandemic began.  “A staggering number” according to day-before-yesterday’s online article.

I know I will not be popular when I say, “Why am I not surprised?”  Yesterday, Nyel and I drove to Astoria and back for an 11:00 a.m. doctor’s appointment.  Going over and coming back, we both remarked at how much traffic there was.  “You’d never know there was any kind of sheltering going on,” we each said more than once.  It seemed to be business as usual in downtown Long Beach and Astoria.

I have a great deal of trouble understanding how  “we” continue to try to balance “normal” activities with precautionary measures for the coronavirus.  Which part of LIFE CAN NO LONGER BE NORMAL  is it that people cannot understand?  How can we be so concerned about the emotional distress of our children and the economic distress of our families that we are willing to put our loved ones at risk?  Or even provide their death sentence?  I don’t get it.

We are not alone, of course.  Leaders throughout the world are struggling with the same situation and their responses are equally mixed.  We all seem to be in a pattern of tightening up for a while but relaxing before the economic situation becomes dire and, of course, before we have the virus under control.  God forbid we should close our borders to non-residents or close every single business that is non-essential.  We seem able to endure “some” restrictions for about a month at a time.  Alas, not long enough to made a continuing difference.

The OBSD plan is to reopen January 11th.  Good for them for taking this step!  I hope it’s just a first step.  And, how I wish that the rest of the County could follow — both in the private and public sectors.




Are the girls learning yet another language?

November 19th, 2020

Lake Little, 11-19-20

Now that the tide has decided to stay within its normal boundaries and not wander around while high, Lake Little has also resumed it’s usual winter size.  Granted, it fluctuates with the amount of rain we must all endure, but it seems to call out to the waterfowl, “Come on in!  It’s a good day for ducks.”  And come they do.

I wish my duck I.D.-ing skills were better.  All I can say about who is visiting right now is that there seem to be quite a variety and they are LOUD!  Loud and busy.  I imagine they are talking to one another, mostly, but I’ve noticed these last few mornings that our chickens seem to be trying to get into the conversation.

Lake Little 11-17-20

Truly!  Amidst their usual clucking and squawking, I’m hearing  the chickens chatter with sounds suspiciously like quacking.  Plus they seem to wait for responses from the gaggle on the lake.  I’m thinking that now that they’ve mastered a little human speak (they have been quite receptive to my constant demands for “Egg! Egg!”) they are branching out.

I should point out that the above reference should read “raft on the lake” rather than “gaggle on the lake.”  Geese gather in gaggles and I have not yet seen any geese on Lake Little this year.  Ducks gather in rafts, apparently, but when talking about how noisy they are, “gaggle” seems louder than “raft.”  Maybe I should just referto them as a “gabble  on  the lake”…

Little Red Hen Listening to the Ducks

But I digress.  I just wanted to let everyone know that the girls in the coop seem to be in favor of virtual learning.  At least, I’ve never seen them actually approach the pond for up close instruction in duck dialects.  Nevertheless, I think they are getting the hang of it.  You never can tell with chickens…

Look who came calling!

November 18th, 2020

Yesterday afternoon the bay came calling.  Right into Oysterville she came just as bold as can be.  Quietly.  Relentlessly.  Creeping, creeping on and ever onward.

First she passed right by her usual stopping place.  Up and over the bank she came.  Into the meadow, co-mingling with Lake Little just as brazenly as you please.  She flooded out the egret pair who had been poking around the swampy edges .  And then she swallowed up the meadow all together.

She didn’t even hesitate at our fence. Under it she went, sliding along at a pretty good clip.  The wind died down and watched with ‘nary a sound ‘nor a ripple.  Over our east lawn she came, filling in the low spots, heading for higher ground.

She never made it to the front porch, but not for lack of trying.  She just ran out of time.  I didn’t hear the signal for retreat but it must have happened shortly after two.  I went to check on the chickens and the tide seemed to recede with each step I took.

It was a 12.3 footer.  Not as high as Monday’s 12.6.  But that stormy west wind yesterday morning helped blow her shoreward.  In December there will be some 13-foot tides.  I wonder if we’ll be lucky enough to welcome them clear into downtown Oysterville.  It’s been a while since anyone rowed a skiff up Territory Road, but maybe we’ll get a chance next month.  If we can find a skiff…