Snip! Snip! And… goodbye pigtails!

April 10th, 2021

Goodbye Pigtails!

They were fun… until they weren’t.  By the time my pigtails were getting long enough to braid — which had been my CHG (Covid Hair Goal) — I had to face up to the fact that I my old gray locks were just too wimpy to do anything with.  Eighty-five-year-old hair, at least on my particular head, doesn’t have the volume it takes for even one braid.  Damn!

Indistinctive Again

So, I called on the kindness of a friend and she did the dirty deed — a serious haircut.  I wish I could say that eleven months of sheltering robbed me of my natural curl.  But no such luck.  With each snip of the scissors, a new curl emerged.  I could clearly hear each one say a different cuss word — as in what Mary Anne Shaffer, author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society famously said: “Naturally curly hair is a curse and don’t ever let anyone tell you different.”

Fun While It Lasted

Short, curly hair is also the “norm” for almost every little old gray-haired lady who is still up and taking nourishment.   So, now I are one again. (Is the opposite of distinctive, indistinctive?)  I couldn’t even feel badly because I knew full well what would happen.  Nyel, however, apparently did not.  As I was making my to-cut-or-not-to-cut decision, I made the mistake of showing him a picture of a “pixie haircut” that I liked because it partially covered the ears.  (I hate my sticky-outie ears!).  “My hair is too curly to look like this.  I just want her to leave it long enough for ear coverage,” I told him.

He didn’t get it.  (Do guys ever?)  When I came home for the Big Reveal, he looked absolutely dumbstruck.  And not in a good way.  “What???” I asked (even though I knew.)  He hedged a bit but under pressure finally said, “But I was expecting it to look like the picture…”

Oh well.  Some days are like that.  And now, they will all be like that.  It’s a curse, for sure!

A Wonderfully Humbling Experience

April 9th, 2021

Dr. Robert Michael Pyle, American lepidopterist, writer, teacher, and founder of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

We received an invitation from Bob Pyle yesterday to “attend” the PEN America annual literary awards “at a gala ceremony to be announced live in NYC and sent out virtually to everywhere that people love books,” said Bob.  In a “normal” year we, like so many others, would never have had this opporutunity.  But, yesterday at 4:00 PDT, there we were.  OMG!  It was wonderful and totally disconcerting at the same time!

Not only had I read NONE of the books nor seen any of the plays,  I was totally ignorant regarding the authors, the playwrights, and, in some cases, even the genres — except, of course, for dear Bob and his many books.  It was hugely humbling and incredibly enlightening all at the same time.

You can check it all out by watching yesterday’s ceremony, yourself.  Just go to 2021 PEN Awards Youtube.  You’ll see what I mean… or maybe not.  Maybe you’ve read the books and know the authors.  If so, don’t tell me.  I am slowly coming to grips (AGAIN!) with the fact that I am so NOT well read and so NOT intellectual and so NOT well-informed.

Bob was nominated for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award For The Art of the Essay — “For a seasoned writer whose collection of essays is an expansion on their corpus of work and preserves the distinguished art form of the essay.”  He was among the five finalists vying for the $15,000 prize and the priceless prestige that goes with such an award.  Although I’ve not yet read Nature Matrix: New and Selected Essays, I am fairly confident that I have read several of the sixteen collected essays in this new (September 2020) book.  That Bob was a finalist did not surprise me in the least.  He is not only an expert in his field, but has won numerous other literary awards over the years.  I find that reading anything Bob writes is not only a delight but is likely to expand my horizons in unexpected ways.

Nominated for the 2021 Pen America Award for PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award For The Art of the Essay

But, I have to admit that my confidence in Bob’s ability to win wavered just a bit when actor Kara Young, host of the awards ceremony, pointed out in her opening remarks:  “We stand in solidarity with all those who are threatened by anti-Black, anti-Asian, anti-Trans hatred.”  I just couldn’t help the errant thought that Dr. Robert Michael Pyle is (sorry, Bob!) “an old white guy.”  Did he have a chance in this year of women and people of color?  As it turned out, it was Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Had I Known: Collected Essays, who won the “Art of the Essay” category.

Disappointed doesn’t half describe my feelings.  However, I was bursting my buttons with pleasure and pride at knowing Bob, and so glad for this virtual stretch into the world of literature.  My must-read-list has expanded exponentially.  I wonder how many of those winning authors’ books I can read before the 2022 PEN America Awards roll around.  I doubt that I’ll be lucky enough to attend the ceremony next time — much less know one of the finalists!  Thanks for inviting us, Bob! We loved “being there!”

 

 

My Current Parallel Universe

April 8th, 2021

Mind-boggling Possibilities

When I went out to the coop with the girls’ breakfast this morning, I found myself talking to them about Mrs. Crouch, our resident ghost.  I was asking them if they’ve ever had occasion to speak with her.  They clucked and chirped a bit, but I think they were mostly telling me to get on with their morning treats.  I’m not sure they are into paranormal stuff.

Nor am I.  But, I’ve been in the  midst of going over the copyreader’s edits and stewing about the cover image for my upcoming book, Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula, so I’m traveling along some ghostly parallel plane just now.  Come to think of it, the chickens probably are, too.  Just not the same one as mine.

Which makes me wonder just how many parallel universes there might be.  According to an article titled “Parallel Universes: Theories & Evidence” written by Elizabeth Howell in 2018, the concept of a parallel universe “is a facet of the astronomical theory of the multiverse.” (And never mind that the multiverse term immediately puts my puny thought processes in a musical mode.)  Ms. Howell goes on to say, “There actually is quite a bit of evidence out there for a multiverse.”

She briefly expains five different multiverse theories — all of which are totally beyond me and none of which mentions Mrs. Crouch or any of the other ghosts in Historic Haunts…   On the other hand, Ms. Howell does point out that physicist Stephen Hawking questioned the multiverse theory shortly before his death. “We are not down to a single, unique universe, but our findings imply a significant reduction of the multiverse to a much smaller range of possible universes.”

I wish I’d had a chance to talk with Dr. Hawking about where Mrs. Crouch might be in the great scheme of things.  Unfortunately, the closest I ever got to meeting him was when he visited this house via his appearances on “The Big Bang Theory.”  Perhaps he noticed Mrs. C. in passing.  But whether he did or not, it all begs the question: Whatever will I tell the chickens now?

 

Books, covers, and what you can tell…

April 7th, 2021

The “Sequel” is Coming

So… the publisher has sent the book cover for my approval and, thus far, I’m having a love/hate reaction.  I love how it looks — the Oysterville Church, gorgeous as always, and with a rather ominous background that seems ghostly, indeed.  But I hate the implications with the picture situtated, as it is, right below the title: Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula.

Perhaps I’m being super-sensitive, but the insinuation (at least to me) is that the church, itself, is haunted. It is not. Never has been.  Nor has there ever been an idle rumor to that effect.  But, sure as shooting, if the book wears that cover, the “reports” will begin and before you know it the TV cameras and the ghost-busters will arrive…  Or, that is my fear.

I expressed my concerns to my editor who, I hasten to say, has been great!  She is in consultation with the cover designer to see what can be done.  I thought it might be easier to change the title than to find a different, more suitable photograph but she said that it’s too late.  It’s been “finalized and logged for their retailers” which I guess means the word about the book is being circulated as we speak.

Stay tuned for Book Launch information!

Maybe that old adage “You can’t tell a book by it’s cover” will hold true and people will realize that there are no stories in this one about the church being haunted.  On the other hand, perhaps the article by Corinne A. Kratz of Emory University in the May 1994 Cultural Anthropology journal is right.  In “Telling/Selling A Book By It’s Cover” she wrote:  “… a cover is a marketing device, an aesthetic prduction, and a representation that may relate to the book’s content. What picture can help sell a thousand books?”

Or maybe my concerns are for nothing.  Maybe I should just be content with the thought that the reading public has more sense than we credit them with.  Maybe…

Due Diligence with Capital D’s

April 6th, 2021

Cover Design by Mark Nero

The 12″x 12″x 5½” box arrived by priority mail day before yesterday.  It was heavy — $21.90 worth of heavy — and mailed from Seattle by Marilyn Nero.  Perhaps you remember her?  She and her husband Mark Nero ran the Cranberry Press which had an Oysterville address but was physically located in the 1990s in Ocean Park — in the  area where Anita’s Coastal Cafe has been in recent years.

The Cranberry Press was an elegant operation.  They did small, specialty press runs and my uncle Willard had them publish his book Skulduggery on Shoalwater Bay (illustrated by Nancy Lloyd) in 1998, the year before he died.  The book design and typography were by Mark, himself.  His expertise in those areas are part of what made Cranberry Press special.

Original Cover Design on Printmaking Stone

Sometime in the early 2000’s, Mark and Marilyn moved — to Arizona, I think.   Some years later, Mark wrote and asked if Nyel and I would like to purchase (at wholesale) the remaining copies of the book.  Even though we no longer had the Bookvendor, we did buy the copies.  Several years after that Mark sent a package of still more of the books– this time no charge.  He said he was going out of business.

Last February (2020), I received another message concerning Skulduggery — this time from Marilyn Nero.  She said that Mark had passed away several years previously and she was closing up the studio.  Did I want “a collection of paperwork and original correspondence regarding the publication in 1998 of Willard Espy’s book, Skulduggery?”  She said she’d send it when the weather warmed up and that she was moving to Seattle…

Detail from Original Skulduggery Cover Art

I am so grateful for Marilyn’s diligence in returning these materials to me.  Willard’s original, typewritten manuscript, corrections and commentary on correspondece from both Louise and Willard, plus the cover design on lithographic limestone (I think) were included in the package.  Plus a few more copies of  the book.

I will be taking them up to the Washington Historical Society Research Center to be added to Willard’s section of the Espy Family Archive.  Maybe when the weather warms up a bit…

That Easter Bunny had nothing to do with it!

April 5th, 2021

A Rack of Lambykins

The Easter menu here in the Chef Nyel household was simple but elegant-to-the-max.  Three items only: rack of lamb;, au gratin potatoes; green beans with sesame seeds, garlic, and thyme.  Perfection on a plate!

Every time we have lamb — which isn’t all that often these days now that it’s become so expensive — I think of  Alan Greiner and Debbie Drew and a fabulous dinner we had with them at The Ark.  Not The Ark Restaurant in Nahcotta of Nancy and Jimella fame.  No.

The Ark at Camp Willapa c. 1940

We were at the Peninsula’s original Ark at Camp Willapa — the building that Dorothy Elliot used as her house and where summertime campers went once or twice a month to have a bath (bring your own fire wood, pump your own water) and, also, where we went every Sunday Night for a “sing-song” of   old-fashioned hymns.  The building had been an old oyster house on pilings in the bay and when it was close to falling in, its owners gave it to Dorothy.  She had it cut away from its moorings and lloated over to her property on the bay — hence, “The Ark.”

Easter Dinner 2021

In the ’80s and ’90s, the Ark was where Debbie and Alan lived — long after Dorothy’s Camp Willapa and Sherwood Forest had been sold to the Greiners and long after the Greiners’ Camp Sherwood had closed and things had changed quite a bit.  But what never changed was the joy of eating Debbie’s marvelous meals, the fresh produce from Alan’s garden, and the fun of renewing and sustaining long-ago friendships.  Debbie called the meat course “Lambykins.”  That has stuck, as has our friendship with Alan and his family.  Sadly, I’m not sure what has become of Debbie.  I hope, wherever she is that she, too, had Lambykins for Easter Dinner!

 

Contemplating “Everyday” Secrets

April 4th, 2021

Tucker holds two halves of an alder limb – Photo by Steve McCormick

Every once in a while, we get a look at something not quite meant to be seen — not exactly a secret, but certainly not out there for general viewing and discussion.  Something interesting.  Maybe a curiosity or an oddment never before considered as a possibility for contemplation.  But, once viewed,  a conversation starter for sure.

So it was with part of Tucker’s “Show and  Tell” Friday night.  In addition to the Flicker’s nest, he brought a section of that fallen alder’s branch that had split length-wise.  On one half were a number of small nibs extending outwards; on the matching half were the little holes they had been extracted from.  The tiny points were reddish in color, though Tucker said they were white in the  beginning.

“That’s why they call it red alder,” he said.

“Really?” I asked.

A close-up from Tucker

“Maybe,” he laughed.  “I really don’t know.”  He wondered if they were the baby starts of more branches that would have eventually grown out and made themselves known.

Come to think of it, I’m not sure if these halves were from the dead tree that had hosted the Flickers’ construction or if it was from a living part of the tree that blew down.  Where was Jon Fagerland or one of the other arborists we know to give us some answers?  Or a maybe a logger would know…  But we didn’t have anyone handy just then.

Once again, I amazed at what’s out there, unseen.  Things never  even considered in our daily treks through the world.  Or at least not in mine.

Place of the Yellow-Hammers

April 3rd, 2021

Flicker Nest — Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

My grandfather named this house “Tsako-Te-Hahsh-Eetle” which, he said, meant two things:  “place of the red-topped grass” and “place of the yellow-hammers.”  The name is Papa’s rendition of the Chinook jargon that he and his boyhood Indian friends spoke in the 1870s and 1880s.  It is not the name of this house in particular, but the name that this entire area at the Peninsula’s north end was called.

Flicker Nest Lit From Within by Flashlight – Photo by Steve McCormick

Last night we were able to see “up close and personal” what the real home of a yellow-hammer (which we call the red-shafted-flicker) looks like.  Tucker brought a part of the dead tree that Chris took down the other day– the part that had the beginnings of a flicker’s nest.  “He didn’t know it was there,” Tucker said.  But, as it turned out, Tucker had seen and heard that flicker hard at work several days previously.  My feeling of sadness almost overwhelmed my interest in a “teachable” (or maybe a “learnable”) moment.  Almost.

All of us Friday Nighters were amazed at the precision of the hole — perfectly round and absolutely smooth inside — an ideal nursery for raising a flock of 7 to 9 babies.  According to the experts, both Mom and Dad Flicker work on nest conconstruction and, during the 11-12 day incubation period, Dad takes the night shift, Mom the day.

Red Shafted Flicker

As for the tap-tap-tapping we often hear at this time of year — it’s the mating call and delineation of territory that’s happening– unless it’s nest-building.  Contrary to popular belief, Red Shafted Flickers feed mostly on the ground — they love ants! —  unlike some woodpeckers who actually listen for grubs and larvae inside of trees and then peck away to get at them.

However, there is confusion about the “yellow” part of their jargon name — I wish Papa was around to ask.  I’ve always assumed it referred to their beaks but, a close look reveals gray/black, not yellow.  Go figure.  Or maybe all beaks were called “yellow” in jargon…

It was “one of them variable days.”

April 2nd, 2021

Chef Nyel works on tomato pie.

“Old Bob,” Oysterville’s handyman in the ’60s and ’70s. used a lot of expressions that have stuck with us over the years.  He often would remark on “one of them arty fellas” when he saw someone working at an easel near the church.  And, when asked, he usually concluded that it was going to be “one of them variable days” weather-wise.  Like yesterday.

Mostly it was sunny, so Nyel wore his old Panama hat.  But it was also chilly, so he wore his vest.  It was drippy around the edges — early morning and later in the evening.  Not enough to notice, really, unless you were wearing only your “variable” outfit.

Ms. Geranium — ready for The Season after Nyel’s TLC.

For us it was clean up the hanging baskets and the potted geraniums on the porch.  I fetched and carried while Nyel did the real work.  I do believe those plants know his touch.  They seemed to perk up as soon as he began snipping away the old bits and scratching up the soil around the plants.  Everyone–twelve  fuschias and nine geraniums — except for three, wintered over just fine.  Definitely no thanks to me, their Assistant Caregiver.

Coals in the Firepit

While we worked, we could hear the chain saw across the way where Tucker, Carol, and Chris were still cleaning up the aftermath of the fallen alder tree.  And all afternoon and evening we could smell the delicious fragerance of alder smoke from T&C’s firepit where they were burning the bits and pieces.  All my senses reported that it was a perfect Spring day in the village.

It wasn’t until Nyel was almost ready to pop that tomato pie in the oven that I noticed he was still wearing his vest and his Panama hat, though he had been inside at his kitchen duties for almost an hour.  Yep!  One of them variable days!

Not quite a “sea” of blue… perhaps a pond?

April 1st, 2021

I don’t know about other authors, but the day I dread most in the book-writing process has arrived — the first edits by the copy editor for my “approval” — or not. Perhaps it works differently with a mainstream publisher but with History Press I have had a new copy editor with each book I’ve done for them.  I believe this is the eighth book and eighth copy editor.  Which means starting from square one each time.

For instance — hearing that the History Press policy frowns on “sidebars” and having to explain that I am known for sidebars, that it’s an important part of how I deliever ancillary historic information etc. etc. gets my dander up from the get-go.  Always in the past the copy editor has capitualated but I still must engage them in the discussion and hope that my reasoning is accepted.  Otherwise… Actually, I can’t wrap my mind around the “otherwise.”  A complete re-write?

Then there are the terminology issues — copy editors never like it that I capitalize Peninsula when referring to the North Beach (or Long Beach) Peninsula.  I do it, as does our venerated local newspaper, to differentiate it from the many other peninsulas along our watery coast.  That issue always reminds me of an ongoing discussion that Willard had with a NYT editor about the Long Beach Peninsula NOT being part of the Olympic Peninsula.  It took almost a year, as I recall, for him to win that argument.  “East Coasters can be very parochial in their attitudes,” he said.

References to “the weatherbeach” or  “weather beach” are often difficult for copy editors, too.  Although it’s a term that is not heard much nowadays, it was certainly in common usage historically.  And, these are books about history to be published by the History Press.  Go figure.

Not that I don’t make my fair share of errors well beyond typos and spellcheck glitches.  But usually, my word choice and my manner of presentation has been carefully thought out and I get prickly when copy editors change my pearls of thought.  Fortunately for me, this copy editor has said in his note accompanying his changes:   I was very careful during my review of the text to maintain the original voice and wording as much as possible, and my efforts are simply to present the material in a readable and entertaining way for the reader.  We can but hope.

April 2021 Calendar

My comments/adjustments/explanations are due back to him by April 8th.  Turnaround time is always tight — especially if you have a life.  Or a doctor’s appointment.  A week seems short for the consideration of possible changes to a 45,000 word manuscript.  His concerns are noted in blue.  I took a quick look — maybe not a sea of blue, but definitely more than a puddle.  Oh my!

On the other hand, the publishing date for Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula has been moved up from June 23rd to June 21st — unless that’s a typo.  You never know…