Thanks Ms. Harris! (I think.)

September 27th, 2021

Sydney – Photo by Bill LaRue c. 1970

When Eugene-Our-Lawn-Guy came by with our bill this morning, I apologized for still being in my bathrobe.  It was well after 10:00 and I didn’t want him to think I was a slug-a-bed.  “I’ve actually been up since 5:30,” I said, “but I’m on a writing roll and…”

Somehow that segued into him telling me that “Martha say’s ‘hi'” and me asking “Marta who?” and him saying “She’s a client in Long Beach — used to teach with you.”

“Oh!  Tell her ‘Hi’ back,” I said.  “I hardly ever see her these days.”

And then, I swear, there was a twinkle in Eugene’s eyes, and he said, “I understand you were quite the Wild Child back in the eighties!”  And, I further swear, the Devil must have made me respond, ” Yeah!  You’d have liked me back then!”  And we both laughed.

Sydney Again – Photo by Bill LaRue c. 1970

He says that Martha said no more.  While I, of course wracked my brain for what “more” there might have been to say.  That was a long time ago…

But, truth to tell, my overall reaction was very positive, indeed.  I’m not saying I was a Wild Child, mind you, but it’s nice to know  that maybe, just maybe, I’ll be remembered as more than just a little old gray-haired woman who used to teach school and write books about history.

If you do happen to remember, no details, please.  Just a nice “balanced” memory.  (Actually, I wonder where I can get one of those…)



How many zooms until purrfection?

September 26th, 2021

We zoom every Sunday night — Charlie, Marta, Nyel and me.  And Charlie’s cats, Lupe and Rosencrantz.  It’s a date we’ve been keeping for at least a year and a half (except for Rosencrantz who just joined the fun this past summer.)  I wouldn’t say we’re very good at it, but we’re improving.  It’s not the content.  We’ve always been superlative in that department.  It’s the delivery.  Or, if you will, the technical parts.

Not so much Marta.  She is way beyond the rest of us.  She plays with backgrounds and with crazy facial features and other things that make us laugh.  She looks great with a stache.    And Nyel is right up there, too.  No add-ons for him.  Just “what you see is what you get” — but no problems either.  Charlie has had mega sound problems.  Some Sundays are good; some not.  He’d be the first to say that he needs a  new  computer but it’s not in the budget for this year.

I’m the worst.  It’s the wretched “intermittent internet.”  I freeze up — always ugly, always annoying.  So why doesn’t it happen to Nyel?  We have the very same infrastructure.  If he does freeze, it’s not too discernible.  Probably  because he’s not all that animated to start with.  But, me?  Yikes!  It’s totally humbling.  My tongue is hanging out or my eyes are at half-mast or sometimes there’s some other unbecoming issue.  My head is bigger than everyone else’s too.  I finally realized that’s because I snug right up to the screen (and camera)  so I can see what’s going on.  Failing eyesight — another one of those “secrets of old age.”

And, of course, Lupe and Rosencrantz  have to get into the act, too.  Lupe is older and not very tolerant of her younger “brother.”  But he is undaunted.  Since they are both black and Rosencrantz is growing past the kitten stage, it’s getting tough to tell them apart.  They are definitely the comic relief of each Sunday’s get-together.

It’s hard to think back to BZ — Before Zoom.  I think we’ll probably continue with it even when this scary time is over.  It’s one of the good things that has emerged from the sheltering times…


The nip of fall and the whiff of rye!

September 25th, 2021

Rustic Rye Bread

It’s been a little chilly out today.  And cloudy, too.  But when the sun broke through  about noon, it felt (and looked!) like a righteous autumn day.  The topper came when I followed my nose to the kitchen and was treated to a buttery slice of Nyel’s rye bread, fresh out of the oven.  What is it about colors and fragrances, tastes and sensations that just cheer you right up No Matter What?

The timing was perfect.  We ate lunch and then I went to author Caroline Miller’s Just Read IT Zoom Meeting to discuss Louise Penny’s fifteenth book, A Better Man.  My discussion partner was historian Serena Zilliacus who is working on her first novel and the half-hour program was moderated by our host, Caroline.  Before we began, we met with Rob Hoffman (whose title I’m unsure of, but I’m going to call him “the producer”) and two sound engineers.

Dappled Shade Garden

First, let me say that if you have been dissatisfied with your zoom meetings, I highly recommend a techie team like Rob & Company.  In a few short minutes, they solved the lighting problems that have been plaguing me since my first zoom experience a year and a half ago.  Yay!  And if you want to be totally captivated by your discussion partner — to the point that you forget to even be nervous at all — see if you can book Serena.  Or at least someone who is from Australia.  Her accent was charming and certainly must have overridden any gaffes I might have made.  Or even my frozen moments due to our dreaded “intermittent internet connection” in Oysterville.

As for Caroline… she is the perfect host!  She kept us on track (or tried to!) and would have none of my excuses about not talking about the plot. (Sorry, Louise!  I HAD seen your YouTube book launch of A Better Man in which you asked audience members not to give away anything about the book and I tried not to. Really I did.)

Three Pines Pin

All-in-all, it was great fun.  I was actually disappointed when Caroline said it won’t air until next April and May.  I hope I can still conjure up this morning’s heady “nip and whiff” to see me through.  No matter what, I’ll let you know so you can see it for yourselves.  I only hope we did Armand and the Three Pines characters justice!

Oh… and by the way.  I couldn’t find my little Three Pines Pin so I borrowed Carol’s to wear on the program.  Unfortunately, it wouldn’t show up — poor lighting or too dark against my sweater or something.  I think it’s just a Three Pines thing — the pin, like the village, only shows up when someone has need of it.  So, perhaps, some of you WILL see it when the show is aired!

Fencing us in and them out in Oysterville?

September 24th, 2021

Double Picket Style – W.D. Taylor House, 1980s

Oysterville has long been known for its picket fences.  Not so much that it has them.  Lots of places do.  The commentary on our fences over the years has been upon their variety more than upon their actual existence.  I wonder if that’s because property owners mostly made their own pickets in the “olden days” — those days I think of as belonging to my grandfather and great-grandfather.

Churchyard Fence – Photo by Deirdre Purcell, 2015

With regard to fences, anyway, those “olden days” were before 1925, during the years my great grandfather had a “ranch,” purchased in 1902 by my grandfather and on which he raised dairy cows.  On November 12, 1925, my grandfather’s ranch foreman, B.G. Gove, wrote to my grandfather who,  apparently, was out of town.  I quote part of Mr. Gove’s  charming and informative letter here, leaving his spelling and punctuation “as is”:

A man run into a Cow some where neare Chinook some time back and smashed his car  of corse, no one oned the cow so his Layer toald him that as long as the Officers wasent trying to put the herd law in force, the County was responssal for the car so they broat suit agenst the county and the county comishenrs to clear their skirts sent the sherife to round up everyone that had stock running out.  They arrested Looes Loumes and Will Shagran so now Looes and Will are working to get the Herd Law squashed and it is surprising how many friends Looes can find to fite for him and he poses as a disinterested one working for the good of the Poor Widdow…  Nelsons Boy was over the other night with a paper for the Herd Law that is the only one I have heard of for the Law.  They Sure Mis you here.  Nelson was telling me that you had a herd Law passed (a State Law) when you were in the Senet  if that is so, why all this fus to get it a county law   the county can’t make Laws to conflick with the State can they….

Nyel Makes Pickets, 2012

At a meeting about another matter entirely at our schoolhouse the other day, Kathleen Sayce mentioned the picket fences that were once “typical” around the oldest homes in Oysterville.  She mentioned that, traditionally, the fences of Oysterville were placed around homes and gardens (of the vegetable, flower and orchard types) to keep out wandering livestock.   That was surely back in those free range days that Mr. Gove was writing  about.

And, for those who want “distinctive” looking pickets like those of the “olden days,” making them yourself is a necessity.  I think Nyel has made scores, if not hundreds, over the past thirty years.   So far, we haven’t had a single cow in the yard.  The deer, however, are another matter entirely.


Now that we’re one day into autumn 2021…

September 23rd, 2021

Black-eyed Susans in the Autumn Sun

I can feel my spirits lift a little now that summer is really over.  I’m not sure why, but it seemed like things should have been easier and looked brighter during summer.  But nothing did.  The numbers kept climbing and people were surly and we felt more tired than usual.  Plus, here in Oysterville, the weather really wasn’t all that summery.

But yesterday and today feel just about right for fall.  A little nippy in the morning; blue skies and autumn-y leafy colors.  Some rain here and there — enough that the lawn has stayed wet all day long.  We’ve had a couple of fires in the fireplace and have begun to wonder about Christmas — will “the kids” come up and will we have a party and, if so, will my tired old outfit be okay one more time?

Bright Spots of Color on a Crisp Fall Morning

But before we get down to Christmas trees and poinsettias there’s Halloween to think of.  And Thanksgiving.  This is when I miss teaching school the most.  The best holidays come in October, November and December.   It’s a time, at least with young students, that families are the most involved in school — dads coming into the classroom to help carve Jack-O-Lanterns; grandparents joining us for a harvest meal at Thanksgiving and telling stories from “the olden days,”; a family night Christmas Program with kids teaching parents and siblings how to make origami ornaments and then decorating  the huge tree in the gym before the big holiay production.  Or don’t they do that anymore?  Probably not in these politically correct times.  And especially not during the sheltering.

I’m glad, though, that I have all those years of memories as we ease into autumn.  If not something new to look forward to, at least the comfort of recalling old experiences — when the world was predictable and the future always seemed full of hope.

Beautiful Bounty: almost too gorgeous to eat!

September 22nd, 2021

Gorgeous! Delicious, too!

Our down-the-road part-time neighbors were in town over the weekend and brought us bounty from their garden in Oregon City.  Tomatoes!  So gorgeous!  Almost too beautiful to eat.  Almost.  The biggest, reddest ones are Heartlands and, though I was told the names of the others, I have already forgotten.  I’m bad at remembering names — tomatoes, people… I’m a non-discriminating forgetter.

I also forget why my dad didn’t especially like tomatoes.  I don’t think he minded them in sauce, but during my growing-up days, we didn’t have many salads or raw fruits or vegetables.  I do remember, though, that when we did have sliced tomatoes as a side dish, dad put sugar on them!  Sugar!  I was a salt-and-pepper girl, following my mother’s example.

Corn-on-the-Cob (Nyel’s favorite!) and English Cucumbers!

Some way I associate my father’s tomato hesitancy with some of the old “poisoned apple” folklore from the 1700s.  Not that my dad was that old, mind you, though he would have been the first to say that Bostonians (and he was one!) were provincial in the extreme. It was one of the reasons he moved west.  Tomatoes may well have still be suffering from the thought that people got sick and died after eating them — which was true if they were eating off pewter plates. Because tomatoes are so high in acidity, when placed on this particular tableware, the fruit would leach lead from the plate, resulting in many deaths from lead poisoning. No one made this connection between plate and poison at the time; the tomato was picked as the culprit.

I think tomatoes also got a bad rap because they are a part of the deadly nightshade family but, thankfully we’ve all (Bosonians included) gotten past that.  These days tomatoes are consumed around the world in countless varieties. More than one and half billion tons of tomatoes are produced commercially every year.

But I’m here to tell you that none (as in not one tomato out of those many tons) can hold a candle to the garden bounty that we received day before yesterday.  Oh!  And did I mention the corn and the cucumbers?  And, as for those tomatoes — I don’t even think my dad would have ruined them with sugar!






Before Nyel got the news… Casey was there.

September 21st, 2021

YAY! A new publication by Casey!

I went to get the mail about the time Nyel started dinner — twelve gorgeous clams brought to us by friends.  Gorgeous clams, cleaned and each in one piece.  Easy to believe they were dug that very morning.  They were beautiful.

The package, carefully rolled a bit to fit in our postbox, was from Stevenson, Washington.  I knew before I opened it that it was a new book of poetry from Casey.   I’ve been bugging him about publishing again — as I’m sure many folks have.  And I’ve been vaguely aware that he’s been doing so, by  ones and twos in poetry journals and publications that poetry neophytes like myself know little about.   A nest blew down is a collection of thirty-six of Casey’s poems and, of course, I choose to think that if I hadn’t been bugging him over the past few years it wouldn’t have happened.

I read them aloud as Nyel cooked.  Some were hard to think about.  No.  Make that all of them were.  They sounded like Casey — but Casey in later-than-midlife.  The time when looking ahead gets easier in some ways than looking back.  “Although austere in tone…” began the blurb on the back cover, written by Paulanne Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita.  Hmmm.  I’m not sure that’s the descriptor I’d choose.  But, then, I’m not sure I have the right one, either.

And then, as the time to eat grew closer, I read Nyel’s name!  It was about halfway down the page in a poem titled “The guy who couldn’t see color.”  There is only one Nyel (at least for me).  And only one Casey who came to St. Vincent’s and managed to get into the ICU to see Nyel when the anesthesiologist halted his hip surgery because he was not doing well.  “Nyel might not walk again” begins the third stanza of Casey’s poem.

It’s really hard to eat clams through tears.  It’s really hard when you have to put hugging and visiting on hold.  It’s really hard to find a word that’s the opposite of austere to describe Casey’s work.  Especially when it comes to the poem that mentions Nyel.

Sailing To Catch The Moon

September 20th, 2021


When my friend Barb and I were setting up a telephone date for yesterday, she said to try her at five o’clock our time.  “We’ll be sailing to catch the moon,” she said, “but we should be home by then.”  Home is in Cohasset, Massachusetts and, even though we did connect last evening, I never did find out exactly how you sail to catch the moon.  I did ask if they were successful.  “Yes, but the wind died so we caught it from the deck of the clubhouse.  It was great!”  Her laughter, as always, was infectious.

Last Night’s Moon Over Willapa Bay

Barbara Hedges Canney and I have been friends for more than forty years — since before she met husband John and since before I met Nyel.  We’ve worked together, played together, laughed and cried together and visited back and forth across the country.  She is one of my closest friends though many miles (and quite a few years) separate us.  But Barb is one of those fabulous people who probably has many friends who feel about her just as I do.

Barb’s Boat

Nyel’s birthday present to me last year was a gift of Barbara’s help in organizing my files — maybe for ten days or so.  The “gift certificate” was given to me on February 28, 2020 and, of course before we could get our ducks in a row (or our sails unfurled) Covid hit.  We’ve been re-planning and hoping ever since.  And, the “working trip” has expanded to include John and some quality visiting time — maybe even some sailing on the bay if Barb can line up a boat.

But first… well, you know.  We await fair winds and following seas and some assurances that there will only be full moons to catch…

Was Sunday ever “a day of rest”?

September 19th, 2021

Sydney and Erin — At Sunday Brunch

It seems to me that Sunday is a scrambling day.  Scrambling to finish up what didn’t get done on Saturday.  Scrambling to get things started (and finished!) for Sunday dinner.  Scrambling to get our ducks in a row for the upcoming week.  Why did we used to call it “a day of rest” anyway?

I do remember that when I was just beginning school in Alameda, my mother got up to see me off to Sunday School… and then went back to bed.  Only once in a while did my parents go to church and when I asked why, they said they had had enough church at the University of Redlands — a Baptist institution — to last a lifetime.  I think they were obligated to attend a church service every day and I specifically remember her saying that there were five (count ’em five services) on Sundays.  YIKES!  So maybe they felt they had earned a day of rest.  Or at least a morning.

Blum’s, San Francisco – 1890s – 1970s

I do remember, too, that it was often on Sundays that we “went for a drive” — sometimes out into the countryside where we once bought my dog, Zipper.  And sometimes (at Christmastime, especially) into San Francisco to see the Christmas trees in the windows along the Marina or to wander the downtown streets and look at the magical displays in the department store windows.  Sometimes on Sundays we went and got a hot fudge sundae (which I always thought was funny — a sundae on a Sunday) as a special treat.

Looking back, I don’t know that Sundays were as much a day of rest as a day to have family fun — the only day of the week with two working parents that such activities were possible.  But like they say: a change is as good as a rest.  And therein must lie the problem when you are retired and every day is a sort of Sunday…

Toes Up On The South Lawn

September 18th, 2021

Windy Aftermath

Once again the garden chairs have been blown belly-up by the wind.  It doesn’t take much to buffet these plastic Adirondack chairs into submission.  After all, they are lightweight enough that I can stack all four and carry them from place to place.  So,  a “real storm” is hardly a requirement for blowing them over.

Nevertheless, yesterday could almost be classified as “stormy” here in Oysterville.  The rain seemed relentless, as did the wind.  The flags on the churchyard flagpole whipped and snapped all day and it was cold and gray and uninviting out.

Last Night’s Cozy Fire

Besides which, the chickens had gone to roost by five o’clock — about two hours early for these last days of summer.  They were hunkered down, seemingly resigned to a long and drafty night with the wind whistling around the coop. I wonder if this gloom and sog while summer is still upon us portends a difficult autumn and winter ahead.

On the other hand… the sun is shining this morning as we speak, despite the weatherman’s prognostication of more rainy gloom and doom for today and tomorrow.  That’s the best part of the weather here in Oysterville:  if you don’t like it, wait a minute and it’ll change!