About that grocery list…

January 20th, 2019

Nyel and Sydney, 2012

“It’s better to laugh than to cry” is always my motto.  Take yesterday, for instance.  Nyel and I were planning an “outing” (his term) to make the “dreaded CostCo run” (my term, especially right now since Nyel can’t leave the car without more wheelchair and walker fall-dee-rah than either of us can manage.)  I was doing the lunch cleanup; Nyel was sitting at the kitchen table making a shopping list.  This is how it went:

Me – I think we need tea.

Nyel – Pepper jack?

Me (a little louder) – No, not cheese.  Tea.  With a ‘T’.

Nyel – Oh, yes. Peas.  See if they have those little ones – the petite pois.

Me – (a lot louder) – No!  Tea!  Like what you drink now instead of coffee!

Both – gales of laughter.

Nyel and Sydney, 2018

We came home with the tea and the peas, but I forgot the cheese entirely.  Nyel already has hearing aids from CostCo but he hates them.  Unfortunately, they don’t have memory chips for humans yet, but if they did, I’d undoubtedly forget that, too.

On Automatic Pilot

January 19th, 2019

With Coop Door Open

While I don’t recommend it as a way of life – and I’m sure the chickens agree – our flock does very well without farmer intervention, at least for short periods of time.  This morning (Saturday) was the first day since Wednesday that I’ve been to the coop to check on those girls and, lest you worry… they are all fine.  I think.  It was still dark and I had forgotten a flashlight.

Though the black rooster was announcing the day already, he had not yet led the parade out of the coop and into the run.  That seems to be the routine every day and, even though the coop door has remained open, the light level apparently had not yet reached the lumins (or whatever they are) that he feels is safe for making the day’s entrance to the greater world.

The white rooster was silent for as long as I was doing my due diligence.  He usually doesn’t start crowing until the sun is actually peeking over the Willapa Hills – something about the trust factor that the day is really beginning in earnest.  He defers to the black rooster in all aspects of flock management and fowl courtship – even takes a place in line among the girls when exiting the coop.  I’ve never seen him come out first or second or even last.  Usually third or fourth.

Today’s Bounty

There were eight eggs waiting for me in the south nest box, at least as far as I could tell.  (That’s the nest box of preference lately, though there are two others equally outfitted. Go figure.) I had to go by touch, and pretty hesitantly at that.  Those girls sometimes leave behind more than eggs among the cedar shavings and, without the benefit of light, gathering eggs can be a little tricky.  Also, I’m sure that Ms. Crazy Hen has probably left one or two eggs on the coop floor or in the run.  I’ll be going back down there in a few minutes to see what I can see – with a little help from my friend the sun.

Farmer Nyel

But the point is… (if you knew Gordon Schoewe, that phrase should be wonderfully familiar…) those chickens, as far as I could see, did just fine without being worried by unnecessary Farmer Fussing.  As long as they can get out of the coop and into the run for access to water and back into the coop for access to food and to the nest boxes, and as long as the gate to the outside world is closed and their parameters secured by strong fencing… those girls are perfectly fine on their own for a day or two.

But I don’t really recommend that as a way of life for chickens.  They need their primary caregiver and, in lieu of that, the Farmer’s Wife is acceptable.  Barely.  (Farmer Nyel’s physical therapy begins February 8th.  I hope the first lesson is titled “How to Get Safely to The Coop and Back.”)

David Berger’s Razor Clam Project

January 18th, 2019

David Berger

Day before yesterday, David Berger testified in Olympia on behalf of HB 1061 designating the Pacific razor clam the State clam. Whether you love eating or digging razor clams or simply making money from the tens of thousands of visitors to the beach who do, you might want to consider signing David’s petition.  Also, it would help if you would send it on to everyone you know: http://projectrazorclam.org/petition/

In case you don’t remember my blog of 6/1/18 in which I reviewed his book –http://sydneyofoysterville.com/2018/whats-your-preference-tube-or-gun/), David is the author of Razor Clams, Buried Treasure of the Pacific Northwest. The book is fabulous and fun and the next best thing to getting out on the beach with your clam shovel or gun and chasing the fast-digging bivalve yourself.

In addition, it lays the foundation for David’s idea to make the razor clam the State Clam of Washington. As he points out:  Washington has a state tree, a state amphibian, a state vegetable, and a state endemic mammal.  It does not have a state clam…  (western hemlock, Pacific chorus frog, Walla Walla sweet onion, and Olympic marmot, respectively, in case you are wondering.)

I’m urging folks to sign the petition for a number of reasons.  For one thing, David is a friend and I think his ideas are sound.  But if that isn’t quite enough to get your support, here is his bio as found on the Humanities Washington website about his project:  David Berger has worked as a visual arts critic for The Seattle Times, executive director of a botanical garden, and as a communication officer for Dunhuang, a World Heritage Site on the Silk Road in China. Berger is also a Metcalf Fellow for Marine and Environmental Reporting. David Berger started razor clamming when he moved to Washington after graduating from college

So… sign the petition!  And, you don’t have to be a Washington State citizen to sign it  — which seems only fair, since that’s not a requirement for digging or eating them either.  So spread the word!  Let’s give our razor clams a little dignity.  It’s about time!  We’ve been walking all over them for years.

Noreen, Nordstrom’s, and Nowadays

January 17th, 2019

BIG but Too Small

“It ain’t like it used to be” is almost a mantra in our household these days – a sure sign that we’ve grown long in the tooth and, probably, not gracefully.  This morning it had to do with Nyel’s current foot and shoe problems.

Although he has his surgeon’s okay to put weight on his foot, he is finding it impossibly painful to do so.  As in so many problems to do with health and lack thereof, the reasons for this are probably multiple, arthritis being the main culprit.  For years now, Nyel has worn custom-made orthotic inserts in his shoes which help alleviate said pain but, currently, his left foot is so swollen that he cannot get his shoe on.  The reason for the swelling says his primary care doctor is “a combination of surgery aftermath and his congestive heart failure problems.”  Great.

First Nordstrom Store Seattle

“Maybe you’ll have to have a custom-made shoe,” said I (helpfully, I hoped.)  Nyel already wears a size 13 Triple E which is the largest he’s been able to find in the type of shoe he needs. There was a long silence following my suggestion.  You know – that kind of silence which tells you that you have been the opposite of helpful.  But then the conversation segued into “remember when Nordstrom used to specialize in foot and shoe problems?”

Nyel got his first Nordstrom credit card (which they won’t let him use anymore) in 1966 – just three years after the (then) 55-year-old store had begun carrying some items of women’s clothing.  They had started as a shoe store, Wallin and Nordstrom, in 1901 and prided themselves on service.  As we “remembered” all that, Noreen came into the conversation.

Noeeen Robinson (1925-2006)

Noreen Robinson had suffered from polio as a child and it left her with disparate sized feet.  She once told me that she had always purchased her shoes at Nordstrom – the left shoe and the right shoe each from a different pair.  And even though they had to break up two pairs to make the sale, Nordstrom’s only charged her for one pair.  Noreen swore by Nordstrom!

Now that they are digitized, incorporated, up-scaled, and out of our network, we doubt that their customer service extends as far as it did in Noreen’s time.  But… maybe it’s worth a phone call to see what would be entailed in getting a custom-made shoe.  Especially if elevating, wrapping, icing, and all other shrinking methods don’t work.  But… I suspect we’ll find “it ain’t like it used to be.”

First Day, Seventh Year

January 16th, 2019

Jim Sayce

“After we’re gone, who will be left to tell the stories?” Jim Sayce asked me.  That was probably nine or ten years ago in a past dim enough that I have no memory of what prompted his call to me. Nevertheless, it was an intriguing question and we decided to meet to talk it over.

We asked Cate Gable and then Betsy Millard to join us and for the next several years we met, at first here in Oysterville in my library and, ultimately at Betsy’s where Barbara Minard joined the conversation.  Jim investigated using Master Gardeners as an organizational model.  Bet y advised caution about developing a program that looked like a “class” or a “history course.”   Cate and I urged the development of basic objectives and methods and processes that would give some structure to our model.  Barbara suggested ways the museums collections and archives could be utilized – and ways they could not.

Gradually, we hammered out a tentative “program” that we would call “Community Historians.”  The focus would be Pacific County history in all of its aspects – geographic, cultural, economic.  Not all strands every year, but a continuing and eclectic ‘conversation’ among interested residents.

We would begin in January and meet every Wednesday morning through April. We would invite experts in various fields and disciplines to talk with us; we would plan ‘field trips’ to appropriate sites; we would explore the best methods of researching, documenting, and preserving historical data and artifacts.  And, just as we were pulling it all together, Donella Lucero retired from her job at Fort Columbia as a state parks interpreter and agreed to act as facilitator for our new endeavor!

Community Historians – “One Wednesday Morning”

We had no idea how our plan would be received, but… so far, so good.  In fact, great!  Probably beyond our expectations.  Today marks the beginning of our seventh year and I understand that that we have fifteen participants – some new and some repeating, maybe for the third or fourth time!  One of the great serendipities has been the “community OF historians” that has evolved – people with overlapping interests who collaborate throughout the year on various projects and pursuits.

Jim and I haven’t talked for a while but, when we do, I know we’ll revisit his question of so long ago.  And I think we’ll be pleased as we consider the answer!  Community historians are alive and well and working to preserve all manner of “stories” here in Pacific County!

Ed’s Hat

January 15th, 2019

Scott with Ed’s hat (Photo by Tucker)

At the beginning of the second set at Sunday’s House Concert, a battered old fedora made its appearance atop pianist Scott Cossu’s head.  It was perfect!  So perfect, in fact, that Tucker (and I assume everyone else) thought it was Scott’s own hat.  And, in fact, many of his online photos show him wearing a similar “cover” ala the long tradition of  jazz musicians.

But I knew better.  I’ve known that very hat for more than fifty years.  For most of that time, it has hung on our hat rack (where Scott spied and snagged it) waiting for its owner, Edwin Espy.  My Uncle Ed was the elder of my mother’s two brothers, just two years older than Willard and three years older than Mom.  He was the athletic one, the hard worker and Papa’s ‘right hand man’ and it was Ed who famously said of his little brother Willard (whose nose was always in a book):  “He’ll grow up to be a preacher; he’s so lazy.)

Photographer Tucker’s Empty Chair

In fact, it was Edwin who grew up to get his doctorate in theology and who ultimately became General Secretary of the National Council of Churches.  “The Protestant Pope,” he was called.  He visited Oysterville at least once a year until his death in 1993 at age 84.  And, for as long as I can remember, he left that old fedora on the hat rack so it would be here when he needed it.  He was a man who always wore a hat and, presumably, at home in NYC he had several of them.  Here he had just the old and well-loved one and, in case it was stormy, Papa’s old sou’wester.

Ed Espy sans hat, 1975

Of course, no one (including Scott) knew the story of Ed’s Hat when he donned it Sunday night.  Only Nyel and I knew and we both (it turned out) silently mused about the differences in the two men – the pianist and the church man – and how the hat suited them both perfectly!  I think Ed would have been delighted that Scott felt at home enough here in the house to borrow his hat.  And the fedora, itself, looked absolutely beatific – in perfect harmony with its new experience!

Scott + Holly = Musical Magic in Oysterville

January 14th, 2019

Holly Reeves and Scott Cossu in Oysterville

Scott Cossu is known as “the grandfather of New Age Music.”  Holly Reeves is the principal cellist with the Olympia Symphony Orchestra.  Playing together they are pure magic, or so was the collective opinion of their Oysterville House Concert audience last evening.

Their program was eclectic to say the least and, though I am no music expert – not by a long shot – I think it transcended the “New Age” category by centuries.  Literally.  As Scott said at the conclusion of the concert, “When else have you heard pieces from the 13th  century, Jelly Roll Morton, and the Beatles all in the same program?”  Plus, of course, many of Scott’s own compositions and arrangements.

Scott was one of the first artists with Windham Hill records, widely recognized as ‘the’ New Age record label from its inception in 1976, though their artists often came from classical, jazz, folk, or bluegrass backgrounds.  Scott was no exception.  He was trained classically but, through a series of fortuitous circumstances, widened his horizons dramatically while he was still in college in the early 1970s.

First and foremost, he credits Hamza el Din, a teacher at the University of Ohio who offered a course in the music of Africa.  Hamza recommended that Scott should travel “out west” to study Ethnomusicology (World Music) at the University of Washington.  Upon hearing that Scott had studied with Hamza, he was accepted immediately and his out of state tuition was waived. Scott spent the next two years learning the music of Thailand, Sudan, Korea, China, Romania and Ecuador. Scott remained friends with Hamza until Hamza’s death, in 2006.  And… the rest is history, as they say.

This was the third House Concert (or the fourth?) Scott has done here but it was the first time Holly Reeves had accompanied him.  What a perfect combination!  Holly, also, classically trained has toured extensively, performing in Canada, Costa Rica, France, Switzerland, Great Britain, Japan, and most recently, Italy. She is also a long-time member of the Tacoma based chamber orchestra, Northwest Sinfonietta and maintains a busy private studio.

Scott delights in saying they met last May lifting weights at the gym.  We (and thirty of our friends and neighbors) are delighted that they did!

Can we ever get back on track?

January 13th, 2019

Presumably, our Founding Fathers thought through every contingency when they designed our Constitution.  That balance-of-power thing?  And the checks-and-balances thing?  And all the oversight contingencies?  What the hell happened?

We seem to have become a nation of slogans.  “Make American Great Again.”  “Me Too.”  “Lock Her Up.”  “No More Thoughts. No More Prayers.” “Stronger Together.”  And on and on and on.

Meanwhile, our friends and neighbors are not being paid, our food is not being inspected, our prisons are not being funded, and the nominal leader of our country confuses his own fictions with fact  and is incapable of telling the truth.

When I was a child, our shining moral example was the story of George Washington and the cherry tree and “I cannot tell a lie.” It seems a sad commentary on our nation’s “progress” that the story has now segued into a scowling man and a wall and “I cannot tell the truth.”

I really don’t care about where we went wrong.  I’m much more concerned about how we can get back on track.  Fast.  Before it is too late and there are no trees left at all, cherry or otherwise.

And, just for a minute…

January 12th, 2019


Last night Tucker brought the BEST thing for his Friday evening “show and tell.”  He called it a MOBO because that is what is painted on it, but none of us (including Tucker) had a clue what those letters might mean.  And, honestly, I didn’t care because, just for a minute I was four years old and wanted to climb on that little MOBO in worst way!

It was a little horse, suitable for riding by a small child (Me!  Let it be me!) and, where the stirrups might be were footrests that you could push and the horse would move forward!  And turn!  (Giddy up MOBO!)  Tucker said that when he was a boy the Waddles Restaurant in Portland had several of these little horses that kids could ride around in a room set aside for the purpose.  Although this particular MOBO hadn’t come from there – it was something Tucker found in an antique shop years later – it was just like the ones he remembered from his childhood in the ’50s.

Waddles Restaurant, Portland

Wow!  I actually felt a tinge of jealousy – that I had been too old in the ’50s, that I had never heard of the restaurant, and that I had never had the opportunity to ride a MOBO.  Judging from some of the old pictures of me, however, I had lots of opportunities to ride other things.

There I am in a cool car, I think on a merry-go-round at the New York World’s Fair in 1939!  And there is another of me, taken that same year at Christmas in Oysterville, sitting on my first tricycle.  That was a big Christmas for me – a toy stove, a “cry baby” doll as big as I was, and my very first set of wheels.  Bright red, as I recall.  But… no MOBO!

Sydney at 1939 World’s Fair

A few years later, in the summer of 1942, I went to Russian River with Mrs. Nagle who was our housekeeper/baby-sitter during the war while my mom worked at the shipyards.  (She was a pipe fitter’s helper at General Engineering in Alameda.)  I remember the day that my mom and dad came up to take me home and, as a special treat, I got to ride a pony that then posed with me for a picture.

Sydney at Russian River, 1942

In the years that followed, there were lots of ponies and horses in my life – never belonging to me, but available to ride at Camp Willapa or, if I was lucky, in Oysterville when a friend would let me borrow theirs.  But there was never a MOBO.  Lucky Tucker!  And who’da ever thunk a dignified (ahem!) old lady such as myself would have such a nostalgic longing to be four years old again so she could ride a toy pony.  Wow!

With All the Anticipation of Childhood!

January 11th, 2019

Oysterville Moms and Kids, Summer 1938

When our friends in Portland wrote and asked if they could come for a sleepover later this month, I felt the same excitement I remember from seventy or seventy-five years ago – that little tummy tingle of butterflies and the warm glow of looking forward to a special event.  But even though it was a dimly familiar feeling, I wonder how many friends actually spent the night at my house when I was a kid.  And, vice-versa.

I do remember staying overnight with my friends Anne (Nixon) and Nancy (Goodell) Cannon in Portland – usually on the way to or from my home in California.  My mom and their mom (Gyla) had been friends since girlhood and, on those occasions, we kids were pretty much left to our own devices while they visited and giggled like schoolgirls, themselves.

Nancy Cannon Goodell (1936-2015)

They lived on N.E. Davis Street in a wonderful house with all sorts of nooks and crannies.  I seem to remember that we could get up into the attic from one room, crawl around up there ‘exploring’ and then re-enter the main house through an entirely different ‘doorway.’  I don’t actually recall anything about the sleeping arrangements – not even if Anne and Nancy each had their own rooms.  The ‘sleep’ part of ‘sleepover’ certainly wasn’t important.

Plus, I don’t remember when the term ‘sleepover’ came into vogue.  Certainly not way back then.  In fact, I can only remember staying at someone else’s house overnight out of necessity.  Ditto in the next generation when Charlie and Marta were little.  I’m not sure about Marta as she lived with her mom (except for weekends and vacations) so she could have stayed overnight with her school friends now and then.  But I think that Charlie’s only overnight excursions were when he stayed with my folks who lived fairly close by in Oakland.

It wasn’t until I began teaching here on the Peninsula in the ’70s that I remember anything much about sleepovers.  Certainly, that’s when I was first made aware of the term.  Every once in a while, a child (usually a girl) would share or write in her journal that she was going to spend the night at a friend’s.  I also remember that about fifty percent of the time – especially if it was a first grader – it didn’t go well and parents would be called to come pick up their homesick child before the night really got under way.

Oysterville Kids (r to l Nancy, Judy, Anne, Me

That never ceased to amaze me, mostly because I don’t remember ever experiencing homesickness.  I do remember, clearly, someone asking me the first summer I spent at Dorothy Elliott’s Camp Willapa if I missed my mom and dad. “Oh no”, I responded confidently.  “I don’t worry about them. They can take care of themselves.”  My mother, who was apprised of my remark, never let me forget it!  I think she actually felt a bit insulted that I wasn’t pining for home, even just a little.

So… here I am, a venerable octogenarian, looking forward to our friends – four of them! – coming for a sleepover at the end of the month!  And they are coming “just because.”  Which I am sure is the best possible reason for a true sleepover!