Sheltering Within A Fog Bubble

September 18th, 2020

I’m no longer sure if the visual boundaries of our world are marked by fog or smog or smoke.  It doesn’t smell smokey, but it doesn’t lift, either, like fog normally does.  It just hangs and limits our vision to a small diameter of a few hundred yards.

On top of the almost 200 days of sheltering, these visual constraints put me in mind of the old Star Trek episodes, each of which included the stardate.  I’m thinking I should label each of my Oysterville Daybook entries with a Covid Date.  This one would be “From The Oysterville Daybook, CovidDate 190.”  It would be a sort of verbal insurance:  even if the day (and, therefore, the blog) seemed repetitive, there would be a change in digits.

No wonder prisoners often tally the days on their cell walls.  Sameness robs us of memory and of hope.  And, tucked in there somewhere are desire and imagination and ambition.  When those disappear, woe be unto us.

I choose to think that Annie was right:  “The sun will come out tomorrow…”


This used to be a nice neighborhood…

September 16th, 2020

A Popular Sign

Most of us old-timers in Oysterville can remember clearly when, not so many years ago, no one locked their doors here.  Now, we can’t put out a campaign sign for one of our  long-time, third-generation neighbors without it getting ripped off.  Twice so far.

After our first “Dan Driscoll for Commissioner” sign disappeared back in July, Dan replaced it, and I faithfully brought the new one into the house each evening before dark and set it out again in the morning.  Then came the smoke, the poor visibility, my sore throat and scratchy eyes and… I became complacent.

Yesterday morning:  the sign was gone.  For the second time.  Carolyn Long’s sign (a bit catywampus) is still there, though I hesitate to say so for fear it, too, will be stolen.  I don’t see any other nearby Driscoll signs gone, but I haven’t actually taken an inventory.  So Nyel and I have the uncomfortable feeling that we are being specifically targeted.

Carolyn Long Survives!

On the other hand, all of the Wolfe signs within view of our house are still up.  It seems possible that it’s one of Frank’s supporters who is doing the dirty deed.  Perhaps Frank needs to have a word with them.  Especially because, of the many Frank Wolfe signs in the village, only one is in front of a voting resident’s home.  The others are a bit misleading since the homeowners live elsewhere full-time and are not eligible to vote in Pacific County.

While it is true that every voter registered in Pacific County can vote in the general election for any one of the candidates running for Pacific County Commissioner  (unlike in the Primary Election in which only the voters in each candidate’s Commissioner district can vote), those voting privileges do not extend beyond the county line.   Perhaps those particular sign displayers are confused about that.   More likely, they are trying to show support for a candidate who most voting residents of the village do not support — an unhappy statement in itself.

Sign or no sign, Dan has our support!

To me, the sign-stealing is just one more example of the neighborhood going downhill.  The Big City Folk move in and good manners and respect seem to evaporate.  It’s too bad.  Perhaps Frank should have a little talk with some of his Oysterville supporters.  They aren’t doing his cause any good at all.  And why the Driscoll signs that Nyel and I have displayed seem to be a particular target is a mystery to us.  If you have an idea, do weigh in!  Inquiring minds want to know.


Midst Fire and Ash: Blessings and Bounty!

September 15th, 2020

Tomatoes from Harry and Linda

It’s not that Harry Schleef didn’t have plenty of other things on his mind.  He and Linda, with the help of grandson Evan, had managed to get their animals (horses, donkeys, llamas) out of their Level Two Oregon Fire environment to safety.  He had seen Evan and Linda on their way to Oysterville with six cats and two dogs and was staying at home to keep an eye on things… just in case.  You’d think he might want to take a breather — a figurative one, anyway.  Air Quality was hardly conducive to a literal one.

But no.  Harry’s tomatoes were ready to be harvested.  He delivered forty pounds to neighbors and when the fire danger was downgraded to Level One, he headed to the beach with more tomatoes for Linda.  It was a quick turn-around to get Evan who needed to begin school yesterday.  And besides, the winds could shift.

Nyel’s Travel Wheelchair

“Too many tomatoes for me,” Linda said when she called.  “Do you want some?”  Heavens, yes!  But… what a mixture of feelings went with the acceptance.  It was Harry and Linda who gave us Nyel’s first wheelchair — the collapsible one we now depend on when we travel to the doctor’s or to any destination where Nyel has to get out of the car and be mobile.  Little did any of us know that it was to be a lifetime necessity.  But they won’t hear of us returning it or even reimbursing them for it.  That’s just the way they are!  And now, when their whole world is threatened beyond comprehension, they are distributing tomatoes!!!

Special Delivery at the Coop – 9/14/20

Meanwhile, our recalcitrant chickens gave us THREE (count ’em… one! two! three!) eggs yesterday!  They seemed very nonchalant about it but I do believe that they have finally mastered the word “EGG!”  When I thanked them and held up their lovely creations I almost heard them cluck “your welcome.”  Surely, it wasn’t my imagination.


Hard to Believe!

September 14th, 2020

Happy 33rd!

“What’s going on?” I asked.  I’d gone into the kitchen to get some ice for my evening Bloody Mary and saw on the table a wine glass and a bottle of apple cider.

“I thought maybe we could have a toast to our anniversary,” Nyel said.  OMG!  September 13, 2020 — our 33rd anniversary and I hadn’t given it a thought all day long.  I don’t know which was harder to believe — that we’d been married for all those years or that it was Nyel, not I, who remembered.  I must say, it wasn’t the smoky air that made me tear up for a moment.

Anniversary Chicken

So we shared a few moments of remembering our surprise wedding at the 3rd Annual Croquet and Champagne Gala in this garden.  That year it was a benefit for the Water Music Society.  And we talked about some of the many memorable moments over the years — trips to far and exotic places; celebrations we’ve attended or hosted; family events in Oysterville and New Hampshire and California and New York and Delaware!

Anniversary Roasted Potatoes

And, inevitably, we spoke of the people who have made so much difference in our lives — especially those who are no longer with us: my folks and Willard and Louise and Ed and Cleo; Gordon and Roy, Charlie and Kaye, my California teaching partner Tom Davis, Larry Weathers, Dorothy and Chuck Huggins, Helen Heckes, Carol Nordquist, Martha Murfin — so very, very many.

Anniversary Salad

And, of course, we talked of all of our friends and relatives from whom we feel estranged just now with fires raging and the pandemic not yet under control.  We paused for a moment when we realized that we’ve been married exactly half of Marta’s lifetime and more than half of Charlie’s!  How fast the time has gone! Have we used it wisely?  Do our loved ones know how much we enjoy and appreciate them and how they have enriched these many years?  (It’s actually 36 if you count our first three years together!)

September 13, 1987

How fast they fly by.  Hard to believe, indeed!

Through Thick And Thin With Chickens

September 13th, 2020

Not So Long Ago

It can’t be said too clearly or too often — you never can tell with chickens.  Take this smokey 209 air quality index number that we are enduring in Oysterville, for instance.  There have been few complaints from our girls.  In fact, that may be the only sign that they are under stress.  They are definitely more subdued than normal.

But, there is no wheezing or other sign of breathing difficulties.  Nor have they laid any eggs for a few days, despite the fact that our “EGG! EGG! EGG!” lessons have continued despite the air quality.  But since this lack-of-laying syndrome is not new, I hardly can credit it to smoke stress.

Not So Long Ago

I read that one precautionary measure to take might be to close them up in the coop and install an air filtering system.  Yeah!  Right!  Or take them inside the house where the air quality is better.  Yeah!  Right!

First of all, we don’t have an air filtering system ourselves.  We’re certainly not going to install one (and the electricity that probably is required) in the chicken coop.  Our 150-year-old house with all its leaky windows and drafty doors  probably hasn’t much better air quality than their coop.  Which probably isn’t much better than the outside.  And, as Farmer Nyel so often reminds me, “THEY’RE CHICKENS!”

Farmer Nyel In Sunnier Times

We are not overly concerned.  They are all young-ish and, as far as we can tell, normally healthy.  So, in those ways they should be better off than we are.  They seem to be eating their poultry food and drinking their water at their usual (or better) rate of consumption.  And I can’t tell if they are extra quiet because I won’t let them out of jail or what.  Perhaps we’ll know more when the air clears.

Late Breaking News:  Air Quality has been upgraded to “Moderate” with an AQI of 74!  Really???  Seems the same as yesterday but maybe things are looking up (so to speak).  Maybe we’ll get an egg or two today…


Living On The Edge of Hell

September 12th, 2020

Air Quality Icon For Oysterville Today

It’s scary to wake up to that red, frowning air quality icon on your screen.  First thing.  The good news, at least for us, is that Portland’s air quality is no longer the worst in the world as it was last night.  This morning it’s Vancouver, B.C.  We are between the two geographically but, thank goodness, much lower than either on the air quality index and, so far anyway, not in harm’s way of fires.  Still… it’s another inside day here in Oysterville.

There is is no “there there” across the bay again today.  But it appears more like fog than yesterday’s eerie, rose-colored curtain shutting off the rest of the world.  Still, the air seems thick and smells smoky and is likely to hang around for a while.  No breeze so far.  Not like years ago when we would greet the summer mornings fogged-in and Dad would say, “It’ll all burn off by eleven o’clock.”  Even the expression “burn off” seems totally inappropriate just now.

Clackamas County, Oregon 9/11/20

Our neighbors down the road have reported in.  Their full-time residence is  in Clackamas County, Oregon near Oregon City. That area (as of last night) was a “Level 2” — “be ready to evacuate immediately” — so they spent the last few days moving animals to safety — 3 horses, 3 donkeys, and 5 llamas.  Linda is here at their Oysterville house with a grandson and 6 cats and 2 dogs.  Harry is staying at home in Oregon unless/until the “Evacuate Immediately” order comes.  OMG!

We are so glad they are safe but, somehow, hearing that they are amplifies the fact that so many are not.  Ten percent of the Oregon population — 550,000 people have had to evacuate.  So far.  OMG!

Beyond Our Meadow: No There There

There seems nothing to do but pray and wait.  Bless them all!  Especially the first responders who are far from the edge of hell;  they are smack-dab in the middle of it.   “Stay safe!  Stay safe!  Stay safe!” is the mantra here.  And everywhere.

The fourth wonder? Probably.

September 11th, 2020

Buddy Holly

Nyel and I were working outside yesterday on our rhododendron project — I was clipping, Nyel was bagging.  I had gone around to the other side of the fence and was walking to a spot where I could toss some clippings in Nyel’s direction when I turned and saw an unfamiliar looking man walking step-for-step a few yards behind me.   He was carrying a big shiny something-or-other (turned out to be a camera) and, when I stopped, he kept coming.  No mask.  It felt uncomfortable.

“You don’t remember me do you?” he said.  ” I visited you and your husband when he was in the hospital.” and he told me his name.  “Julian Frank.” Unfamiliar.

“Do you remember Julian, Nyel?” I asked.  And Nyel, in his wheelchair on the other side of fence and rhodies said, “No.”

Route 66

The visitor seemed surprised to see Nyel there, but it didn’t slow him down. He proceeded to tell me (not us) how he had gotten a rental car (some spiffy kind with an even spiffier engine) in order to see the Buddy Holly crash site.  “Why?” I asked.  “Was it around here?”  He said, “Don’t you know who Buddy Holly is?” and went on to tell me (not us) about his trip to Iowa, his stop to see the bridges of Madison County, his drive on Route 66, how he couldn’t get away from an old lady at a museum along the way, etc. etc. etc.  He didn’t say how Oysterville fit in.

“How did you find travelling?” I asked.  “Did you stay in motels or …?”

“It was fine.  No one in Iowa wears masks.  Me neither.  I’m a Viet Nam vet and ain’t no way anyone’s going to make me wear a mask.”

“Fine, just stay far away from me,” I said. And I backed up a few more steps.

“It’s a hoax, you know,” was his retort.

“No, it’s not, but believe what you want.  Just stay away from me,” I repeated.  And off he went.  All-in-all, a very unsatisfactory conversation.  And why in the world was he in Oysterville, anyway?  Not only unsatisfactory.  Sorta creepy.

Church and ‘Parsonage’ in Oysterville

I looked up Julian Frank on FB.  Unsatisfactory.  Then, I Googled him.  First thing that came up: “Julian Andrew Frank.  Classification:  Mass Murderer.  Status: Dead.”  More than creepy.

“Good to know that Oysterville’s right up there with Buddy, Route 66, and those bridges,” Nyel said.  “I guess we’re the fourth of the seven wonders of the world.”  Yes.  Always good to know.



“The Dark Divide” is on its way!

September 10th, 2020

Coming September 18th!

If you are a Robert Michael Pyle fan or a Bigfoot fan or a Giants in the Trees fan… take note!  At long last the trailer for “The Dark Divide” is out and available for viewing on YouTube and FaceBook.  The movie comes to the big screen on September 18th and will be showing the 18th-20th at the Columbian in Astoria.  Woot!  Woot!

The film is based on Bob’s 1995 book, Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide.  It stars David Cross as Bob and Debra Messing as Bob’s late wife, Thea.  Although I’ve watched the trailer a half dozen times now, I’m still having trouble acceptinng Mr. Cross as Bob — not his looks or voice or mannerisms…

The Book – First Edition

But a trailer is not a good way to judge; I’m hoping my willing suspension of disbelief kicks in when I see the full movie.  Bob mentioned in his email announcement that Debra Messing is “a truly remarkable Thea” and I so hope he’s right.  Like Bob, the real Thea was so special and distinctive, it’s hard to imagine anyone capturing her on the silver screen — even Debra Messing.

The cinematography looks to be amazing — most of it centered in  Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest, from Mount Rainer to the Columbia Gorge,  — and that, of course, is probably the important part if it’s to be at all reflective of the original book.   The screenplay was written by Bob and director Tom Putnam so, presumably, Bob is fine with whatever deviations there are from the book.  (I’m never quite sure what “based on” means.  Sometimes any vestige of the “original” is lost on me.)   After I’ve seen it, I hope I get a chance to talk to him about it.  I’m also eager to see (or, more to the point, hear) how much of the musical score is provided by Giants in The Trees.

Robert Michael Pyle

What a treat for all of us local fans!  I can hardly wait.  Meanwhile, I think I’ll re-read the book.  If memory serves, we bought our copy from the author, himself, when he did a signing at our book store, The Bookvendor, back in the day.  Wow!  So long ago, now.  And now we can say, “We knew him when…”  Actually, we’ve been saying that about Bob for years!

Huckleberries! A Labor of Love!

September 9th, 2020

Nyel’s Secret

Nyel “disappeared” for a couple of hours the other day.  I thought he was down communing with the chickens and, as it turned out, that was part of it.  But, mostly, he was picking huckleberries — the little blue kind.  They are his favorite.

It took about two-and-a-half hours for him to halfway fill a large yogurt container.   “Between their size and my arthritic fingers…” he said.  It is definitely a measure of how much he favors huckleberries!  I, for one, have neither the interest nor the patience.

2-1/2 Hours Steady Picking

Nyel, on the other hand, has been watching and encouraging this little bush (if you can encourage a bush) since it first volunteered itself down near the chicken coop.  Year before last he got a few berries — just enough to whet his appetite.  Last year, however, he was “otherwise occupied” recovering from St. Vincent’s Hell and I doubt that those huckleberries even crossed his mind.  So, by this year, the bush and he were both ready!

Ready for the Freezer

He’s picked two “batches” so far.  Both have gone immediately into the freezer and he tells me there will be more.  Meanwhile, there would be an even greater number if he could stand up long enough to pick them or (heaven forbid!) if I would pick at least some of the ones he can’t reach from his wheelchair.  I’m thinking about it… Maybe if he had a plan for those little morsels I’d be more willing.  But, so far, he’s just waiting patiently to see how many he can accumulate.

I don’t know if he can train the chickens to help him.  That could be easier than counting on me.

An Unsettling Wind

September 8th, 2020

The Black-eyed Susans have usurped the Shasta Daisies.

The wind blew all night.  Not a howling wind.  Not even a creaking wind…mostly.  But it was steady and forced itself under the doors and through the cracks and crannies of this old house.

I don’t like the wind.  Neither does the garden.  It whips and buffets and scours everything in its path and makes me feel uneasy.  I hesitate to see the condition of the dahlias and the lilies and anything else on slender stalks.  And I’m glad I took a few pictures the other day.  Before destruction.

Pooh’s “mastershallums” are everywhere!

Too, I worry that there are dimwits around who don’t think about fire safety.  Would anyone be so stupid as to have a bonfire  on the beach last night?  Or even in their backyard?  It’s so dry.  It wouldn’t take much for a real disaster.  And, as long as I’m worrying, I wonder about how much blow-down there will be  and whether or not power will be interrupted.  Nyel, of course, says I worry too much.

Our hanging baskets are heavy with fuschias in bloom.

Probably just to prove him right, I also worry about the chickens.  In the big wind storm of 1921 or ’22, chickens that lived in Ilwaco were blown clear to Seaview!  I’ve always wondered how folks sorted all that out.  That was back in the days when almost everyone had chickens and I doubt that there were many “designer” varieties among them.  Hard to tell your Rhode Island Red from the next one.  I also doubt that those chickens were understanding a lot of English — not like chickens of today who, as I’ve reported recently, have demonstrated their understand of “egg” and “jail.”  And who know their names.

For sure, I’ll be glad when the wind dies down.  For dang sure!