Muddling Through

March 20th, 2018

Sick Sydney

This whole role reversal thing ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.  I’m a lousy patient.  Nyel apparently failed Nursing 101.  The last ten days have been hell all the way around.

For me it’s been fever, coughing, chills, coughing, sweating, coughing, shaking, coughing, twenty-four-seven.  No appetite.  Not thirsty.  Tired, tired, tired but only able to sleep in snatches.  Cough myself awake.  The diagnosis was bronchitis.  It surely is something worse. Bronchitis sounds so ordinary.  This is not ordinary.  This is the pits.

Watchful Nyel

Nyel comes to the doorway periodically.  He stares at me.  Then he goes away.  I know he feels he should DO something but he hasn’t a clue.  Could you get me some water I ask.    Could I have some juice I whine.  I’d like to try some hot tea.  He’s accommodating.  I’m cranky.  Why do I have to ask I say. I can’t read your mind he says.  Maybe you could take my temperature I say.  Not with the cat thermometer for god’s sake I say.  Maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow.

I don’t.  But by some good fortune, Nyel is still in the doorway.  Or sitting nearby in a chair.  He hasn’t filed the divorce papers yet.  Even though he must be sick of hearing this wretched cough.  But still I’m a bitch.  You’d think after spending 100 days in the hospital last year, you’d have a clue, I say.  He looks so sorry.  I feel terrible.  In all ways.

Comfort Food

Today is Day Eleven.   But who is counting.  I think I’m feeling a little better.  I’ve eaten dinner two nights in a row, now.  Lamb chops, baked potato, peas.  Last night made-from-scratch mac-and-cheese and spinach for a veggie.  Nyel is the best cook in the world.  I slept pretty well last night.  Nyel hasn’t moved out yet.  God is good.  We might make it after all.

…until we don’t have it anymore…

March 13th, 2018

It’s another one of those built-in situations.  Part of the human condition, apparently.  Whoever designed us glued the ‘appreciation’ part of the prototype onto the ‘retrospect’ component.  There was probably a reason for that but, try as I might to figure it out, it escapes me.

Why is it that we do not appreciate our youth and energy until we no longer have them?  Why don’t we realize the value of money until it’s inflated beyond usefulness?  And why didn’t I realize that getting the late-breaking news in the next day’s newspaper was so much better than these minute-by-minute tweets and snarks that arrive through the ozone.

In fact… it occurs to me that maybe the world is in its present state of constant turmoil for just that reason.  All this angst and drama and nastiness that is apparently a constant part of the cyberspace generation must be out there somewhere clotting up the ozone layer or the stratosphere.  Maybe it’s raining unseen from that “cloud” we hear about that is storing all our most precious information.

If I’d taken physics I might have a greater understanding.  I think there’s some principal that says energy can neither be created or destroyed.  I’m not sure how our thoughts play into that, but I think that once thoughts are formed and then released out in the universe, they have the power to influence us.  You know… like the power of positive thinking.  There are no doubt comparable energy forces like the power of paranoia.  Or the power of perfidy.

On the other hand… it’s raining.  Actually pouring.  A good day to clean out a cupboard or read a good book and just blame these gloomy thoughts on the weather.

Of Glass Harps and Mountain Dulcimers

March 12th, 2018

Michael Greiner and The Glass Harp

I (personally) know only one person who plays the glass harp – Michael Greiner.  And, until yesterday, I’ve only know one person who played the mountain dulcimer – Harlan Kinsey who I think has been playing in the great beyond for fifty years or more.  I don’t really “connect” the two instruments except that I love them both and you just don’t meet a lot of people who play either one.

But, yesterday up in Grayland on the search for cranberry information (a new book project… don’t ask) my new friend Connie Allen mentioned that she is “Career A-D-D” as in she’s had a lot of them.  I already know her as a bog owner and as a recently ‘retired’ tall ship captain, so I asked what other jobs she’s had.  It seems that she was a musician for a number of years – on the East Coast and later, in San Diego.

Connie On Board

“Appalachian Dulcimer” she said in answer to my question.  I love that instrument!  I connect it with the late fifties and early sixties and with Berkeley and with the folk revolution and with the first glimmers of the segue from Beat to Hippie.  I was only an onlooker.  Too old (was I 25?) and settled (married with a Kindergartener) to be part of it.  But I had friends in the thick of it all … especially artists and musicians.

Why I connected the dots is beyond me, but I said, “I know someone in San Diego – at least he used to live in that area – who plays the glass harp…”  Not that the dulcimer and glass harp have any particular relationship…

“Oh,” Connie said.  “Is it Mike?”  Talk about that old six-degree thing!  And it got better.  ” I went to a music gathering he hosted on the Peninsula a few years ago,” Connie said, “at…” and here she hesitated.  After all, how can you describe Camp Sherwood Forest?

Alan Greiner — c. 1948

For one thing Sherwood no longer exists – not officially.  But it’s a place forever in the hearts and souls of everyone who ever went there as a kid or a young adult.  I was a camper there in the ’40s and ’50s.  So was Alan Greiner who eventually bought Camp from Dorothy Elliott.  Alan is the father of Michael-of-the-glass-harp.  Marta and Charlie were campers there in the sixties – right along with Michael and his brother and sister.  Wow!  And how would I ever have thought to connect the glass harp and the mountain dulcimer…

It was the second time Connie and I had found a connection – on our first meeting a few weeks back, it was the Lady Washington which she skippered (for real) and on which Nyel reenacted the role of Captain Robert Gray back in the ’80s.  Wow!!  What will it be next time, Connie?  Actually… I hope it’s just the chance to get better acquainted based on the here and now.

But… you never know!

The Fragrance of Paris!

March 11th, 2018

I love Paris!  I love its looks!  I love its feel!  I love its fragrance!  And I’m not talking Chanel Number Five here, even though that is the only scent I’ve worn since I was sixteen years old.

No, I’m talking about the waft of fresh bread as you walk by the boulangerie.  Or the pungent smell of cheese at the fromagerie or that tang of fresh produce at the greengrocers on Rue Cler.  And of course, that’s not all.  It’s the smell of old books at Abbey Bookshop or that whiff of the river as you stroll along the Quai d’Orsay.  And, somehow, every one of those delicious aromas rolled up into one!

All of that came to mind yesterday when Cate sent a message saying “I’m in Paris” and accompanied that with four photographs.  OMG!  I could actually smell those radishes!

San Francisco is another city that affects me differently than any other.  There, it’s the light.  Some say the light is special in Paris, too, and I think they are right.  But, for me, there’s something about the City by the Golden Gate that just surrounds me differently.

And Oysterville?  Not so much.  Not anymore.  It used to be the sounds.  Bob Kemmer working on the boat pulled up in his driveway.  Uncle John’s cows going into the Heckes barn of an evening.  The put-put of those old two-lungers out on the bay.  There’s a little twinge now and then – when the geese are flying or when a young girl clip clops her horse through town.

Thanks, Cate!  Those pictures were almost as good as rambling through le quartier with you.  Almost!

At the Northeast Corner of Territory & Clay

March 10th, 2018

“across from the church and facing the bay” . 1930

It’s not often that I think of our house as being on a corner.  The property just doesn’t feel very corner-ish to me.  I think of it more as being ‘across from the church’ or ‘facing the bay.’

Come to think of it, I don’t often think of “corners” when it comes to Oysterville houses along the east side of Territory Road.  Not until the Stoner house by the stop sign at Oysterville Road.  Now that is a corner.  But for those of us with houses bordered by a lane on one side or another… not so much.

And, for those not familiar with Oysterville terminology, the ‘lanes’ are those grassy pathways that lead from Territory Road to the bay.  From south to north they are Clay, Merchant, and Division and yes, they are officially county roads though in my lifetime, anyway, they have never been maintained by the county.  Those of us who live adjacent to them keep them mowed.

Above Our Gate

Nor do I think of the houses here as having names.  Not like the quaint old house names of Seaview and Ocean Park such as “Sand Castle,” “Yeo-Ho,” “Yellow Bird,” “Quit-Yo-Worry,” “Beech-Eze,” or “Father’s Shan-Gri-La.”   For the first 120 years or so, houses here in Oysterville were known by the names of those who lived in them.  In 1976, when Oysterville was designated a National Historic District, the Daughters of the Pioneers sponsored house signs for the historic homes – signs with the names of the original property owners – and gradually those names took hold.

I guess that our house might be considered to have a name.  A sign saying Tsako-Te-Hahsh-Eetl hangs above our entrance gate and has been there ever since I can remember.  However, I’ve never heard anyone refer to the house by that name – not family members and not neighbors or visitors.  Perhaps there is too much angst about how to pronounce it.  I’ve always just thought of the sign as being a decorative curiosity – not the name of our house.

Tresspassers Will

Nowadays, as the generations move on, it has become more confusing here in the village.  Houses have changed owners.  The Daughters of the Pioneers signs are disappearing.  We aren’t always sure who owns what or who lives where.   In fact, I’m put in mind of a wonderful passage from Winnie the Pooh:

Christopher Robin said you couldn’t be called Trespassers W, and Piglet said yes, you could, because his grandfather was, and it was short for Trespassers Will, which was short for Trespassers William. And his grandfather had had two names in case he lost one–Trespassers after an uncle, and William after Trespassers.

Whenever names and identities and signs and portents become confusing, I think of Piglet and of A.A. Milne and the House at Pooh Corner.  It may well be imaginary, but it certainly has more clarity for me than some of the corners here in Oysterville!

The Wonderful Advice of Irene Martin!

March 9th, 2018

Irene Martin

I already thought my admiration for fisher/author/historian/priest Irene Martin knew no bounds.  Last Wednesday when she spoke at the Community Historian class, she soared higher than ever in my esteem.  I’ll try to explain why, but I doubt that I’ll even come close.

First, you need to know that Irene had been scheduled since last fall to talk to the class on March 7th about Fishing on the Columbia.  I’m not sure what aspect she had in mind, but whatever it was would be informative, of that I was sure.  However, three and a half weeks before her speaking date, the Martins had a house fire.  Everything (almost) was lost or severely damaged by smoke and water.  Did Irene want to cancel her speaking date, Betsy had asked.  “No, but I might talk on a different topic,” she said.

And so, she did!  She talked about how we preserve history and what she learned from the fire.  It couldn’t have been more appropriate for Community Historians.   That’s what we are all about – preserving and disseminating local history.  Her experience and her advice resonated with every single one of us.

First and foremost: Replace the batteries in your smoke alarms.  “Promise!” she said.  And she told how her husband had replaced theirs just six hours before the fire broke out.  “Had he not, I would not be here today.”

She told about doing an inventory of everything in the house some time ago – with a granddaughter.  “I told her I needed help.  Plus, I think I bribed her… Money always works with teenagers.”  In any event, they spent several weeks talking about every single thing in the house and the stories that went with them.  “If someone doesn’t know the stories, those stories and that bit of history will die with you,” she said.  “Share your stories.  Over and over again.”

“And,” she asked, “are all your old family pictures labeled?  Are the names on the backs?  Saving the pictures without the names doesn’t do any good at all a generation or so later.”  It was a second promise she extracted from us: “Go home, and after you replace those smoke alarm batteries, label your pictures.”

And there were many more practical suggestions from her recent first-hand experience.  I’m glad to say that I’ve been on a similar wave-length for some time, preservation-wise.  Photos labeled, check!  Inventory complete, check!  Stories shared, check!  With regard to that last one, I sometimes fear that I’m repeating myself, especially with the stories in my blog.  After hearing Irene, I think that might be okay.  For posterity, you know!

My Uncle Ed

March 8th, 2018

Dr. R.H. Edwin Espy, c. 1975

Among the many people in my life whom I never fully appreciated was my mother’s older brother, Ed.  For one thing, we lived on opposite sides of the country, so we didn’t see him very often.  For another, he had the rather imposing name, Robert Hamilton Edwin Espy and after receiving his doctorate from Columbia University was known to those beyond the family as Dr. R.H. Edwin Espy.  I was always impressed by that.  Not that we ever called him anything but “Ed”… but even so…

For another thing, from 1963 to 1973 he was the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches and, as such, was known as the “Protestant Pope.”  That was the culminating job in a lifetime devoted to the ecumenical movement – a lifetime spent traveling the world meeting with religious leaders of every denomination and working with youth groups everywhere.  That was not just impressive to me, but somewhat overwhelming to consider.

From the time I was born in 1936 until his retirement in 1973, he brought me a souvenir doll and a souvenir spoon from each country he visited. Most of the spoons, alas! were stolen in a house break-in years ago. I still have the dolls – most with heads and hands made of bisque and with cloth bodies and hand-made clothing.  (Does it go without saying that they were pre-plastic?)  Because he had no children and I was his oldest niece, I always felt that I received special treatment – which I loved, but it was a bit intimidating.  Even as a little tyke, I was not comfortable crawling up into his lap like I might with my Uncle Willard.

Willard, Edwin, Dale in 1916

My mother, Willard, and Edwin were the youngest of seven children and, because they were within three years of each other, were referred to as “the babies.”  Throughout their lives, they shared a closeness that I was always a tad bit envious of – particularly (probably) because I had no brothers and sisters, myself, and realized from an early age that such a bond would forever be foreign to me.

But, it is in the area of history and memories that I feel I most missed out with Edwin.  I just ran across these notes that he wrote for a never completed book of Willard’s: 

Ed Espy Horse Seining on the Columbia, 1924

 …In the spring months I had to get up at 3:00 or 4:00 A.M. to dig razor clams at the ocean beach on the early morning tides – the best time for this in the twenty-four hours.  This was not a picnic.  It would be in March or April or May, when it always was cold and usually raining.  The combination of salt water, cold, gritty sand and sometimes a miscue with the special clam shovel was not designed for people finicky with their manicures.  When I got home from clamming later in the morning – barely in time for a change of clothes, a quick second breakfast and a dash to catch the school bus – after my mother had done her best to treat my hands – there was not much capacity for study on the ride to school.  But it was a good opportunity to catch a nap!

Just that single paragraph evokes so many questions!!  And thoughts about our changing times…

Get ready! She’s on her way!

March 7th, 2018

Early Morning Fog Bank

She’s not due to arrive until March 20th – almost two weeks away.  Yet we saw her striding boldly toward the Peninsula as we drove up and back from Seattle yesterday.  Lady Spring!  She’s on her way for sure.

We saw her as we rounded the head of the bay at first light, hidden in the deep fog bank that hung above the Naselle River.  We saw her in the bright squinty sun that tried to blind us as we headed north on 101 out of Raymond.  We saw her in the cloudless blue sky in Seattle – a sky which I’d have sworn is always gray.  And we saw her in the glory of snow-covered Mt. Rainier as we headed home in the afternoon.

Glorious Mt. Rainier

Unbelievably, it was still bright daylight when we rolled into Oysterville at five o’clock.  The days truly are getting longer – even without Daylight Savings time which doesn’t begin until Sunday.  And, to top off this glorious day, the daffodils by our old gazebo were smiling a springtime welcome as we went out to check on the chickens.

I’ve seen several online articles lately about “getting ready” for spring.  One was titled “The 16 Easiest Ways to Get Your House Ready for Spring.”  OMG!  Sixteen?  Another, “5 Ways to Get Your Garden Ready for Spring.”  That sounds better.  And then “6 Tips to Get Your Body Ready for Spring.”  Frankly, I don’t even want to know…

Cheerful Daffodils

I’m absolutely a-tremble with eagerness – body, mind, spirit and all.  I am so very ready.  Bring on the sunshine!  And the flowers!  And that lovely green haze of the waking alder trees!  As for the house and garden, I expect they’ll limp along as usual.  Or maybe energy and enthusiasm will arrive on March 20th right along with Lady Spring.  We can but hope!

Nyel’s Stone Soup!

March 6th, 2018

As is usual when I get my tail in a knot, it was Nyel to the rescue today.   Also, as is usual, ‘rescue’ took the form of taking charge of the kitchen – not just of the cooking and cleaning up, but of the planning and shopping, as well.

Actually, for the shopping part, he didn’t even have to venture out of the house.  He shopped the refrigerator and I know for a fact it was pretty slim pickin’s.  Nevertheless, I was nose-to-grindstone on the first deadline for a new book commitment and I simply didn’t give food a thought.  I surfaced for some cheese and crackers and a few celery sticks at noon and smelled (rather than saw) dinner already in the making.


“Is it vegetable soup?” I asked.

“More like stone soup,” was the answer.

“Really?  Did you really use a stone?”  I was teasing… or so I thought.


“No.  Really.  What did you start with?”

“Really.  It was a stone.  Well, maybe more of a rock.  I found it in the crisper.”

Uh Oh.  “What are you talking about?”

“Truly.  It was a rock.  A big chunk of petrified Parmesan cheese.  I started with that and then kept adding whatever vegetables I could find – carrots, potatoes, corn niblets, tomatoes… You know.  All the usual ingredients…”

It was delicious!

Dithering and Frittering

March 5th, 2018

Today is March 5th.  It’s the day the DACA program ‘should’ have ended.  But, in a stunning rebound of stupidity, the White House tried to interfere with the Justice System – probably thinking that the Supreme Court was now in their pocket.  Wrong again!  Our highest court wasn’t buying and Dreamers are ‘safe’ – probably for another six months or so.

If you don’t remember how all this came down, here is a quick recap:

  • • Last September when Mr. Trump ended DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, he created a six-month delay to give Congress time to come up with a legislative version of the policy, which protected young undocumented immigrants who had come to the US as children.
  • • Multiple federal judges felt Trump was on shaky ground and ordered the Department of Homeland Security to resume renewing all existing DACA permit.
  • • Our nation’s highest court declined the administration’s request to bypass the appellate courts and to consider immediately whether to overrule those decisions.
  • • Meanwhile, Congress has had “the gift of time.” Six months to come up with a solution for the Dreamers.

And… how ironic that we call them “Dreamers.”  They are living a nightmare!  An unbelievable horror from which there seems no escape!

It’s March 5th, for heaven’s sake!  Six months have gone by and Congress has come up with nothing.  The Dreamers have waited and watched while our “leaders” have dithered and frittered on a budget, on gun control, on immigration on… everything.  They should all step down – every last one of them.  I, for one, don’t want to hear one more excuse.