Of bonnets and bunnies and Easter bounty…

April 16th, 2017

Easter Sunrise

This morning’s sunrise over the bay was a gentle glow, not a spectacular splash like sometimes.  The new flags in the churchyard waved in a breeze that promised one of those ‘variable days’ weather-wise for this Easter Sunday of 2017.  A veritable hang-onto-your-hat day during that imaginary Easter Parade at the Beach.

At least, I think it’s imaginary.  Although the Easter Parade still happens in New York and in many other cities besides, it’s one festival I’ve never heard of here at the beach. Church services and clam digs and egg hunts, yes.  But no Easter Parade.  Probably the iffy-ness of Eastertime weather is the reason.

Churchyard, Easter 2017

Now that there aren’t any regular services in the Oysterville Church – not since the 1930s my mother said – and nothing special planned for Easter, we won’t even get the pleasure of seeing a procession of fancy hats going past our house for a service.  Not that most women actually wear hats anymore – not even to church.  Every once in a while, someone wears a hat to our Music Vespers services in the summer and I always hope it’s a fashion statement that will make a resurgence.  So far, though… not so much.

However, I’m happy to say that my cousins at the Red House are planning a little egg-hunt-around-town for later today.  Our girls in the coop even contributed some of eggs to that endeavor – three brown eggs collected by eight-year-old Ginger first thing Friday morning!

Oysterville Bounty!

Like her mom Abby, her late grandma Beeg, and her (before-she-was-born) great-grandma Barbara, Gin is one of the ‘visiting’ cousins.  I’m never quite sure if it’s the chickens or her elderly cousins she really wants to see, but she never fails to ring the bell, accept our invitation to come into the house and then sit in the library for ‘a good and proper visit’ before she checks the nest boxes at the coop!  What a gal!

As for Easter Dinner… we’ve been invited out!  “We’ll start with oysters, hors d’oeuvres, bubbles and bloodies” wrote our host, and then proceed to a meal “loosely based on the Easter feasts I remember growing up, but with about four fewer courses.”

I can’t wait!

Out of the Loop

April 15th, 2017

It was a quiet Friday Night at our house.  Only Tucker and Carol came over – neighbors bearing a bowl of delicious peanuts.  We offered “jumbo shrimp” (The ultimate oxymoron. Why aren’t they called prawns anymore?) and beverages, and the four of us munched our way through a rare opportunity for a companionable visit.  Our topics ranged from family news to the world situation and we speculated that most of our “regulars” were at the Town Hall Meeting in Long Beach.

I had actually learned through email and Facebook messaging that several friends were ‘abandoning’ us for the chance to attend a Democratic Town Hall with Jaime Herrera-Buetler – which sounded like another oxymoron to me.  I’m mildly interested in knowing if Rep. H-B appeared in person or if this was a video version of her telephone town hall the night beforehand.  We had received a phone call asking us to participate in that one, but we had declined.

I think we are burned out on the political scene for a while.  From the grass roots level right up through the world (and maybe interplanetary) situation, we are feeling out-of-synch and out-of-sorts.  And before the do-gooders and activists and rabble-rousers remind us of all manner of ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ and ‘don’t give ups’ let me say, “Been there.  Done that.  And probably before you were born.”

It’s not that I’m against staying informed.  Far from it.  But in this day and age I think I can manage much of the information-gatheriing from the comfort of my rocking chair.  I’m feeling like all those signs and banners and meetings and marches are up to others now.  I’d love to think that I’ve earned the right to be consulted for my wisdom but, of course, now that I’ve reached my octogenarian years, my ‘wisdom’ includes the knowledge that no one really gives a fig about it.  I wonder if that’s always been so.  Just lip service to reinforce the idea that experience and longevity have some value.

When in doubt, consult Google…  “influential elders in American history” I wrote.  Nothing substantive.  Just information about care for the elderly (say what?) or about influential Americans like George Washington who died when he was 67 (and don’t tell me that was ‘elderly’ then; many of my own ancestors from that time period lived into their 80s).  Nothing about revered little old ladies dispensing the answers to life’s problems…

So, probably this “wisdom of the elders” is just another hoax to keep us old ducks hoping and hopping.  Why am I not surprised?

…and the town’s filling up!

April 14th, 2017

Headed for the Beach

In Oysterville, it feels a little like it did thirty or forty years ago when most of the part-time residents would show up on holiday weekends.  Nowadays, with our ever-increased mobility, home-owners and their friends and family seem to come and go whenever the spirit moves – not necessarily for special occasions only.  But… yesterday, as the town started filling up, I had a little bit of déjà vu.

            For starters, I think the Accuardi family is planning to be here in force to celebrate Fred and Gail.  They have sold their Red Cottage after twenty years of careful stewardship and their large family is gathering to wish them well and to say ‘arrivederci to Oysterville’ – at least to this chapter.  Martie and Steve at the Captain Stream house will continue the family’s connection with the village with energy, enthusiasm and next generations – “as God intended” as our friend Te would say.

Line-Up at the Dock

In the Red House (not to be confused with the Red Cottage) Cousins Abby and Dan Ronco and kids (the sixth generation of Espys) have arrived with friends.  Their plan is to have an Easter Egg Hunt throughout the town on Sunday.  I hope the weather cooperates, but knowing my intrepid cousins, a little rain and wind won’t slow them down.

Other folks are in town to take advantage of the long overdue clam season.  We haven’t been out but we understand the digging is great.  We’ve already been offered some freshly cleaned clams from neighbors Tucker and Carol!  (Sometimes there are advantages to being old or infirm.)

Beach Driving

And, of course, there are all of the ‘regulars’ –those spirited neighbors who are here every-weekend-no-matter-what. Plus, those who live here full-time but have been away for parts of the winter.  Add us all up and the town seems a-bustle.  As my folks used to say, “It feels like Old Home Week.”  Throw in a bit of intermittent sunshine and we can almost imagine that spring and summer are on their way after all!

Housing Shortage

April 13th, 2017

Last Year

I’ve heard tell there is a shortage of low-cost housing on the Peninsula – especially rentals.  I’m sure that the reasons for that are complex, but it is a bit disturbing to see all the usually-empty second homes throughout our communities and, at the same time, to know that there are a whole host of people having a hard time filling that most basic of needs.

The last few days, my considerations about housing have become even more confused.  The swallows are returning and we are attempting to let them know that our house is a NO VACANCY neighborhood.  Not because we (probably just I) don’t want them here.  They have been nesting in our Kitchen Garden for at least 20 years.  Last year there were six nests out there, tucked up under the porch roof – a regular colony — and several of the swallow couples raised two broods in their seasonal homes.

Spring Welcome Wreath

But, this year there is a conflict of interest between us and our little feathered friends.  We need to have that part of our house painted.  I wish I could explain to the swallows that we have put off the inevitable for two-score years specifically out of deference to them.  Unfortunately, their nesting season coincides perfectly with our painting season and, once they are settled in, I can’t bear to have the nests knocked down.

Right now, the swallows are just beginning to arrive and they are in house-hunting mode.  Our first ‘inquiry’ for the season began with a knock at our front door.  Well… almost.  Nyel was about to go outside for something and, through the window, he saw a swallow perched on the pussy willow wreath that hangs on the door.  They looked at each other for a minute or so before the swallow took off – long enough for communication to take place.

Swallow: “Season’s greetings!  I’m back!”
Nyel: “No nesting this year.  Go away.”

No Vacancy

Nyel followed up his end of the conversation by taking down all the old nests (while I was off on an errand) and putting up some fluttery hanging things as deterrents against a new building boom.  I was upset by it all – Nyel says it’s a misplaced nesting instinct on my part – but I do recognize our need to have the area painted.  I am resigned.  For now.

Poets I Know and Love

April 12th, 2017

Casey’s Corner in The Bar

Hanging over the sink in the little hidey-hole that serves as our bar are two framed poems – “what will I say to her at 90” and “60 turns nyel.”  The first was written for my mother on the occasion of her 89th birthday and the second, many years later, for Nyel’s 60th.  The poet was our friend Casey Killingsworth, Oysterville’s ‘Singing Postmaster.’

Casey and his wife, Cynthia, live up the Columbia Gorge now and we don’t see them very often, but yesterday I noticed those poems and wrote them a note, in part to twit Casey a bit that there wasn’t a poem for me.  He wrote write back – not a poem, but with the news that he had applied for a Master’s Program at Oxford! Okay, you guessed it: I wasn’t selected. But I did make the final short list, so at least I feel ambiguous instead of dejected.

 Oxford’s loss, I say. I dug out Casey’s slim volume of poetry, a handbook for water, published by Cranberry Press in 1996.  I turned to “the end of april as we know it” and read the first few lines:

there was a time not too long ago,
maybe even last year
when i could go on a jog with bill and feel
like when i picked my left foot up and
when i brought it down
the world would be there to catch it

 Yes.  Oxford’s loss.

Cate Gable

And yesterday I spent the lunch hour with Cate Gable who, last year completed her MFA in Poetry at Pacific Lutheran University.  Later this week she goes to Olympia for the launch of an anthology, Washington 129, compiled by Tod Marshall, our state’s Poet Laureate.  One of Cate’s poems is included!

We talked about her recent (as in last week!) trip to Berkeley where she delivered a paper on Alice B. Toklas based on a chapbook she did some years back after extensive research at the University of California’s Bancroft Library.  While there she hobnobbed with the editor of “Poetry Flash,” (was asked to become its Northwest Correspondent) and other literary moguls.  Did I say that she prepared a fabulous lunch for us?  No Alice B. Toklas brownies, though…

Robert Michael Pyle

And Bob Pyle does Bob Pyle have a new book of poetry out?  How did I miss that?  Why didn’t we have a book gathering à la our House Concerts for him like we did for his first book of poetry?  I think I’m losing my grip.  Or maybe it’s just one of those wishful thinking rumors.  Nevertheless, I’m clapping and cheering for all of my poet friends’ milestones and accomplishments!  I am in awe.  And probably in love, as well!  Such awesome people!

A Pointless, Time-Consuming Indulgence?

April 11th, 2017

The Espy-Espey Genealogy Book – Volume 3 ©1987

As my son Charlie said when he got his DNA results from Ancestry.com, “Okay. So I’m sort of disappointed…”  Me too, a little.  There weren’t any surprises.  Not in my ethnicity – 77% Great Britain; 19% Europe West; and in the ‘Low Confidence Regions’ – Ireland 2% and Finland/Northwest Russian 2%.  But our DNA search was a Christmas gift to all of us and I feel compelled to be as appreciative as possible, so…

Yesterday I began filling in the template for the family tree that is provided.  For the first six or seven generations back, there are few questions thanks to the work done by my Grandmother Little (“Nana”) on my father’s side and my Uncle Willard Espy (“Wede”) on my distaff side.  Plus there are reference books… lots of books.  There is nothing much that tempts me to pay the monthly fee to get more information.  Not on my family and not yet.

Filling in the Blanks

What interests me most, of course, are the stories connected to the names and both Nana and Wede provided plenty of those.  Take Alexander Hamilton, for instance.  He is my five times great-grandfather on the Espy side, born in 1725, probably in Ayrshire Scotland and was ‘a millwright and a mechanical genius’ according to one account.  He came to America in 1741, was a “battoe man” in the French and Indian Wars and settled his family in Pennsylvania.

According to Wede, “there is no proof of relationship between our Alexander Hamilton and the Alexander, thirty years younger, who was George Washington’s first Secretary of the Treasury.  But I am bemused by the extraordinary coincidence of names in the two families.  Alexander Hamilton of Grange, grandfather of the Secretary of the Treasury had nine sons, including John Robert, Alexander, James (the great AH’s father), George, ad William (twice).  Our Alexander had eight sons, also including John, Robert, Alexander, James, George, and William.”

Sarah Hall Rand (1822-1865) & Horace Richardson (1814-1876), My Great-Greats

There is a place on the Ancestry Family Tree template to input stuff like that – to say nothing of pictures which I also have – but, I ask myself, is it worth the time and effort?  The only ‘plus’ so far to this entire, time-consuming job of transferring information from family notations to Ancestry’s Family Tree is that it can be compiled in one orderly, easily visualized form.  And what would I gain by spending a monthly amount to hook into other information?  I might be close to overload already.

Cuzzin Ralph can probably answer those questions for me.  So far, though, I don’t think I can justify the expense.  I’m pretty sure that I have access to more information about my forebears than I can make use of.  But, have to admit… it’s tempting… and the jury is still out.

Propping, Patching, Painting

April 10th, 2017

Mahatma Gandhi

You’ve probably heard the old joke about aging.  (Pay attention to the punctuation.)  “When you are 40, it’s Patch.  Patch.  Patch.  When you are 60, it’s Patch, Patch, Patch, Patch.  When you reach the venerable age of 80, it’s PatchPatchPatchPatchPatch.”  Well, it’s as true for houses in this neck of the woods as it is for people – maybe more so.

Of course, I don’t really have a straight-across comparison between our house and any living person.  The house was built in 1869, the same year that Mahatma Gandhi and Henri Matisse were born.  Gandhi lived until 1948 – 79 years; Matisse until 1954 – 85 years.  Not too shabby for either of them, but certainly not the age of our house.

Henri Matisse

Or, for a closer comparison, I could look at the building materials in addition to the age. Granted, redwood lumber (brought north on an oyster schooner) versus flesh and blood is definitely an apples and oranges sort of deal.  But, it is telling that some living redwood trees are 2,000 years old and more.  That’s definitely ‘flesh’ of a different sort and the statistics bode well for our house – to a point.

I’ve been reflecting on all of this because it’s looking like a new coat of paint is in order.  I’m not sure when we painted last (and by “we” I do not mean us, personally.)  It’s been at least ten years, maybe closer to twice that.  We had one side painted a year in the interest of our budget and I’m sure that will be the way of it this time, too.  It’s a big project.

Tom Crellin/H.A. Espy House, 1964

Plus, there’s always the scary possibility that the painter will run across a rotten board or some other dire contingency.  In her dotage, my mother worried that the little marble fireplace in the erstwhile parlor was sinking into oblivion.  More than once she had the Mack brothers or Bob Bredfield crawl under the house to reassure her.  And… speaking of fireplaces, what about that fern growing out of our east chimney?

As I say – PatchPatchPatchPatchPatch!

So far… better than good!

April 9th, 2017

Marta’s Package

Even though I’d had a bit of warning, the package that arrived in the mail yesterday took me by surprise.  A belated birthday present from step-daughter Marta!  The ‘warning’ part had been a phone call from her while she was shopping at some sort of ‘everything’ store near her home in Marin County.  She asked me about the kinds of hats I like and favorite colors in socks and preferences in snacks.

Marta’s Wrapping Paper

“Not berets or ball caps,” I said.  “They point right to my sticky-outie ears.”  And we laughed.  “Yes, striped socks are great,” I said.  “And blue denim color, not navy, is best.”  We laughed some more.  “Snacks?  Salty, not sweet,” we said in unison.  More laughter.  She told me upfront she was on a quest for my belated birthday but, apparently, what stuck in my mind was the fun of talking to her while she shopped.  So, when the package arrived I was clueless – until I saw the return address.

In typical Marta fashion, the wrapping paper was hand-decorated, the card designed and fashioned by Marta and there were signs and messages throughout.  I smiled – even laughed out loud – as I opened each item. Two pair of socks, a jar of my favorite freeze-dried decaf coffee, and a package of Tex-Mex nibblies.  I could hear the echo of Marta’s giggle with each rustle of tissue paper.

“I hope these fill the bill… a little munchie, a little drinkie, a little fashion wear!” the card said.

Marta’s Card

I thought back to my birthday on February 28th.  Nyel was in the hospital for five days and I was right there with him.  When he worried about how I was spending my 81st, I told him I’d make up for it by finding a way to celebrate all year long.  So far, so good.  When we got home in March, my friend Maggie gave me a special birthday luncheon and the guests even brought presents!  And then a bit later in the month, our friends Petra and Michael took us to a belated birthday lunch in Astoria!  I felt blessed.

And now it’s April and… make that so far, so much better than good!

Required Reading

April 8th, 2017

Conversations with Pioneer Women by Fred Lockley

If I ruled the world, or preferably just the education part of it, I would set out a social studies curriculum that included the reading of two books by Fred Lockley:  Conversations with Pioneer Women and Conversations with Pioneer Men.  In my world, reading both of those books and in-depth classroom discussions of them would be a pre-requisite for graduation from eighth grade.  And it goes without saying that my requirement would also extend to the teachers of those students.

They say I am hard and bitter said Matilda Jane Sager Delaney.  If some of the people who have life made easy for the had been through what I have, maybe they would feel bitter and vindictive, too.  Nowadays, the child is everything.  When I was young, children had no rights.  They were to be seen, not heard, and to be seen as little as possible.  She goes on to tell about being one of the orphaned survivors of the Whitman Massacre and how she was passed from home to home until, at 15 she married a 31-year-old miner from California.

Conversations with Pioneer Men by Fred Lockley

Matilda’s story is the first of some ninety interviews in Conversations with Pioneer Women, conducted in the 1920s and 1930s with women (then in their 80s and 90s) who had come to the Oregon Territory in the mid-1800s. Most had come over the Oregon Trail.  Lockley (March 19, 1871 – October 15, 1958) was an American journalist best known for his editorial column for the Oregon Journal Oregon Journal, “Impressions and Observations of a Journal Man”, which appeared throughout the Western United States on a nearly daily basis. He was also the author of many books that were largely about his travels and interviews with early settlers in the Willamette Valley. It was said that he interviewed “bullwhackers, muleskinners, pioneers, prospectors, 49ers, Indian fighters, trappers, ex-barkeepers, authors, preachers, poets and near-poets.  His interviews are contained in fifty-seven unpublished notebooks called “The Lockley Files” and the current volumes in print contain interviews culled from them.  If I can’t rule the world of education, maybe I could be reincarnated back in time as Lockley’s assistant.

Jane Gilbert (Tubbs) Apperson

One of my own forebears is mentioned in this second edition (1993) of Conversations with Pioneer Women.  Elvina Apperson Fellows said:  I was one of ten children… My father Beverly Apperson was born in Tennessee.  My mother, Jane Gilbert Tubbs, was born in Virginia… Father died on the way across the plains… We had two wagons, so Mother had the men take the wagon bed of one of then to make a coffin…They dug a grave in the idle of the trail and buried Father and when the grave was filled they corralled the oxen over the grave so the Indians would not find it and dig up the body to get the clothes…We came by way of The Dalles and over the Cascades by the newly opened Barlow road… The oldest child William Poindexter, had died before we started, so when we reach Portland our family consisted of my mother and nine children.  Mother was in her early thirties…In 1851 Mother was pretty hard run to earn enough money for us to live on, so when a man named Julius Thomas, a cook in restaurant, offered to marry me, Mother though I had better take him, so I did.  He was 44 and I was 14…

Beverly and Jane Gilbert Tubbs Apperson were my three times great-grandparents.  My great-great grandmother was Matilda Jane Apperson, Elvina Apperson’s sister.

Our North Beach Peninsula

April 7th, 2017

“The North Beah Peninsula” by Paul Staub

I’m not always happy about an editor’s changes to my pearls of thought.  In fact, I’ve been known to get quite snarky about word substitutions or adjustments to phrasing.  However, the addition of a dozen words to an otherwise dull caption in this week’s paper pleased me inordinately.  Definitely one of those why-didn’t-I-think-of-it things.

The caption accompanied the photograph that accompanied (got that?) my column.  I didn’t much like it when I wrote it:  Looking north from First Avenue and lake Street in Ilwaco, July 4, 1910.  The carriage, train tracks and automobile are good indicators that it was a period of transition on the North Beach Peninsula.  But a good ‘fix’ didn’t readily come to me, so that’s how I left it.  The edited version changed that final period to a comma and added: as the Long Beach Peninsula is still formally known to some mapmakers.

Promotional Map, c. 1942

             Perfect!  In fact, I love explaining to people that the official name of our Peninsula, according to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (which shares its responsibilities with the Department of the Interior) is still the North Beach Peninsula.  Despite several attempts over the years to change the name – a change advocated largely by tourism promotors – the Board has always concluded that there is no overriding reason to exchange ‘Long’ for ‘North.’

I took a look online to see what maps are available that still correctly identify the North Beach Peninsula and was gratified to find that there are quite a few.  The very first one that popped up is the best one, in my opinion!  It was done by my cartographer neighbor, Paul Staub.  I commissioned it for my book Legendary Locals of the Long Beach Peninsula and I think it’s perfect!

Promotional Postcard “With Views”

My favorite story regarding our Peninsula’s name has to do with artist Joe Knowles.  During the years he lived here on the beach, his paintings and etchings had become quite collectible but, even so, he never got paid for his twelve-by-three-foot oil “North Beach Peninsula,” though it was displayed prominently in the Washington State Exhibit at the Chicago’s 1933 Century of Progress Exposition.  The city fathers of Long Beach who had commissioned it refused to pony up, claiming it was incorrectly named.

So… thanks for those dozen words, Editor Winters!  They made all the difference (and gave me a blog to boot!)