Were you listening, Mom?

July 7th, 2018

Randal Bays

It’s usually (no, make that always) Tucker who brings something for “Show and Tell” on Friday nights.  Yesterday was no exception and I will be telling about it with enthusiasm – but maybe not until tomorrow.  Last night, in addition to Tucker’s contribution to the evening, Randal treated us to a different spin on the usual sharing.  It was, appropriately, “Hear and Tell.”

Mom Waltzing With Roger at her 95th Birthday Celebration

The Bays Family – Randal, Susan, Willie, and Owen – arrived yesterday afternoon, well ahead of tomorrow’s Vesper gig and in plenty of time to enjoy the beach and all the quirks of Oysterville that they have come to know after an accumulated 88 years of visiting here!  They especially wanted to be here last night to renew old acquaintances and meet whoever else might show up.

General Nyel and The Cannon


About halfway through the evening, Randal disappeared for a few minutes and came back with his fiddle and an old notebook.  He said that he had awakened about 4:30 that morning and, as he sometimes does, was thumbing through some old tunes he had written.  He came across one called “Mrs. Little’s Waltz,” written for my mother back in the ’80s or ’90s.  “I played it for her then,” Randal said, “but I don’t think she much liked it.  She didn’t say anything about it … just got up and poured herself another drink, I think.” The tune was charming – sprightly like Mom, herself.  I can’t imagine that she didn’t like it and I hope she was listening from on high last night!

“Lady Sydney” and Nyel, Oysterville Sesquicentennial

But… as if that wasn’t enough, Randal went on to play two new tunes – “Nyel, the Cannoneer” (a jig) and “The Lady Sydney” (a reel).  Both Nyel and I were blown away.  But, I don’t know if we conveyed our appreciation and admiration vociferously enough.  I hope so.  And, I hope he doesn’t tell another audience, later, that we didn’t like them. One thing in our favor… neither of us got up to pour ourselves a drink!

I’m hoping he might play those three tunes at Vespers tomorrow – just for fun!  I think I’ll suggest it…

Here comes the Bays Family!

July 6th, 2018

January 2018 Calencar Collage

We’ve considered the Bays Boys our honorary grandkids since before they were born.  They’ve come to Oysterville and stayed with us every summer —  and sometimes during other seasons —  since before they were born.  Last Christmas, I think the sobriquet (I’m not sure that word applies, but you know what I mean) became official when they sent us a calendar full of family photos.  It is on our refrigerator and we have the pleasure of ‘seeing’ them every day.

July 2018 Calendar Collage

We began the year with the photographs devoted to the family – every one of them, except Owen, wearing a hat.  This month is all about Owen at the beach.  In September we’ll spend the month with Willie.  Other months it might be their backyard chickens or the family in Ireland or on an outing nearer home in Olympia. The calendar has been a wonderful connection (albeit one-way and a year late) with them all.  But it won’t prepare us for seeing them in person… especially the boys.  Randal says they’ve been working out all year and they are both “buff.”

September 2018 Calendar Collage

We do keep up spasmodically by telephone.  Usually, it’s Randall who calls to find out how we are and what we are up to.  Then, we get his take on the various activities of his two teenaged sons and, sometimes, a taste of the angst that accompanies family life in the fast lane these days. He keeps us apprised of the uncertainties of Susan’s work as a researcher/biologist (She’s Dr. Susan Waters) for the State.  And we get caught up on Randall’s musical travels and teaching.  (BTW, his anual Irish Music Camp – Cascadia Irish Music Week – begins August 5th at Evergreen College.)

We haven’t had an in-person visit for… has it been a year?!?  We can’t wait!  They’ll be here sometime this afternoon.  And, of course, they’ll be playing at Vespers on Sunday!  I hope they have a full house!

Signs & Symbols on the Glorious Fourth!

July 5th, 2018

As it turned out, we couldn’t make it to the Fourth of July Parade in Ocean Park yesterday, but thanks to Tucker’s good eye and amazing photography skills, we can clap and cheer after the fact and for a long time to come.  Especially for Grand Marshall Dan Driscoll and his outstanding Oysterville entourage – Lady Linda Engelsiepen and Dan’s parents Les and Ann Holway Driscoll!

They all looked fabulous and their ‘chariot’ was decorated to perfection!  I especially loved the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag affixed to the back of their convertible.  Good choice, Dan!  There couldn’t have been a better one for oh so many reasons!

Known as the “Gadsden flag,” it is a historical American flag named after American general and politician Christopher Gadsden (1724-1805) who designed it in 1775 during the American Revolution.  The timber rattlesnake depicted on the flag can be found in the area of the original 13 colonies and its use as a symbol to depict the colonies can be traced back to Benjamin Franklin who wrote this about it in December 1775:

. I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids—She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance.—She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.—As if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarreling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenseless animal; and even when those weapons are shown and extended for her defense, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal:—Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of stepping on her.—Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America?

The words, “Don’t Tread On Me” speak for themselves and, to those of us who have watched the lengthy battle the County has waged against Dan – seven years!! – there is no way the symbolism can be misinterpreted.  The American Revolutionary War also lasted seven years.

And, a resounding Hip! Hip! Hooray to the Ocean Park Chamber for selecting Dan as Grand Marshall.  The best choice ever!

Many Happy Returns!

July 4th, 2018

When my grandfather celebrated his final birthday in 1958, he proudly declared that he and the United States had been born the very same year.  Well, he was a bit confused but, after all, what’s a century or two in the grand scheme of things?  1876 or 1776?  Either way it was a long time!  We wished him many happy returns, though we all knew it was unlikely.

I’m not sure why that scenario popped into my head this morning when I thought about this 242nd birthday of our nation.  I guess it’s the “Many Happy Returns” part.  We seem to say those words automatically, whether or not the likelihood of their coming true makes sense.  On this July Fourth, of all the 82 I’ve been privileged to celebrate, I think “Many Happy Returns” should be our mantra.  Our mantra and our prayer.

Like my beloved Papa, our nation is a little confused.  I hope we can put our collective wisdom and goodwill together and find a way to clarify our path – with justice and liberty for all!

Let’s hear it for Grand Marshall Dan!

July 3rd, 2018

Dan Driscoll

The Ocean Park Fourth of July Parade is the funkiest, funnest, flakiest parade ever!  Over the years we’ve clapped and cheered for Bubbles-the-Pig, the Pepsi Truck, candidates for county and state offices, various and sundry marching bands, horses, Okies Shopping Cart Drill Team, Senator Sid Snyder, classic cars and, in 1990-something-or-other, my own parents as Grand Marshalls.  This year will be a bit different.

For starters Bubbles has been re-homed off the Peninsula but I don’t think she’s been clamoring to come, anyway. Okay. Understandable. It’s a long walk for short legs.  But the biggest difference this year will be NO “candidates or political party entries.”  That’s right.  None. The Ocean Park Area Chamber of Commerce who sponsors the parade has so declared.  Wow!  A Fourth of July Parade with limitations on politics.  A curious spin on our Independence Day Celebration – a national institution known since its inception as a time for orations and declarations and displays of political aspirations – no matter the party or affiliation.

Ocean Park Parade 2016 – Fred and Bubbles

I’m sure there are reasons for banning political candidates and incumbents – reasons that someone thought were important.  But, most of us have no idea the why or the what or the who of it.  From what I understand, some politico was way out of line at a previous event, or so some thought, and the Ocean Park Chamber, after much quiet deliberation, decided to separate the parade from the political scene, somehow.  If the letter to the editor in last week’s paper is to be believed (and I’m inclined to do so) the decision was made without input from the community at large.  Bad form!

In an interesting twist, however, the Chamber has chosen Dan Driscoll of Oysterville Sea Farms as Grand Marshall.  I couldn’t be more delighted!  I’m sure that there won’t be a local at the parade who doesn’t know of Dan’s continuing troubles with Pacific County officials.  For seven years he has been the focus of unrelenting assault by our County, despite several court cases which have exonerated him from wrong-doing.

Okie’s Ahopping Cart Drill Team

So maybe the Chamber has changed the parameters of the parade away from the political candidates and toward citizens who appear to be at the mercy of our current elected officials.  An interesting twist.  But it would also be informative if the prospective candidates for office were marching in the parade. Since they are not being given that opportunity, I urge readers to go the AAUW Candidates’ Forum at Ilwaco High School on July 10th from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Or… you could go the Ocean Park Fire Hall at 8:00 a.m. on the morning of July 12th – the regular meeting time of the O.P. Chamber – when they will give candidates an opportunity to speak.   (Wouldn’t it have been easier on everyone to let the candidates march in the parade?)

The important thing about Vespers is…

July 2nd, 2018

By Margaret Wise Brown

I used to read The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown to my first/second/third graders and then we would create our own “important’ book.  It was a language arts activity we all loved and it was loaded with learning opportunities.  In case you don’t know that book, here is an example of one of its pages:  The important thing about grass is that it is green.  It grows, and is tender with a sweet grassy smell.  But the important thing about grass is that it is green.

Of course, what each of us thinks is important about a particular thing varies and therein lies the possibilities for all sorts of discussion.  For instance, Nyel might say “The important thing about grass is it needs to be mowed.  It can be a lawn and it can be soft to walk on.  But the important thing about grass is it needs to be mowed.”  Well… you get the idea.

Yesterday at Vespers as I listened to retired Episcopal priest Irene Martin talk about Canada Day, it suddenly struck me that one of the ‘important’ things about Vespers is that the officiant’s message is often ‘the best of the best.’  Usually, it’s a one-time opportunity for the minister – one voluntary twenty-minute service out of the summer – a chance to make an important point with no danger of the repetitiveness that must threaten to creep in to those Sunday-after-Sunday sermons given to their own congregations.  (Note to self:  ask one of the visiting pastors if that seems true from their point of view.)

Church and Steeple

The Rev. Irene talked about Canada Day.  I’d wager that most of us listeners were probably unaware that Canada celebrates its birthday just three days prior to our own Independence Day.  But then, Irene Martin was born in Canada…  She talked specifically about the border our two countries share – 3,987 miles of it!  It’s the longest undefended border in the world and she pointed out what a marvelous and important achievement keeping it that way has been for both countries.

It wasn’t a political message.  She pointed that out at the get-go.  But, I’m sure there wasn’t a listener among us who didn’t think about the possibility of political pressures that could be brought to bear on that long expanse if we do not stay ever-vigilant.  It was a topic we may not have had the opportunity to consider, had Irene Martin’s Vesper date been different, or had she not be born in Canada, or had borders not been a world-wide topic lately.

‘The important thing about Oysterville Vespers is each Sunday’s unique message.’ That would be the first page in my book.  What about you?

… and the livin’ ain’t so easy.

July 1st, 2018

Oysterville Summer 2017

I don’t know what happened to those “hazy, lazy days of summer.””  Or did they ever exist?  Here in Oysterville summer is busier and more bustling than any other time of the year.  There are events at the schoolhouse and at the church.  Tourists walk the streets and lanes clutching Walking Tour Brochures and leaning over the picket fences to ask questions of us likely looking ‘natives.’ Summer is when our relatives and friends come for long visits – sometimes in overlapping droves.  Every now and then we can hardly get the sheets changed before the next group arrives.

Let the record be clear:  I love it all!  My only complaint is that I have trouble getting anything done.  By ‘anything,’ of course, I mean any writing or the things attendant to writing – like interviewing or researching or simply collecting my wits.  But, truly, I wouldn’t change the summertime ambience of the village for any other time or place.

Take yesterday, for instance.  I was just settling in to work on a little writing project for the Water Music Festival when I received a phone from an August bride.  She had a few questions about the church.  When can we get in to decorate?  (The afternoon beforehand assuming there’s nothing else going on…)  Where can people park?  (On both sides of the road…)  Do the windows open?  (Not this summer; they’re being worked on…)

Summer 2009

Suddenly she asked, “Are you home?  I’m in front of your house and I think I’m looking at your husband trimming the bushes.”   Busted!  So… out I went and met the prospective bride and groom.  I showed them where the “Ceremony in Progress” sign is kept and how to substitute it for the “Church Open” sign when the time comes.  I showed them how to angle the chairs in the Sunday School Room so that their audience will be looking at them and not directly ahead at the other guests.  I explained about leaving the lanes clear of cars in case they need to be used by oyster or clam workers.

As we said our goodbyes, along came Tucker with his familiar greeting,  “Hey, what’s happenin’?”  He had his son Charley’s dog on a leash, walking her, he said, to keep her separate from son Clark’s dog who is also visiting in Oysterville.  It was complicated — as children and grandchildren and  pets often are.  As we talked…

Oysterville Summer 2006

Here came Kay Buesing with her daughter and son-in-law.  They had been over at the Artisans’ Fair at the Schoolhouse and were returning to their car.  Nyel climbed out from behind the rhododendrons for one of those “Oysterville Meetings” – a long chat in the middle of the street.  We had all had lunch together a few weeks ago, but still there was catching up to do.  As they headed for their car we noted that it was lunchtime and headed indoors.  Another morning gone.

The afternoon drizzle kept us indoors – a (welcome?) disruption for Nyel’s project and, for me, a few hours of quiet time in my office.  And another hazy lazy day of summer was all but gone.  Oh!  I think the lyrics are actually “hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer.”  Now that makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

Times Change… or do they?

June 30th, 2018

DIARY            WEDNESDAY,  JUNE 30, 1915            DIARY

Rose City Steamship

 3125 Claremont Ave. Berkeley, Calif.

Do you realize Diary that I am in California, the land of our dreams?  Those two weeks at home intervening between the eleventh and the twenty-sixth were very busy days.  We packed, cleaned house, and did general overhauling…We left Saturday morning on the early train…arrived in Astoria about eleven; then followed a weary wait till three when the Rose City left.  We had two large staterooms opening on deck.  Only Sue was sick crossing the bar.  Sunday morning was delightful, so calm and sunny.  Just before lunch I got acquainted with…Clarence Hickock from Portland. We sat up on deck all afternoon and talked…

1912 – The Espy Children (Dale, Willard, Edwin, Mona, Suzita, Medora)

Monday morning we arrived.  Grandpa, Eva, Ruth, Beulah, Uncle Sid and Uncle Bert met us.  Clarence asked to call.  Ha ha!  San Francisco is the thriving bustling metropolis of old; the bay, the fog and wind are all the same.  But as we rode through Oakland I could see the difference.  Out here in Berkeley are many beautiful homes. Aunt Maud’s is very attractive, every little detail is so perfect, and the whole house is very artistic.

That 1915 summer vacation in California, long planned by the Espy family, was a coming-of-age trip for young Medora, my mother’s oldest sister.  It was also to be her final visit to  California.  Little did she (or anyone) know that she would live only six months more, dying in her sleep of a cerebral hemorrhage on January 18, 1916, just two weeks after her seventeenth birthday.  On June 30th 1915, though, and for the next two months, she and her five brothers and sisters would have the most memorable time of their young lives.

Pan American Esposition, San Francisco 1915 (“The Fair”)

According to Medora’s diary, the most notable aspects of the trip for her were… boys!    Although, the family was ostensibly there to visit relatives and Mama’s girlhood friends and to take in “The Fair,” Medora had her first experience of being sought-after by the opposite sex.  And she developed her first serious crush! (July 21, 1915 – I simply couldn’t be so silly about a man eleven years older than myself but the members of the opposite sex when attractive surely do stir up strange feelings in me.)

Although Medora had been born in the Bay Area, the family had moved to Oysterville when she was three and she had been back only once five years later, in 1908.  I find it interesting that despite all and, even with her limited experience, she noticed the changes that had taken place since her last visit – as did I only a few days ago.  I wonder what she would make of dear old San Francisco now…

Considering Revisionist History Some More

June 29th, 2018

I am still stewing about the name change of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award by the American Library Association.  (See yesterday’s blog:  http://sydneyofoysterville.com/2018/the-hardest-changes-of-all/).  Somehow, I expect more of the ALA.  In my mind, they are the gatekeepers of our written heritage and should not fall into the pit of revisionist history.

In the introduction to their policy manual, they state:  ALA recognizes its broad social responsibilities. The broad social responsibilities of the American Library Association are defined in terms of the contribution that librarianship can make in ameliorating or solving the critical problems of society; support for efforts to help inform and educate the people of the United States on these problems and to encourage them to examine the many views on and the facts regarding each problem; and the willingness of ALA to take a position on current critical issues with the relationship to libraries and library service set forth in the position statement.

Obviously, their definition of “broad social responsibilities” differ from mine.  I wrote to Cheryl Heywood, Director of our Timberland Library system, and asked how “our” librarians voted on the renaming of the Laura Ingalls Wilder award.  I hope she responds and tells me a little more about the decision than I could learn from the media reports.

The first inkling I ever had concerning revisionist history was in my History of Western Civilization class in my Freshman year at Stanford.  I remember being appalled to learn that many of the Roman Caesars ordered the destruction all statues and other evidence of the Caesars before them.  Wipe out the evidence and change our history was the theory.  We still subscribe to that theory, of course.  It’s part of Winston Churchill’s infamous statement, “History is written by the victors.”

When I think about how we play fast and loose with the facts, I sometimes get into what I call the Zone of Reveries.  This very morning, I fantasized that sometime in the future Americans would live in an era of No War.  And then… would we wipe out all evidence that there had ever been war?  Would we take down the Viet Nam Wall and bulldoze Arlington Cemetery?  Would those we recognize as heroes today lose their status?  And what would the American Library Association’s position be on books about war?

But… I digress.

The Hardest Changes of All

June 28th, 2018

On our return to old stomping grounds (mine) in California last week, I found the physical changes to the landscape disorienting and somewhat distressing.  I was pretty sure, though, that given enough time I could get used to the new freeways and buildings, the new housing developments and shopping malls and the huge influx of people that are responsible for all of the above.  Growth and change, as difficult as they are to accept as we age are, after all, inevitable.

But while we were gone, I learned of another change that I don’t find quite so easy about accepting.  Two days ago, the New York Times Book Section ran an article that began:  The American Library Association is dropping Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a prestigious children’s literature award in order to distance the honor from what it described as culturally insensitive portrayals in her books… The decision was made out of a desire to reconcile the award with the organization’s values of “inclusiveness, integrity and respect,” representatives of the association said in a statement on Monday. The award is given out by its children’s division.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

OMG!!  The award recognizes authors and illustrators whose books have created a lasting contribution to children’s literature.  It has been distributed to just 23 people over more than six decades. Wilder, herself, received the first award in 1954, three years before her death in 1957.  It was initially distributed every five years, but its frequency has steadily increased. Since 2016, it has been given annually.

The Library Association’s decision to rename the award is based on their belief that the “Little House Stories” set in the complicated context of westward expansion, are anti-Native and anti-black.  Not so argues book reviewer Dedra McDonald Birzer: “Wilder’s works lead readers of all ages to ponder important truths about American history.”

Birzer’s article, “Librarians without Chests: A Response to the ALSC’s Denigration 0f Laura Ingalls Wilder” can be found at https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/06/laura-ingalls-wilder-alsc-award-removal/ and is worth reading.  She concludes her article with this paragraph:

The rejection of the author and the rejection of her semi-autobiographical novels produce the same result: In favor of safe spaces and trigger-free zones, this country’s professional librarians seek to destroy the literary heroine that millions of American girls (and boys) identified with and aspired to emulate. In doing so, they seek to destroy us all and re-make us in their own image, based on their core values of inclusivity and responsiveness, rounded out by respect (properly placed, of course) and their version of integrity. Join me in being naughty on the inside (one of my favorite aspects of young Laura’s character) by refusing to accept the Association of Library Services to Children’s version of Laura Ingalls Wilder. We know better.