Cleaving Together — it’s what we do.

January 17th, 2020

“Another Rose Painting” by Jean Stamper – Posted on FB January 5, 2020

My neighbor Charlotte came calling yesterday — the first time since she lost her husband a few days before Christmas.  She came to thank me; I’m not even sure for what.  It was grand to see her, though, and to have a visit.

It’s not that she and I have ever been “best friends” or that we’ve even done much visiting back and forth.  But our families have known one another for at least four generations and we’ve worked on various Oysterville projects together in the years since she and Jake retired here full time.

During the course of our conversation I learned that another long-time Oysterville neighbor had died.  Wayne Stamper, who had a summer place here with his wife Jean.  Jean had written a few weeks ago that Wayne was in hospice care.  When I asked Charlotte if she knew, I found that she was way ahead of me.  Again, Wayne and Jean weren’t our closest friends… but Jean had been coming to Oysterville all her life — since her mother bought property next to the Red House in the ’30s.  Four generations ago… or more.

Oysterville Women’s Club, 1932

There is something about a small generational village that makes the rites of passage among us more indelible.  Each holds significance beyond the present. I can’t help but think of my mother and of her friends Helen Heckes and Virginia Holway.  They had been neighbors for half a century and more; their shared memories sustained them and drew them closer as the years passed.  Even more so as each lost her husband.

It must be thus is every small village and hamlet where people have lived in proximity through generations.  Another plus for country living as I see it.


Once again… a second-class citizen!

January 16th, 2020

Martin Scorsese

Yesterday as I drove home from some errands in Ilwaco, I listened to Terry Gross interview Martin Scorsese about his recently released film, “The Irishman.”  I was intrigued — not so much by the subject matter of the film, but by Scorsese, himself.  He is a little younger (six years) than I, but he grew up under circumstances that couldn’t have been more opposite than mine.  His films, according to the interview, deeply reflect that background.

Says Wikipedia:  Scorsese’s body of work explores themes such as Italian American identity, Catholic concepts of guilt and redemption, faith, machismo, crime and tribalism. Many of his films are known for their depiction of  violence, and the liberal use of profanity and rock music.  

“The Irishman,” just nominated for twenty Oscars, comes directly from influences of Scorsese’s formative years, right down to the rich visual images of stained glass and golden crucifixes. Growing up in New York City’s Little Italy, Scorsese spent a great deal of time surrounded by the saints and martyrs depicted at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral.  “Those images certainly stayed with me,” he said yesterday.  As did the sermons, which often focused on “death approaching like a thief in the night. You never know when. You never know how.”

I have never seen a single one of Scorcese’s films.  (Not very unusual, actually.  We can probably count the first-run movies we’ve seen during the last 30 years on one hand.)  But when Ms. Gross said that “The Irishman” is still showing in “select theaters” and is available “on Netflix,” I came home to order it.

Downtown Oysterville – Photo by Bob Duke

She must have meant “streaming” on Netflix.  We can’t stream.  Our internet capability isn’t strong enough; or our broad band isn’t broad enough; or whatever.  If we lived in Long Beach… we were told.  But not here in Oysterville, alias rural America.  I’ll no doubt go to my grave without seeing any first-run movies while they are still first-run.  Oh well.  So did a lot of my forebears and I’m pretty sure they weren’t any the worse for it.  Still…


Everything Except What I Was Looking For

January 15th, 2020

You’d think — if you were to think about it at all — that the elusive part of writing a ghost story would be pinning down the facts about the ghost, itself.   But, I’m here to tell you that when the ghost in question is roaming around in a historic building or causing consternation at a notable landmark, there are other specifics that sometimes need pinning down.

Like the nuts and bolts (or wires and poles?) of electricity.  Specifically, I’m looking for the details of electricity arriving in Ocean Park. Long ago, I read that Adelaide Taylor of the Taylor Hotel held a community fundraiser to bring street lights to Ocean Park — probably in 1936-ish — but, look though I might,  I can’t find the reference right now.

In a somewhat related way, I also know through family correspondence that electricity came to Oysterville, thanks to FDR’s rural electrification project, in 1936.  And, I know from an article in Pacific County Historical Society’s Sou’wester magazine, that our P.U.D. District # 2 was formed in 1937.  And, in that same article there is reference to the Willapa Electric Company which had served Raymond, South Bend and Willapa Valley communities since 1913!  Wow! 1913!  Twenty-three years before Oysterville got their first electric lightbulb!

Andrews’ Store, Oysterville c. 1920 — note telephone/electrical lines

Although… my mother remembered that her father had a generator of some sort in 1926 and when the family moved to Redlands for my grandfather’s health, that generator was given to Bert Andrews.  Helen Heckes told it this way in Marie Oesting’s Oysterville Cemetery Sketches:  “As I remember the story, I think Harry Espy put up the money for it, and Bert ran this little Delco electrical system.  We made an arrangement with him to get electricity and one drop light in the kitchen until 10 o’clock.  Then he shut everything off at 10.”  That’s when Bert and Minnie went to bed.  Lights out!

But when did the average household in Ocean Park have access to electricity?  Where did it come from?  Those are the questions I’m wrestling with as I work on a sequel to Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula.  There’s lots of great information out there, but pinning down just what I need is as difficult as getting a handle on those wily ghosts.  Shocking to think about, eh?

“If you don’t like the weather…

January 14th, 2020

…just wait a minute.”  Those have been watchwords about our Peninsula weather for as long as I can remember.  Between that rather flippant saying and my childhood memories of Old Jimmy Anderson’s daily (rain or shine) prediction, “Looks like more rain coming,” I don’t put much faith in the weather forecasts.  The safest way of considering our weather from my point of view is “what you see is what you get.”

Back in the day, when I was first teaching here, school closures because of snow and ice were called on the days when the school bus couldn’t get up Sahalee Hill.  The Director of Transportation — for years it was Bob Slagle — would do a test run about five in the morning and would make the call.  Sometimes it would be a delayed opening to give things a chance to warm up and melt.  Sometimes it was an all-day closure — a go-out-and-make-a-snowman-day for kids and a day for working parents to do the day-care-scramble.  Before computers and cell phones, we were all notified by land-line-telephone and, if we were part of the “telephone tree” we spent a busy few minutes calling to notify colleagues or parents who would then make their own calls.


I don’t know how it all works these days.  My impression is that school closures are made more frequently and not necessarily by a reality check but, more likely, by paying heed to the online weather forecasts.  Granted, the weathermen are more up-to-the-minute and more accurate these days, but I still get the feeling that we all carry the “better safe than sorry” mantra a little too far.

Or… am I falling into that old person’s refrain: “I used to walk five miles through deep snow to get to school…”  Probably so.  And, as far as I know, there haven’t been any rumblings about school closures this week.  Not yet.  On the other hand, the opening session of Community Historians 2020 has been postponed from tomorrow (January 15th) to the following Wednesday when it will be combined with Session Two.   I have to confess, I’m delighted.  It’s been a long time since I’ve made a snowman…  We can only hope.


I shoulda paid more attention…

January 13th, 2020

H.A. Espy Windmill c. 1920

In my school days, I was much more interested in words than in numbers.  English and Creative Writing, yes.  Math and Science, not so much.  Maybe that’s why, in my teaching years, I was most comfortable with the primary grades.  Whole numbers and addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, I could handle.  Basic science, especially biology and the natural world, yes.  Physics… no way.  I could scarcely teach the principals of those seven simple machines.  You remember…  inclined plane, lever, wedge, wheel and axle, pulley, and screw.

So it is, that all these years later, I still don’t understand how the windmill in our front yard during my mother’s childhood pumped the water from the well up to the rain barrels on the roof.  I do understand how the water in those rain barrels supplied my grandmother with cold running water at the kitchen faucet — water she could use to fill the tank in her wood cook stove to heat for washing dishes, clothes, and family members.  Gravity feed I get.

H.A. Espy House, circa 1930 — note windmill and rain barrels

I imagine that the same up-to-the-rain-barrels and down-to-the-bathroom principles might have been applied so that the family could have had a flush toilet.  But they didn’t.  Not until FDR’s rural electrification project got as far as Oysterville in 1936.  That year the family installed an electric pump on the east porch and their first-ever flush toilet.  But, for many years, they kept the outhouse “just in case.”

I’m thinking about all of this because of my current book research,  I’m trying to understand why a house built in 1913 in Ocean Park included a “modern” half bath on the second floor.    Did Ocean Park get electricity earlier than Oysterville? Was there a windmill on the property?  Was there another way to manage the water flow?

I really should have paid better attention to those basic science lessons.  As it is, I think I’ll give our plumber friend Don Anderson a call.  Maybe he can explain some of those fundamental physics mysteries to me.

“It’s a regular lake out there!”

January 12th, 2020

The lake in our east meadow made its appearance somewhat later than usual this year, undoubtedly because the rains of November didn’t arrive until December.  Years ago, Nyel named it “Lake Little” in honor of my father.  Most people probably think we call it that for its size, but I maintain that, in that case, he’d have named it “Little Lake.”  Which he didn’t.

Black Brant

My father, William “Bill” Little  always enjoyed that seasonal body of water.  He liked watching the ducks paddling around out there on fine winter days, bobbing and diving after who-knows-what tasty morsels below the surface.  Too, he enjoyed seeing the Brant come in to rest and reconnoiter.  I can still hear him say, winter after winter, as if it were the first time, “Why!  It’s a regular lake out there!”

Chickens at Water’s Edge

I recently read that the oldest recorded Brant was a female, and was over 27 years, 6 months old. It had been banded in Alaska and was found in Washington.  Can’t help but wonder if she was among the yearly visitors to Lake Little.

This year, the lake seems larger than usual, even though it didn’t appear until Christmastime.  I wonder if its size has more to do with the condition of the meadow, itself, rather than with the amount of rainfall.  Does it have to do with how evenly the meadow was mowed back in September?  Or, perhaps, with the storm-driven high tides of late December?  Kathleen Sayce could probably tell me.

Eagles On Merchant Street

I don’t think the waterfowl care one way or another.  Nor do they seem to pay any attention to our chickens who sometimes stand at water’s edge to watch them float and dive.  Even when the eagles are in their nearby perch high atop the nearby Monterey Cypress on Merchant Street, the denizens of Lake Little pay no heed.  I imagine they are secure in the thought that there is plenty for all.  After all, they are right here in Oysterville, God’s country!


This Early Winter Morning…

January 11th, 2020

The Lights Weren’t Working

Nyel’s cellphone alarm went off at 5:30 as usual and I heard him turn on his bedside light.  “I think my bulb burned out,” he said.

I tried the light on my side.  “I think the power is out,” I said.

So we debated whether to stay warm and snug where we were or start our day as usual.  It was really my call,  our “usual” being me who goes to the kitchen to make coffee.  Which I did, returning with two cups which we drank, propped up in bed as is our habit.

At The Ready

We discussed options.  Our friend Cate is coming over at ten and the plan was to offer her “real” coffee (grind the beans, etc.} “I was going to make cookies,” Nyel said.  “Oatmeal raisin.”

“Well… no cookies,” I said, “but we can still have the real coffee I promised.  I think there are some (fairly) fresh ground beans in the freezer.”  Unstated was “thank goodness for a duel fuel stove.”  And we discussed the possibility of “baking” cookies in the Dutch oven on the stovetop. Or in the fireplace.

My part of the preparation for Cate’s visit was to have the fire going in library. No change of plans needed there except that we don’t have very much dry wood.  “We’ll just have to bundle up until she comes and then huddle around the fire when she gets here,” we agreed.

And about then, the power was back on.  Yay!  And a big thanks to whoever might have been out in the cold and dark and wind seeing to it that Nyel can bake those cookies!

Not a surprise… But even so…

January 10th, 2020

This morning’s email brought a “Google Maps Timeline.”  Sydney, it said, here is your 2019 Timeline update.  You’re receiving this email bccause you turned on Location History, a Google Account-level setting that saves where you go in your private Timeline.  Location history data also gives you personalized information on Google, including better restaurant recommendations and suggestions for a faster commute.  You can review, edit, and delete this data anytime in Timeline.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” thought I as I read.  “My private Timeline?  Depends what you mean by ‘private.’  That only I can see it on my computer — probably.  That I can ‘review, edit, and delete this data’ — yeah from my computer screen.  But it’s out there, you betcha.  I’ve known that for a very long time.  And having just read Edward Snowden’s book, Permanent Record, I’m even more aware of the fact that “privacy” is not a concept compatible with the internet, cyberspace, or any of the other things I don’t understand with regard to the magic of mathematics and electronics.

Edward Snowden

What I do think I understand is that some (not all) of the big guys like Google are now attempting to give us the illusion of privacy by increasing their “transparency.”  I wish I could call Mr. Snowden and get his take on this morning message of mine.

Having said all that, though, I’m pretty interested in the content of this timeline.  With the first click of my keyboard I learned that I made 57 trips in January 2019, the  first being January 8 to Seattle and the second on January 9th to Vancouver.  Checking this against the recently replaced 2019 calendar on our refrigerator, I see that Nyel had doctor appointments both those days — Seattle on the 8th, (check!) and Vancouver on the 9th (check!).  Further details about each trip include mileage, driving time, stops (Safeway, Starbucks) etc.  Even trips into Ocean Park to Jack’s Country Store or the bank are recorded.  And any photos you took that day with your cell phone!

It’s pretty interesting, actually, and since the data is being collected “out there” whether I want it to be or not, I might as well enjoy a little trip down memory lane now and then.  As I see it, I can now check up on my own personal “This Day in History.”  Woot! Woot!


Winter Surprises From A Faraway Friend

January 9th, 2020

Nyel Models Scarf From Barbara

The package wasn’t very big and weighed next to nothing and came from far off Cohasset, Massachusetts.  I couldn’t image why we would be getting something from John and Barbara.  We are long-time friends, but not necessarily gift-exchangers.  The card inside said:

Dear Nyel and Sydney,
This is a story about this scarf that I made for Nyel, hoping he would wear it to visit the “girls” and you would both think of me when he wears it.  “I visited Colleen early one morning and she taught me this difficult pattern over breakfast and coffee.  I felt so at home —
That was September (?).  Obviously speed is not my forté when it comes to knitting but love has been poured into every stitch.  I pulled it apart several times, started over mid-way, cried, and finally my tenacity pulled me through.
So here you go Nyel — you will look so handsome.
I have also enclosed some old-fashioned snow-flakes made by my friend who helped guide me thru this scarf —
So much fun — so proud!
Wishing you a fabulous 2020 and a belated Merry Christmas.  Miss you!
Love, Barbara and John

I’m a bit teary even as I copy Barb’s words.  The warmth of her friendship will be with us both for a long, long time, sustaining us even when the weather changes and Nyel no longer needs to wear his beautiful scarf.

And just in case a little clarification is needed — Barb was here in September for the 150th birthday celebration for our house.  Colleen is the proprietor of Adelaide’s Coffee and Sweet Shop in Ocean Park and sells the most amazing yarns.  When Barb lived here in the 1980s, she knew Colleen at the Full Circle Cafe at the Ocean Park Approach…



On balance…

January 8th, 2020

We heard (sorta) three out of the ten disks.

I’m not just sure how to rate yesterday in the great scheme of things.  It was another of those up-and-back-to-Seattle days.  We left about 7:30, just as it was getting light and had an uneventful trip to the UW Medical Center.  At least, uneventful if you don’t mind driving in intermittent fog, pouring rain, and heavy traffic.

For distraction, we had the audio version of Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen.  I had read it when it came out in 2016 but only remembered a few of the more bizarre parts.  Nyel claims he never read it and, judging by the snoring from his side of the car, he will be able to make that claim yet again.

Not for The Faint of Heart

The two best parts of the day were 1) our lunch, made and packet for take-out by Nyel-the-Chef: tunafish sandwiches, celery sticks, an apple for Nyel and a tangerine for me.  And 2) getting there early enough that the lab reports from our first stop-off were actually ready by Nyel’s 3:15 appointment with his cardiologist.  The results were the the very best he’s had since leaving St Vincent’s hospital in June.  Yay!

There was an hour and a half wait between the lab work and Nyel’s appointment during which we both read the books we’d fore-armed ourselves with.  I finished mine — Permanent Record by Edward Snowden.  Not uplifting.  In fact, in combination with current news events, disturbing in the extreme.

We headed home about 4:30.  Still rainy and foggy, but already getting dark, heavy “parking lot” style traffic, glaring headlights, impatient drivers.  With apologies to Nyel (who was now wide awake) I asked if we could bag listening to Hiaasen’s book.  The last thing I needed was a distraction of any kind.

We reached home at five to nine, too tired to eat.  It was a most difficult day — physically (the drive), mentally (Snowden’s book plus the ever-escalating news from the mideast), and emotionally (ditto above: the drive and Snowden and the news).  Did the good news about Nyel’s heart health balance all that out?  You betcha.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t even consider the two appointments we have up there  week after next!