We picked our plum tree bare…

September 10th, 2018

…singing every stretch of the way!  (Well, I was; Nyel doesn’t sing.) If you are a “Double J and the Boys” fan, you know Judy Eron’s wonderful song of revenge, “I Picked His Plum Tree Bare.”  It can easily work its way into your head and become a serious earworm without any provocation at all.  But, when you are actually picking plums, singing that song becomes an unequivocal imperative.

This was a first-ever experience for us, even though that plum tree is more than a decade old.  We got it – a dwarf Italian Prune Plum – along with our two apple trees and planted them all on the south lawn.  I guess we were thinking “orchard” but soon realized, as did the trees, that it wasn’t a fruitful (ahem!) idea.  All three of the trees developed problems.

The plum tree seemed the healthiest and was definitely the most pleasing to the eye.  But, as the years went by and it was producing no fruit at all, Nyel got disgusted and moved it out into the back forty.  It has been one of those out-of-sight-out-of-mind things and it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that Nyel noticed a young plum.  No!  Wait!  Lotsa plums!

Yesterday, we decided it was time to harvest.  Both of us are beyond our ladder-climbing years, but it is a dwarf tree, after all…  So, between the two of us (and following the no-climbing-beyond-the-third-rung rule) we emulated our friend Judy.  We picked that plum tree bare!  Nine and a half pounds of gorgeous plums hidden among the foliage.  Hard to see.  Tricky to get to.  But apparently undisturbed by deer or birds or tourists. And, they are plum delicious!!

The Safety Sign Blindness Syndrome

September 9th, 2018

My late friend Kaye Mulvey and I had an on-going discussion about driving the speed limit.  Kaye was a proponent of driving as fast as she felt was “safe” whether it exceeded posted limits or not.  She considered me a wimpy driver and once said to me in a somewhat derisive tone, “I’ll bet you slow to the suggested speeds around curves, too!”  I conceded that she was right and I think of her every time we drive to and from South Bend.

Like last night, coming home from Seattle, Nyel (a proponent of what I’ve come to call “Kaye’s Way on the Hiway”) was the one at the wheel.  I was white-knuckling and biting my tongue.  During the sixteen-mile stretch from Johnson’s Landing to our turn at Sandridge Road, we both took note of the new signs – or at least we think they are new.  Each time we approached a curve, a DO NOT PASS sign appeared.  Immediately thereafter, a PASS WITH CARE sign would show up.  Over and over and over again.  (It’s a very curvy stretch of road.)

I wish I’d have counted how many.  It actually became humorous – a grand distraction for Sydney-the-Wimp.  “Whatever happened to noticing the solid yellow lines on the highway?” Nyel asked several times.  “Would you even have time to pass between a PASS WITH CARE sign and the immediately forthcoming DO NOT PASS sign?” I wondered.  Distracting became annoying.  And I began to ask myself when those signs had gone up and if we had just not noticed them before.  Had we become sign blind?

When we got home, late though it was, I looked up sign blindness.  It must be some sort of phenomenon or syndrome, I thought.  And, sure enough!  There is an entire article called “Overcoming Safety Signs Blindness.”  It is written by a man named David Arnold and begins:  Having worked in the safety signs industry for more years than is good for a person, I have come across the phrase ‘Sign blindness’ on numerous occasions. In my experience it invariably tends to be used in one of two ways: Cluster Sign Blindness and Familiarity Sign Blindness.

He goes on to talk about those two problems, what surveys have found, and the suggested solutions to be considered.  I don’t think WSDOT got the memo.  Not the part on Cluster Sign Blindness, anyway.   I also see (doncha love Google!) that the signs cost $21.95 plus $5.00 shipping fee from Amazon.  Plus the cost of installation.  Times how many signs?    Our highway taxes at work.

as things go bump all over the world…

September 8th, 2018

P.G. Wodehouse

For nonsensical distraction in its purest form, there is nothing like P.G. Wodehouse (pronounced Woodhouse).  When I am out of page-turners to read at the midnight hour and I am wakeful for no apparent reason, I sometimes turn to Sir Pelham Grenville W’s novels or short stories to lull me back into a peaceful frame of mind.  Right now, I am re-reading Psmith Journalist (silent P).

As Wikipedia will tell you, P.G.W. was (1881-1975) a humorist known for “a unique writing style based on a combination of very formal language, references to classical literature, and contemporary club-room slang.”  Take for instance his commentary on an incidental character on page 31 of the aforementioned book: “…who from a cursory glance strikes me as an ideal candidate for a lethal chamber.”  So beautifully (and genteelly) stated, don’t you think?  And highly applicable even all these years later!

Psmith – 1909

Psmith takes the stage in four novel-length works, all of which appeared as magazine serials before being published in book form.  The character was based upon hotelier and impresario Rupert D’Oyly Carte and was, according to Wodehouse in 1970, “the only thing in my literary career which was handed to me on a silver plate with watercress around it.”  Apparently, one of his cousins, who had been at school with Carte, told P.G.W. of the latter’s monocle, studied suavity, and stateliness of speech, all of which rounded out Psmith’s distinctive qualities.

But it’s P.G.W.’s body of work concerning Jeeves and Bertie Wooster that I love most and that I daresay are best known. Certainly, Jeeves is thought of to this day as the quintessential butler and his wealthy and idle young employer, Bertie Wooster, seems to epitomize our idea of the “idle rich.” Wodehouse wrote about Jeeves and Bertie in numerous short stories and novels published over a sixty-year period – between 1915 and 1974!

In this house, we have most of the Wodehouse canon on our bookshelves – always at the ready for a midnight perusal and, whatever my choice, never failing to amuse.  After all, how can you go wrong with a man who said:  “I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.”

 

In Defense of Disconnecting

September 7th, 2018

William Wordsworth in 1807 by Hery Eldridge

William Wordsworth was 32 when he wrote:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers…

These are the first two of a fourteen-line sonnet – a lament on the loss of rural living in the wake of the mass production and factory work now that the Industrial Revolution was upon the world.  Wordsworth lived in England’s Lake District and the countryside there, as everywhere, had changed very little for centuries.  Now, railroads and steamships and coal mines and entrepreneurship were upon us.  Man’s connection to the natural world was at risk.

The poem was written in 1802 and was published five years later.  Wordsworth’s correspondence during that period also reveals his concern with the imbalance between the spiritual and material, between nature and economic growth.  I don’t know if he lamented the loss of our natural world, itself, but I feel sure that had he lived two hundred years later, his poetry (considered a part of the Romantic period) would have taken a serious environmental turn, as well.

On Our Porch

I, too, often think “the world is too much with us.”  Mostly, I have that thought when I watch or listen to the news.  I’m especially lucky, in that regard.  If I unplug and turn away and simply step outside into Oysterville, that frantic outer world disappears.  Then, my world is quiet except for birdsong.  It smells of the sweet grasses in the meadow with a bit of pungent geranium fragrance from the pots on our porch.  And I count my blessings.

A Continuing Saga

September 6th, 2018

Let The Work Begin

The final step (I hope to goodness) in the Great Septic Upgrade Saga began yesterday.  First, came Eugene, one of the Beach Time landscaping guys.  Next came three truckloads of dirt – yards and yards of it.  I don’t know how many.  It’s easier just to think of it as it appears – three big piles in the middle of our drain field.

Next, Eugene brought the skip loader that he had at-the-ready in the lane.  The plan, he said, is to feather out the dirt so that there it will blend gradually with the rest of the lawn.  He made a few passes at the east end and then, apparently, his workday was over and he disappeared, leaving his equipment neatly parked and at the ready for today.

Poised for Work

Eventually (I think) there will be a layer of topsoil and then the new lawn will be seeded and the watering will begin.  I hope the sprinklers will be set up to operate on some sort of a timer.  However it all works, I look forward to a healthy lawn before too many more months go by.  I should say a healthy lawn in that particular area of the yard.  The rest of our lawn will no doubt suffer mightily from the green grass envy syndrome.

In Pre-Saga Days

Not only is our existing lawn brown in many spots due to summer drought conditions (plus a healthy dose of benign neglect by the homeowners) but even the green parts are largely green-not-grass.  I’ve gradually come to terms with that green-not-grass.  With my ever-dimming eyesight, it looks pretty good from afar – very acceptable when one considers the alternative.

And then there are the totally bare spots.  Moles, the removal of a tree, and who knows what else have taken their toll.  I’ve been watering like crazy and Nyel has scattered a little grass seed in spots, but it is slow going (make that growing.)  I’ve trained myself not to look down when it comes to the local vista.

Hopefully, all will blend together seamlessly and (mostly) effortlessly on our part.  Probably wishful thinking but hope still springs eternal when it comes to such matters.  Also… we aren’t mentioning any of this to the girls.  They’ll no doubt wonder about being cooped up (so to speak) for the next few months but Farmer Nyel says there are priorities. Even when it comes to chickens.

Pondering Pooh and Other Perplexities

September 5th, 2018

E.H. Shepherd Illustration

We seem to have bookmarked the summer by going to matinees – “The Rider” in June and “Christopher Robin” yesterday.  I loved the first one.  The second, not so much – but I’m not sure why.

First, let me say that I am a huge A.A. Milne fan.  I love the Winnie-the-Pooh books and usually have trouble accepting any animated versions of the denizens of Hundred Acre Woods.  That was not the case with this movie.  I thought the live-action character portrayals were superb – especially Pooh.  He was precisely the Pooh of my imagination.  So was the setting, or at least the Hundred Acre Woods part –  the rickety bridge, the makeshift falling-down shelters, the hand-lettered signs of childhood.

E. H. Shepherd Illustration

The movie makers got all that just right.  It was the story I found ho-hummish.  Predictable and overstated.  Disappointing.  And the human characters – especially Christopher Robin and his daughter Maddie – a bit too old.  He should have been in his twenties; she in her single digits.  Maybe then I’d have found the happy ending more acceptable.  But… maybe not.

I left the theater feeling robbed of the bittersweet longing that the books, themselves, always give me.  It’s the same feeling I get when I hear “Puff the Magic Dragon.”  For the adult me, it’s that filled-with-wistfulness for what can’t be recaptured sensation that is the magic of Pooh and of Puff.  But the tears I shed yesterday in the movie weren’t the tears that go with nostalgia.  More the tears of disappointment.  Still… you probably have to see the film for yourself.  It may speak to you differently.

One Month (and 18 years) Too Late

September 4th, 2018

“1912 Middy Blouse”

Yesterday I had the great urge to clean out my closet and to inventory my sartorial needs for the coming of fall.  I made a good start on filling the Goodwill bag with clothing that has been (literally) gathering dust for uncounted years.  You know – the blue jeans that were perfect when you were a few inches slimmer around the middle.  Or the bolero jacket that doesn’t quite go with anything but, surely, just the right skirt or blouse will come along soon.

I was ruthless. And, I felt “very much accomplished” as my Aunt Medora used to say.  But the bottom line is that I left myself exceedingly limited in clothing choices beyond my usual at-home-uniform – jeans and a sweatshirt.  I had the sudden urge to go “back-to-school shopping.”  Never mind that it is seventeen years since I stopped teaching and, even then, any additions to my wardrobe were usually acquired at the last minute – probably in August before the school year got under way.

As I thought about the situation, I remembered something my grandmother had written to Medora (the one and same, just mentioned) regarding her wardrobe.  The letter, which hints at my grandmother’s struggle with the transition from homemade to store-bought clothing, was dated September 4, 1912:

Elizabeth Ayer, Marie Strock, Medora Espy – 1912

The express has come at last and I am greatly pleased with the things.  All of the dresses were substitutes, as what we ordered were out but anyway the choice is fine.  There is one bad thing tho, your dress is too long and I do not see how it can be shortened.  I would not wear it if I were you unless there is some very special occasion.  Then when I come up we can take it to a dressmaker and see how it can be shortened.  It may not look too long with low shoes in the evening but with high shoes will reach the tops…

The white skirt to your middy was too short and I sent it back for a longer one…  Go into Harris and see if you can get a separate white skirt to wear with your middy – something plain and suitable for school…  I should not think it would or should cost more than two dollars for your whole middy suit only cost $2.25…At the same time get yourself three union suits part wool – you know the ribbed kind.  Do not pay more than $1.75 or $2.00 a suit.

I decided to use my own judgement about your coat and dress so as to save time, so ordered them delivered direct to you and I surely hope you will be pleased.  The coat was the best shown – cost $14.00 – a black silk plush lined with tan satin.  The hat a black beaver turned up in front.  Then a brown corduroy soft hat to go with your storm coat.  Your dress is a good quality brown corduroy trimmed with brown messaline and a large, lace collar. Do these sound all right?  I sent for best of everything in your clothes.

Bon-Ton Catalog, June 1913

The girls’ dresses look very nicely on them.  Sue’s is much coarser than Mona’s but very effective and at a distance does not show the difference in quality.  Mrs. Parant has Sue’s dress to work on.  I have ordered satine for new bloomers for you and goods to match the girls’ school dresses for bloomers.

Well, at least I don’t need to worry about putting union suits or bloomers on my shopping list.  But I do think that shopping by catalog (or, in today’s world, online) is the way to go from Oysterville.  Some things don’t change.

Picture Pluperfect!

September 3rd, 2018

September 2, 2018

Adj plu-per-fect.  more than perfect; utterly perfect.

“If I had a dollar for every photograph taken of the church…”  I can still see my father shaking his head in amazement at all the attention the little Oysterville Church began to receive in the early 1980s after it had been restored. Make no mistake about it though, he took his share of pictures too.  And why not?  The little building seems the iconic symbol of 19th century rural village life and most especially so with a bright coat of fresh paint.

This past week, the painters hired by the Oysterville Restoration Foundation arrived.  They came early on Monday and I think there were three of them, but they worked more efficiently and faster than I could keep up with.  First, they pressure-washed and painted the fence.  On both sides in one day!  Then they began scraping paint from the church, itself.  They began in the front and on the north side – up-close and personal, board by board.  Then pressure-washing using generator and manlift and carefully aimed water.  Abandoned swallows nests: gone.  Peeling paint: gone.  Mossy, mildewy areas: clean!  Mess: none!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The weather cooperated and the painting began before I’d had my second cup of coffee on Wednesday.   A painter on the roof… no, two of them up there for a while – on ladders and scaffolding and the manlift again – painting the steeple white and then the red trim. A team spray-painted the walls using a hose and a ladder; the brush man was close behind painting the trim around the windows.  So quick.  So deft.  A pleasure to watch.

They worked late on Saturday – until 7:30 or so when the light gave out.  All the equipment was gone by Sunday morning – except for the portable generator which they tucked into the north end of the churchyard.  All was in readiness for the final Music Vespers service yesterday. In less than a week!  Truly a miracle of the first order.  There may be finishing touches to take care of in the coming days but, once again, the little church is more than picture perfect!

Endings and Beginnings

September 2nd, 2018

 

Picnic at Beard’s Hollow, 1940s

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been conflicted about Labor Day Weekend – sad that it marked summer’s end and happy that school was about to begin. That was as true during my teaching years as it had been when I was a student.  By the time I retired, that ‘Labor Day Weekend Feeling’ was forever ingrained.

Besides… living here on the Peninsula simply acts as reinforcement to that transition from summer to fall.  We have always been a vacation destination.  It’s the beach, after all.  During my lifetime, I’ve watched that ‘vacation’ moniker morph into ‘tourist’ and, lately, into the ‘year-round tourist’ term.  Even so, there is still a tangible lull in the activity on the Peninsula after Labor Day.  Fewer visitors, less traffic, diminished hours for some tourist-dependent businesses, and an almost audible sigh of relief, even among those whose livelihood depends upon that influx of outsiders.

In Oysterville, Labor Day weekend marks the end of our Music Vespers for another season.  I am always a bit amazed that the twelve weekly services are over so soon.  Although there are no longer “summer homes” here that get boarded up at the end of the season, we know that some of our part-time residents won’t be here as often and the stream of visitors to the church will lessen.  Somehow, it seems a relief to have the village ‘back,’ though we’ll be looking forward to friends and visitors by the next three-day weekend.

Smokin’ Hot!

Although the shortening days sadden me, the hint of nip in the air is a reminder that the ducks and geese will be moving through soon and hunting season is just around the corner.  Not that Nyel hunts anymore and not that I ever did.  But I love to hear that “pop! pop! pop!” out on the bay – a reminder of my childhood and of the continuing rhythms of our lives.  I’m even looking forward to first storm of the season (but maybe not until November).  It seems a long time since we’ve hunkered down by the fire.

Meanwhile, though, bring on tomorrow’s barbecues!  And Happy Labor Day!

Were you the one who spoke to Diane… ?

September 1st, 2018

Diane Buttrell

At the Opening Reception for Eric Wiegardt and David Campiche’s exhibition at the Heritage Museum in late July, Diane Buttrell had a conversation with a woman about plans for the Fall 2018 Lecture Series at the Oysterville Schoolhouse.  Diane can’t remember who it was.

Not only that, the conversation was substantive enough that she (Diane) is hoping that this person might kick off the Series.  “I thought we might begin on September 6th but, obviously, that’s too soon now.  I’m hoping for September 13th – if only I can find out who the woman was.  She would be perfect!”

Diane and Hal were here last night for our usual Friday Night gathering and, as they were leaving, she very hesitantly explained her predicament to me.   And, even more hesitantly, asked for help.   As a fellow “now-who-told-me-that” sufferer, I am only too happy to do what I can which, ultimately, comes down to blogging about the dilemma and hoping for the best.

The topic for the planned series this fall is “Hear My Story” and will feature people in our community who are doing something interesting or for the good of the order and, perhaps more importantly, how they came to be doing it. She has a number of folks on her line-up but… that first week is still “To Be Announced.”  I can’t tell you how sympathetic I am to her plight!

If you are the person Diane was talking to – or even if you were eavesdropping on the conversation – Diane urges you to get in touch with her at edianebuttrell@gmail.com.  There is no time to lose!  Publicity deadlines are upon us for a September 13th kick-off.  And, if you have FB Friends who might have attended that opening on July 27th and just might have spoken with Diane, please share this!  Thanks so much.