Posts Tagged ‘Summer in Oysterville’

Feeling Connected Here in Portland

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Maybe it has to do with ‘the seventh time’s the charm’ (although it occurs to me that maybe the expression is ‘the third time…).  No matter the reason, we seem to have had more connections between the beach and Emanuel Hospital in Portland this time than is usual.  Not that our good friends here haven’t fussed and spoiled us in the past – but this time we’ve had connections of a different sort – or so it seems.

It began on Sunday when in walked Steve and Jeanne Bellinger, so out of context that I didn’t even recognize them for a second!  “Wrong hospital!” I thought!  It’s not every day that your Primary Caregiver and his Lab Technician Bride come calling from three hours away.  Wow!  Seems they were on a sort of’ busman’s holiday trek, visiting friends and family members who were in various care-giving institutions in the Portland area.

Dr. Paul’s Automobile on the Right – Ilwaco 1924

Their visit reminded me in a weird way of stories I used to hear about Dr. Paul who was the only physician on the Peninsula when my mother was a little girl.  He lived and had an office in Ilwaco and mom remembered that he would ride his horse to Oysterville if there was a serious enough situation to warrant it.  By the time she was thirteen, however, he had an automobile according to information about the photo of Ilwaco’s main street on the Fourth of July, 1924.  However, it’s been a while since doctors have made house calls.  I think a hospital visit by the Bellingers was even better!

They brought Nyel a gift – a cheerful strand of fall leaves created by the crafty Jeanne.  They found the perfect place to hang it – and from the compliments of the staff, we know it’s the best room decoration around!  We visited for quite some time – heard about Steve’s aborted Pacific Crest trek and about daughter Hope’s surprise visit home from college last weekend.  And, Steve mentioned that it was here at Emanuel that Ben Supernowski spent 47 days in the trauma unit in 2010/2011.  “There’s a plaque down there in the main hall telling about him,” Steve said.

So, yesterday we went down to the third floor on one of our walks to take a look at the plaque.  We found it about three-quarters of the way along the central corridor – Ben, smiling cheerfully with the commentary about his horrendous ordeal written below.  His recovery was, indeed, a miracle.  And to think that he is now out of college, married and beginning his career as a minister!

Ben’s Story

Later that afternoon, Ann Skelton popped in.  “I just came in the hospital for an X-Ray and knew from Sydney’s blog that you were here, she said.  Although we know that Ann’s primary residence is here in Portland, our connection is through various Peninsula activities and events – Community Historians, a mutual interest in Pacific County zoning activities, yearly shenanigans at CPHM’s 6×6 art auction, etc. etc.  We visited about “stuff” – the progress of the new Seaview approach sign, the amazing Kaye Mulvey, and the weather, fires, and other phenomena that have made this summer a tough one.

And I haven’t even mentioned the phone calls and email messages from friends here in Portland and at the beach – staying in touch, offering assistance or distractions or “whatever you need.”  We feel well and truly cossetted!  (Don’t you just love that word!)

Has decorum deserted Oysterville?

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

Irregular Behavior from a Friday Night Regular

When the doctor’s office called Nyel at 10:00 Friday morning and said ‘they’ wanted him at the hospital in Portland by 2:00 we said, “We’ll do the best we can.”  Panic!  Kitchen to clean up.  Carpet to vacuum!  Bathroom to tidy!

It’s not that we have some sort of anal problem about leaving a “lived-in” look behind.  We had other things on our minds.  Two, in particular, were looming in our immediate future –  our usual ‘Friday Night’ gathering and our very unusual Sunday “Celebration of Poetry” – an event of some importance happening at our house involving three poets of note, an audience of thirty, a potluck supper and… Damn!  Not only were we going to miss both of these events – we were not going to have time to prepare so that someone else could play host and hostess.

Friday Night Gathering – Photo by Tucker

I scurried and prioritized.  Pack a bag for an indefinite stay.  Help Nyel get up and get dressed. Deal with the chickens.  Load the dishwasher.  Call Carol and Tucker.  Put extra leaves in the dining room table.  Show Carol what needs to be done for Sunday.  Ask Tucker to help Charlie Talbott to schlep chairs and move furniture tomorrow.  Load the car.  Out of the village by 10:40. Whew!

A call from the doctor’s office a half hour from home – no hurry.  We have a bed secured for you. Damn!  Mental apologies to Carol and Tucker.  We could have taken longer and left things in better shape!  I might have had time to grab my earrings.  Naked ears are the least of our worries…What else did we forget?  So sorry to leave in such a rush.  So disappointed not to meet the Poet Laureate of Washington – I had so many questions to ask him…

Cruise control to Emanuel Hospital.  One stop on the way to get sandwiches at Safeway.  One other pee stop in Longview.  (Damn diuretics said Nyel.)  Arrival to find everyone expecting Nyel – nurses we know, doctors we know, a menu all too familiar.  Ditto the all too familiar cot for me.

Thank goodness for the best neighbors EVER!  Tucker even sent photos of the Friday Night gathering.  All we can say is… any dignity and decorum that was ever in Oysterville is now the center of all sorts of attention here in Room 5301.  I hope they get him back on his feet before Oysterville really tips over an edge!

The Mowing Season

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Pitching Hay, 1914

In the early nineteen hundreds when my grandfather and a number of others raised cattle here at the north end of the peninsula, they also raised as much feed as they could.  Papa grew beets right across the road in what is now the churchyard — rows and rows of them that my mother remembered weeding all summer long for a penny a row.  And he grew hay.  Meadows of it!

The property involved in Papa’s dairy farm, according to my Uncle Edwin, consisted of several interrelated elements that were scattered over about six hundred acres in an unconventional configuration.  There were other properties of a different kind, chiefly marshland and a wooded hillside to the south that overlooked the bay.  The land as a whole was principally of three types:

  • The bay-front property, mostly meadow with some smaller wooded areas
  • The “town” property, for nearby grazing, for two of the barns and for a garden
  • The marsh, an extensive area of swamp and other low ground, heavily wooded or otherwise overgrown with shrubbery but providing succulent grazing for the cattle.

Meadow Mowing In Progress 2017

The meadow land along the bay was mostly given over to raising hay that, depending upon the weather, was harvested and put in the haymows of the barns (there were two – the ‘little barn’ across from the house, and the ‘big barn’ a bit south of town) sometime before school started.  Helping tramp hay was one of the big events of summer for the younger children.  Not so much for the older ones, as fourteen-year-old Medora wrote in her diary in August 1914:

We didn’t wash this morning as Papa wanted to have us tramp hay.  I did my kitchen work, then read a while.  We put in five loads of hay.  Marvin Bowen helped Sue and I tramp.  The children (Ed, Willard and Mona) were just a nuisance.  The whole Gilbert tribe came to help the last load.  In between loads I read and wrote letters. 

For the years since there were cattle in town, the meadows between bay and the houses on Territory Road have been tended in various way.  My Great Uncle Cecil used to burn his, much to the consternation of the Ocean Park Fire Department.  Nowadays, Nyel has ‘inherited’ the task of coordinating homeowners and a ‘mowing man’ about the time summer winds down.  Last year and this, Mr. Jim Kurtz has been the man of the hour – actually hours and hours.

Jim Kurtz – The Mowing Man

I’m always happy to see the meadows being mowed.  It restores our bay view and reassures us that the gorse and scotch broom and alders that pop up each summer will not get a permanent foothold.  The meadows will restore themselves once again come spring, giving protection to the nesting birds and field mice and other little creatures of Oysterville and the cycle will continue to tie the past and present together in our ever-changing world.

On This Day in History – 1987

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

The Bride and Groom

Thirty years ago, today, the dawn sky looked a little iffy.  It was a Sunday and the 3rd Annual Oysterville Croquet and Champagne Gala was scheduled to begin at 2:00. Drizzle or not, we had chairs and tables to set up, signs and balloons to put in place, food to arrange, cases of champagne to ice and costumes to put on.  I was a bit nervous – “a bit more tightly wound than usual,” Nyel would later say.

But it wasn’t the Croquet Gala that had my nerves a-tingle.  It wasn’t the sixty people pre-registered to play on ten competing teams.  Nor was it the fifty-plus spectators we expected to come.  At the forefront of my mind was the biggest secret of our lifetimes – we were getting married that day!  Right there in the garden in front of friends and family.  Right after the games were over and right before the Awards Ceremony.  And it was a secret.  Yes… I was a bit nervous.

“Oystereville Croquet Gala” by Norma Walker

Five (count’ ’em, five besides us) people knew what was in store that day.  My son Charlie, who came up from L.A. for the event – the only time in 19 years that he attended one of our Croquet Galas.  Gordon Schoewe and Roy Gustafson who agreed to stand up for us.  Judge Joel Penoyer (actually, probably Betsy, too) who agreed to bring the paper work and to officiate.  And Dr. John Campiche (probably Val, too) who we called to make sure there were no medical requirements before marriage in Washington State – which there weren’t.  Not one of them breathed a word.  Even so… I was nervous-to-the-max.

No one else – not my parents who were the nominal hosts of the event since it took place in the garden of their home.  Not my distinguished Uncle Willard who, for many years served at the Master of Ceremonies of the Croquet Galas.  Not Ann Kischner who was President of the Water Music Society which was to be the recipient of the proceeds that year.  (Did I mention that we put on the Gala each year as a fund-raiser for a non-profit organization in Pacific County?)  Yes… nervous enough so that I could barely tend to my job as registrar!

I happy to say, we pulled it off with hardly a hitch.  (Just a rather tense argument with Willard who insisted that it was HIS turn to award the trophy. I literally had to push him out of the way… and maybe I was just a tad snappish.)  The weather turned bright and sunny, after all, and I look back on that day as setting a tone for all the years that have followed – years of friends, family, fun, and memorable events!

The Wedding Pillow – from the Frank family

And here we are, thirty years later.  No plans to celebrate this year.  No signs or balloons.  Just a lot of remembering and basking and maybe a stroll or two out in the garden.   But did I say… it looks a bit iffy outside this year, too!

Our Blurry Short-Term Summer

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

Nyel and His Happy Birthday Present, Summer 2010

Morning coffee conversation:  “My God, it’s dark out.  Where did summer go?”  “It’s sort of a blur – doctors and nurses and vespers and visitors.”  Not the usual summer, for sure.

We spent a few minutes trying to recall the season’s highlights.  It was tough.  Between our collective failing memories and the parts of the last few months that are well-enough forgotten, we had a hard time sorting it all out.  In fact, we ‘remembered’ more of the things we didn’t do than the things we did.  A sad state of affairs, to be sure.

Cedar Creek Grist Mill

For one thing, we never ate a meal outside.  Usually during the summer months, we take our lunch out to the little marble-topped table in the south garden and enjoy a bit of al fresco dining.  Not this year.  Not once.  Was it the weather?  Was it our absences from home?  Was it our forgetfulness?  There really weren’t enough cups of that early a.m. coffee to figure it out.

And, another thing… what happened to our summer field trips?  For years, we have gone on various ‘expotitions’ (as Pooh would say.)  We have gone up to Neah Bay or to the Cedar Creek Grist Mill in Woodland or to Fort Vancouver – places we haven’t been for a while and that are no more than a day away.

Cathlapotle Plankhouse

This year, we had two trips in mind – one up to Radar Ridge right nearby, and one to the Cathlapotle Plankhouse located at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Both of them have been on our ‘to do’ list for a long time and we are bummed that another summer has drifted by without visiting either one!  Worse than not going, we can’t exactly remember why we didn’t make it happen!  There are many legitimate reasons, no doubt, but…  we hope that it’s not also a matter of old-age inertia.

The calendar says we have twelve days left before the autumn equinox.  Plenty enough time to accomplish at least one of the plans on our 2017 Summer Schedule.  But wait!  There’s the lawn to mow and dahlias to deadhead and the writing to do and… didn’t we say that afternoon naps might be a good habit to develop?

I don’t really remember.  It’s all a blur…

Better Late Than Never!

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

At 9:30 yesterday morning, we were in the midst of an appointment with Nyel’s cardiologist in Portland.  We were listening to the cardio-team’s plan for the next few months which, all things being equal, will lead to a mitral valve replacement before Christmas.  The last thing on my mind was “Perspectives” – Joan Herman’s KMUN radio show which was airing at that very moment – the program for which Erin Glenn and I had been interviewed ten days previously.

I confess that the program has entirely escaped my mind until I did some “catch-up” in mid-afternoon. We had reached home and I was checking on phone, email, and FaceBook messages.  In the latter category was one from my friend Linda in Seattle:  ” I just listened to your interview on KMUN…well done! You’ve inspired me to get involved.”  Wow!

Joan Herman

It wasn’t until this morning, though, that I found time to go to the link and listen, myself, to what we had talked about on Joan’s show.  If you missed it, I highly recommend it, even though it is one of those “if I do say so, myself” situations.  The half hour show is well organized (Thanks, Joan!) and informative (Thanks, Erin!) and, despite my role as a participant, I thoroughly enjoyed being a listener!  You can catch it at:

I’ve been trying to find a way to also give readers links to my “Stories From The Heart” that are running weekly in the Chinook Observer but I could only locate a link that works for the current week’s story and sidebar:

Either my techie skills are too limited, or you have to be a subscriber in order for the links to the previous six stories to work.  Sorry about that!  I’d love for them to find a wider readership! The overwhelming positive response from many folks here on the Peninsula has been gratifying.  As for those who are not so positive – all I can do is urge readers and writers to research their “facts” before they embarrass themselves by responding publicly.  A robust dialogue on big issues is great, but perpetuating rumors and misinformation… not so much.

Halfway Between

Friday, September 8th, 2017


As we traveled north from purgatory yesterday, the sky grew lighter and lighter until, finally, just outside of Portland, we actually began to see shadows!  Who’d have expected that shadows on their own could communicate such a sense of relief.  Surely, the sun was not too far away.

The four days of relentless, gray, eye-burning, unpleasant-smelling smoke felt like we were only steps away from hell.  If I believed in purgatory, I thought, this is what it would be like.  Relentless, enveloping, and an assault to every sense.  Plus, that ominous feeling of what might be just over the nearest mountain – the mountain that couldn’t be seen in the limited visibility.

But… now the promise of sunshine.  Or of rain.  Either way, it lightens our hearts to feel that we may be heading into a smoke free-er (emphasis on the er) today.  But, as they say, we are not completely out of the woods.  We have paused here in the Rose City so that Nyel can see his cardiologist early this morning.  I have high hopes that then we’ll head for home; Nyel is not as optimistic.


Meanwhile, thank goodness for ‘devices’ and social media.  We are feeling ‘so-far-so-good’ as to safety of family and friends and there have been a number of joyous “it’s raining!” notifications from home.  I’m not exactly sure why that is the news of the moment – unless there is an overwhelming threat of fire on the Peninsula, itself.  There was rain (not much, to be sure) in Ashland the last two days/nights we were there.  We didn’t see that it did much good locally.  Wet smoke seemed, if anything, denser than dry smoke.

So… off we go to the doctor.  Fingers crossed that we will be homeward bound by mid-morning!

And in the local news…

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

On The News — Screenshot

It’s all about smoke and fire here in Ashland – just as it is up and down western Oregon and Washington right now. As we waited outside the Thomas Theater a few minutes before yesterday’s matinee, news of the fire in the Gorge ricocheted from one person to another, never mind that many were masked and sitting in the midst of smoke and ashes, themselves.

When the attractive young woman with a mobile camera and microphone came up to us, we agreed to talk with her a bit for her evening report on KDRV Newswatch 12 out of Medford.  She was interviewing many folks and we were very surprised to find (this morning) that we were the only ones to make the cut!  I’m only sorry that our fifteen seconds of fame at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival had to be about air quality and theater closures!

Smoky Downtown Ashland

We thoroughly enjoyed “Henry IV Part I.”  Understudy Tyrone Wilson, a seasoned 22-year OSF actor, played Falstaff, brilliantly, we thought, and Daniel José Molina as Prince Hal was perfection, itself.  Happily, we get to see him again this afternoon in “Henry IV, Part II.”  Not so happily, “The Merry Wives of Windsor” scheduled for last night at the outdoor Elizabethan theater had to be cancelled, as was the Green Show in the newly designed “Green Show Courtyard.”

I’m not sure we would have attended the Green Show in any case – even had the air been pristine and pure and smoke-free instead of at a Hazardous level.  Green Shows just ‘ain’t what they used to be’ when they were, in fact, on the grassy courtyard in front of the theaters.  As of this season, there is an elaborate, concrete construction there – not only a stage with roof and built-in lighting fixtures, but huge, permanent bleachers as well.  There is only a smidge of grass left, no doubt so that the performances can still be called ‘green shows.’  There is absolutely NO resemblance to the quaint acoustical music and contra dance space of years ago when OSF was young… and so was I.

Green Show Courtyard Plan – Now A Reality

While I love coming here and meeting Charlie at this magical halfway point between his home and ours, this may be our last Ashland rendezvous.  It’s been a difficult trip for all of us and one thing we know about traveling – it doesn’t get easier with age.  And certainly not with the unpredictability of… everything. Who woulda thunk that the audiences, themselves, would be the ones wearing masks at the Festival in 2017?

All The World Is Gray

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

Lightening Strike

The farther south we drove yesterday, the grayer it got.  We began to smell the smoke a bit beyond Eugene and by the time we arrived here in Ashland, our eyes felt a bit gritty – or maybe we were just tired from the journey.

It seemed quiet in town – maybe just the aftermath of the Labor Day weekend.  This morning we’ll get a better sense of how things are. Our waitress last night said that there hadn’t been any appreciable lessening in business that she could tell, even though the air quality from Oregon’s wildfires have caused the outdoor performances to be cancelled on several occasions.

Chetco Bar Fire. Oregon

Although we’ve kept apprised of the situation from afar, I feel somewhat guilty that I don’t know more about the circumstances under which Ashland and the rest of Southern Oregon find themselves.  Although there are now other wildfires throughout the state – even in the Columbia River Gorge – the main cause of the poor air quality here the Chetco Bar Fire sparked by lightning in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness on July 12th.

As of yesterday (September 4th) morning, the fire was estimated at 142,857 acres and 10% contained, although an update to that local NBC news report said, “At last check, the Chetco Bar Fire has burned 167,513 acres and is 5 percent contained”.  Yet another report gave an October 15th date for complete containment. In addition to Chetco Bar, which is ranked as the nation’s top firefighting priority, several other fires near the Rogue Valley in Jackson County are contributing to poor air quality.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival Worker

In a way, it all seems rather surreal.  Visibility grays out and it’s difficult to see  buildings only a block distant. This morning on our way to breakfast we encountered the gardening crew working on the motel grounds, each worker wearing a businesslike mask as he went about his duties.  We expect that we will see the same “costume” many times over as we approach the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s complex.  Before that, however, we may well be hunting up masks of our own.  Under discussion also is the possibility of heading home early, especially if Nyel’s breathing ability seems to be additionally compromised.

“All the world’s a stage…” said Jacques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. I, myself, like a more colorful set.  This gray look is scary.

“… Pack up your pack…”

Monday, September 4th, 2017

The Elizabethan Theater, OSF

I don’t know if an earworm slows you down or speeds you up.  I hope it’s the latter because I’ve got one and I’m behind.

We are scurrying to get on the road – off to Ashland for our yearly rendezvous with son Charlie and a short bout of theater glut at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  It’s a halfway meeting place, more-or-less – a bit more from Charlie who is driving from L.A. and a bit less for us.  We have tickets for four plays this year, two of them, unfortunately, in the outdoor Elizabethan Theater.

The weather news is not good.  In fact, it’s dreadful — the very worst!  Yesterday the measurement went from “unhealthy” to “hazardous” on the Air Quality Index, but so far today it’s back to “unhealthy.”  We know that the outdoor performances are happening on a day-to-day (and sometimes hour-to-hour) basis, so as they say:  “You pays your money and you takes your chances.”  Meanwhile, the Chetco Bar Fire near Brookings (which was caused by a lightning strike and was first reported July 12th) is only 10% contained and now covers 142,857 acres.  The smoke is affecting almost all of Oregon.

“The Bricks” at OSF

Tickets to the plays are a traditional Christmas gift from us to ourselves and to Charlie.  We take advantage of our OSF membership and order in early November, not knowing which plays audiences and critics will deem “best.”  It really doesn’t matter.  In the sixty years I’ve been going to Ashland, I’ve only been disappointed once or twice.  And, of course, we never know what Mother Nature might have in store for us when our dates are eight or nine months in the future.

We’ve never experienced being ‘smoked out’ but we have been at the Elizabethan theater in the rain – not so bad as to shut down because of danger to actors in fight scenes etc. (slippery stage) but wet enough that the action took place in street clothes.  As one of the actors later told us, “The costumes are far more costly than an actor’s salary!  They are the first to be saved!”  On those rare, rainy evenings, rainchecks are offered to those who want to leave by the intermission.  We are usually prepared with garbage bags to slip over our heads…  But I don’t think there is an ‘easy fix’ for smoke problems.

Shoalwater Storytellers Poster, 1981

So, here we are, packing the car with high hopes.  Our chicken-sitter is in place.  Our chickens have promised (we think) to be on their best behavior and we are optimistic about Nyel’s health and our car’s battery.  We have arranged to have brunch with Bob Cook, an old friend from the very first configuration of the Shoalwater Storytellers back in 1980.  And, we hope to hook up with Sharon VanHueit who also has relocated from the beach to Ashland.

Plays or no plays, we’ll have a great time.  As my earworm keeps telling me… “We’re on our way, Pack up your pack, And if we stay, We won’t come back.”  I don’t think that last part is true, though…  But you never know.