Posts Tagged ‘Winter in Oysterville’

Music In The AiR Air!

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Woodsy Retreat

How many times does something need to be repeated to make it a tradition?  If it’s no more than two or three, then the January singer/songwriter retreat in Oysterville probably qualifies.  I think this is the third year that Long Beach Peninsula Acoustic Music Foundation and WillapaBay AiR (AiR = Artists in Residence) have jointly sponsored a “Winter Use Program” at the sixteen-acre Willapa Bay AiR campus.  This year, I’m told, it will be happening twice!

Renee, Larry, Mary. Terry, Jerry — Singer Songwriters at 2017 Performance

It is a perfect space for musicians to work.  On the campus are a main lodge with a kitchen and dining facilities plus five cabins, two studios, and an additional bedroom in the Lodge complex.  There is room for individual work as well as for group sessions and rehearsals.  All meals are provided and the only ‘requirement’ of the artists is for them to sit down together each evening at a communal meal.  Other than that, they are left to their own devices – each working on an individual project which they outlined in their original proposal/application.

Larry Murante who made Mrs. Crouch famous in song!

When our neighbor Cyndi Hayward (Founder and CEO of Willapa Bay AiR) first told us about the Singer/Songwriter retreat, she said that the joint venture with Sue and Bill Svendsen of Peninsula Performing Arts Center was “the perfect marriage. They have access to the music community and we have an ideal facility which is not in use during January.”

The musicians we know who have participated all agree that this retreat provides them with a great opportunity.  Last year, on their final day, the group gave an impromptu performance at the Oysterville Church.  Such a serendipity for the community.  Perhaps this week’s group will do something similar.  We can but hope.

Wes Weddell On His First Album

Meanwhile… Nyel and I are inordinately pleased that Wes Weddell and Larry Murante, two of “our” long-time House Concert musicians, will be sharing our ‘library stage’ here on Sunday!  They are fabulous to take a chance on us, but we are determined that Nyel will stay healthy long enough to host this event – the first, we hope, of many others in 2018.

Cleaning Out The Clutter

Saturday, January 6th, 2018


It’s not that I haven’t made a stab (or even a concerted effort) at cleaning out my closet in the last twenty years.  I have.  But, until yesterday, I hadn’t been ruthless.  I just couldn’t bear to part with those accumulated items that seemed so appropriate when I acquired them and then never were.

You know.  The glitzy Christmas blouse that just didn’t drape right.  I’d lose track of its ill-fit as the months progressed, then plan on wearing it but, as the time grew near, I just couldn’t.  Sometimes I’d get something to take its place and, then, a new problem might erupt – the ‘good’ black pants had faded to the point of no return and they just wouldn’t do with the new Christmas top.  And so it goes – a closet full of tired, mis-matched, maybe-someday clothes and that constant lament, “nothing to wear!”

So, yesterday I culled, tried on, discarded, pitched.  Not exactly joyfully, but with a certain smugness that comes of doing a long-postponed chore.  Two bureau drawers and two-thirds of my closet – done!  One big black garbage bag full.  My plan is to finish up today and beat feet to Good Will tomorrow while I’m still feeling virtuous.

Good Will Bag #1

When I boasted of my progress to my closet-mate – perhaps hoping that I could be a role-model in this particular activity – he said:  “Wow!  How can your closet still look so full?”  It wasn’t that he doubted my diligence.  The Good Will bag and empty hangers were obvious evidence.  On reflection, his comment might have been a translation for, “No need to shop for replacements; it looks as though there’s still plenty to wear.”

In a way, I think my closet is a sort of physical manifestation of my mind.  Over the years, my brain cells have filled up.  I access the useful information when I write – often returning to old ideas and combining them with new ones.  But the more clotted up with data my mind becomes, the harder it is to locate what I need.  How lovely it would be to fill a box with worn-out thoughts to take to the Memory Recycle Center.  I wonder what would then be revealed, hidden back there in the dark recesses of my brain.  Probably a best-seller or two just waiting for rescue!

Like A Steel Trap!

Friday, January 5th, 2018

H.A. Espy (r.) circa 1902 (no house extension to north)

Our house didn’t always extend north along Territory Road the way it does now, but I can’t remember when the garage and “work room” were added on.  I think when I was very young, there was an enclosed woodshed with a dirt floor just beyond the kitchen door.  I have a vague memory of my grandfather chopping kindling there (for my grandmother’s wood cookstove?) and I remember, also dimly, that one winter we’d get a whiff of skunk from the Mama and six babies that lived out there behind the woodpile.

“They were always very polite,” my grandmother would recall.  “They never caused us any problems and we were happy to offer them some shelter.”  I don’t know if I’d feel that welcoming.  Just the other day, we set out a few mouse traps in that area after seeing some ‘evidence’ that little furry creatures had nibbled through the bag of chicken feed.  Of course, nowadays, that’s the laundry room and pantry with access out to the kitchen garden to the east; the roller door on the street side is seldom used.

Espy House, 1925 (Note rain barrels on roof as well as extension to north)

Old photos show that a garage was added north of the woodshed — probably in the twenties, and I think it was probably in the fifties that the whole area was given a cement floor and was extended to become a storage room as well as a garage.  When my folks moved in, my dad was still manufacturing plastic souvenirs and soap dishes (marketed to CostPlus and other stores in CA and, locally, to Marsh’s Free Museum) and that area became his work space.  Hence, the name “work room” though my mother and her siblings would continue to call the entire enclosure to the north of the kitchen, “the woodshed.”  Some habits never change.

We just call it “The Back Forty” and, mostly, try to ignore it.  Except in a fit of organizing.  Like yesterday.  We decided to start with the accumulation of dishes, appliances, vases, candles (yes! an entire shelf!), baskets, pots and pans – you name it!  Mostly household detritus that seems to multiply of its own accord.  In a Good Will purge, we filled a couple of cardboard boxes before we decided to call it quits.  “Tomorrow is another day,” we said.

Our House, by Marta, 2018

In the process, we found three items that we don’t recognize.  Not ours.  Not my folks/.  Not my grandparents’.  I didn’t have a clue but Nyel had a name to go with each:  the spoon from Sandy, the plate from Patricia, and the little pitcher from Jon and Pat.  Brought, perhaps, for a potluck or a party and not retrieved.  I took pictures of each and sent them to the suspects.  Two of the three have answered and report that Nyel is absolutely right.  The man has a mind like a steel trap!  If only he’d been part of our lives in the twenties and the fifties, we could figure out when the woodshed moved north!

As I step into my day…

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

Rosas (Courtesy Gladys Diaz)

Today in Oysterville.  Fairly normal.  The electrician comes between eight and ten to prepare our new stove for hook-up.  Tucker will be over mid-morning to talk about plans for our part in the upcoming Community Historian classes.  Spinach salad for lunch.  Lentil soup for dinner.  Two hours, somewhere, to work on a book revision.  Another two hours to continue my overdue holiday correspondence…

Those are the thoughts that I woke up with.  Plus, a clinging gloom over-riding everything else.  Today is the day of Rosas’ court hearing in Tacoma.  On this day, if all goes as planned, he will know if he will be bonded back into the community or will face deportation to Mexico.  Happy-go-lucky, hard-working Rosas.  I wonder what his waking thoughts were

Perhaps others are thinking of Rosas, too.  Those who have read his story in the newspapers or who have gone to the  Help the Gutierrez Family GoFundMe site ( may also be thinking about him and praying that his court hearing goes well.  His story is one that is all too familiar these days on our Long Beach Peninsula:

Rosas has lived here for 18 years.  His long-time girlfriend, Gladys, had been arrested in an apparent sting operation by ICE agents who had arranged a meeting to buy some piñatas she and her young daughters made.  Gladys was handcuffed and taken away as her girls, aged 4, 7, and 12, looked on.

Gladys, the first mother to be taken by ICE from this tiny community, was deported to Mexico last summer; the girls followed as soon as transportation could be arranged.  Rosas has been supporting his family from here, sending Gladys his paychecks and talking with them by telephone several times a day.  When alerted about Rosas’ arrest, Gladys burst into tears.  “How will we live?” she cried. “How will I feed my girls?”  Meanwhile, from the federal prison in Tacoma, Washington, Rosas awaits a court date as an outraged community looks for ways to help.

Maybe all of our thoughts together will create enough positive energy to cause a good outcome for Rosas and his family.  But… which is the best outcome?  An opportunity for him to stay in our community and work to provide them a livelihood?  Or deportation to Mexico and reunion with his loved ones but without a means of supporting them?  I ache for them and the thousands of others who are in similar circumstances.

How I wish that repairing our immigration laws was an easy fix.  As easy as calling the electrician to prepare my stove for hookup.  I feel shame and guilt and frustration as I step into my day.  Good luck, Rosas!  We are thinking and praying and working for you!

Super Moon! Wolf Moon! Charlie’s Moon!

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

Wolf Moon

Last night we took turns talking to Charlie the old-fashioned way – by telephone, one at a time.  I think that we have skype possibilities but that didn’t occur to us.  We just wanted to tell him “Happy New Year” and so we called.  It was Marta who enthused to him that “his” moon was gorgeous over the bay, “Yes.  Your moon!  Charlie Howell.  Wolf Moon. Get it?” she said.

I don’t know what his response was, but her remark opened up an entire line of thought that had never occurred to me.  That Charlie is a night person I have known for more than half a century.  But never before have I associated his last name with the howl of a wolf, nor made a connection between Charlie and the moon.  Not even with this Super Moon which is also called a Wolf Moon.

WWII Beach Patrol

Almost simultaneously, I thought about my grandfather who once had a run-in with the World War II Night Patrol as they clip-clopped on horseback through Oysterville one moonlight night.  Papa was on the roof replacing some shingles and the young Coast Guardsmen ordered him down.  “Don’t you know there’s a blackout, sir?”  one asked.  I don’t know whether Papa came down or not but I do know that he replied, “Don’t you know that God put that moon up there, son?”  It was an oft repeated story by family and neighbors.

Much to my grandmother’s everlasting irritation, my grandfather was a night person of the first order.  Despite her calls down to the room they called the nursery, “Come to bed, Harry!” he seldom complied until the sky was already growing light in the east.  He’d arrive, fully dressed and wide awake, in the dining room for breakfast about the time the rest of us were about to have lunch.  As a child, I never thought that was peculiar.  It was just Papa.

Early Morning Moon Through Our Window

I can’t imagine why I have never thought that my own son’s upside-down sleeping habits might be genetic.  Or was it some subliminal understanding that passed between them the one time they met and Papa, in his eighty-third year, cradled his seven-month old great-grandson with such delight and affection?

Wolf Moon.  Charlie Howell.  Night person like Papa.  Working by moonlight.  Just sayin’…

Bittersweet Memories on New Year’s Day

Monday, January 1st, 2018

Medora, 1916

(Saturday, January 1 1916) The first day of the New Year – May 1916 accomplish more than 1915 did in building my character!  Though I feel far better satisfied with the past year than the one before, and thus may the years continue, each one more perfect than the last until I find everlasting peace.  A complication of affairs is keeping me at home this next week from school and in those extra seven days I want to help my dear family as much as possible.  There is so much to do in a household of eight which my little frail mother can not manage. 

I was twelve when I came across Medora’s diary.  It was 1947 — my seventh-grade year — and my mother and I were living here in Oysterville with my grandparents.  I had been ill and, for reasons long forgotten, I was ensconced in the north upstairs bedroom, rather than in my own small room overlooking the church.

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

In fit of boredom, I rummaged through the drawer in the old library table at the foot of the bed.  It held a treasure trove of ‘bits and pieces’ – Papa’s magnifying glass, my grandmother’s long unused buttonhook, and way back in the corner, Medora’s last diary.  I read the few entries with a mixture of awe and dismay.

Medora, my mother’s oldest sister, had died suddenly a few days after her seventeenth birthday.  That much I knew.  And that my middle name was in her honor.  But this diary from long ago was the first real kinship I had felt with her.  That she was only a few years older than I when she wrote the entries made the connection all the stronger.

I was full of questions and, although my mother was more than willing to share what she knew of Medora, her own memories were hazy.  “I thought of her as a fairy princess,” my mother told me.  “I had just turned four when she died…”

Medora’s Locket

My grandmother was more forthcoming.  She showed me some of Medora’s keepsakes – her locket (which I was given on my sixteenth birthday) and the yearbooks from Portland Academy where she was a student.  But, though it had been many years since Medora’s death, even I, a callow twelve-year-old, understood not to ask too many questions.

On Monday, January 3, 1916, Medora wrote her final diary entry: My seventeenth birthday.  Why I am really becoming a young lady!  I shall live this year cheerfully without any sentimental attachment awaiting my prince, and preparing for him.  If in all the long years he never comes, I have lots to do for others.

Two weeks later, Medora died in her sleep.  A cerebral hemorrhage the doctors said. The family who knew her never completely recovered and, for those of us who came after, there is always a bittersweet ache associated with her name and with the first days of each new year.

With Neither Bang ‘Nor Whimper

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

2017: One Step at a Time

On this last day of 2017, we thought we’d sleep in.  No alarm set to go off.  No over-riding reason for our internal clocks to waken us.  Nothing planned until tonight when we’ll gather with friends to see in the New Year.  A good day to be lazy.

But… we only got twenty minutes past the usual wake-up bell and then it seemed to be coffee time and the day began.  Damn!  It’s so unusual (at least for me) to plan an unstructured day (how’s that for an oxymoron?) that I feel totally discombobulated.  I can’t help but think that this final day of this most difficult year should be marked by something extraordinary.  Something exciting.  Something celebratory.  Something that says WE MADE IT loud and clear.

2017: A Year of Watching

T.S. Elliot’s poem, “The Hollow Men” comes to mind.  Not the whole thing.  Just the last line: Not with a bang but a whimper.  Except I’m not thinking about the end of the world.  Not exactly.  Though, Lord knows this past year gave me cause enough to think what would happen to my own world if the doctors couldn’t help Nyel…

And the news of the crazies running our country and poking at the crazies running other countries was far from reassuring.  I confess that I wondered if this old planet would survive long enough to die slowly from global warming or from pesticides or from strangulation by plastic debris.  With a bang or a whimper?

2018: Fill in the blanks

But, I can’t quite work up the requisite energy to celebrate the coming of 2018 one way or the other.  Not with a bang.  Not with a whimper.  I hope I haven’t become paralyzed by fear.  Nor do I want to sink into my grandmother’s “sea of despond” – her description of being overcome by lethargy now and then.

So, what’s the middle ground between whimper and bang?  It must be plodding.  One step in front of another.  Due diligence.  All that sort of thing.  Or…  perhaps I could emulate my grandmother once again.  Her solution to this unaccustomed feeling of ennui: I am going to take some liver pills tonight and my disposition may be improved thereby she wrote to daughter Medora when she was going through a bad patch.  Yikes!

Windy with a Chance of Tree Falls

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

Arborist At Work in Oysterville

I don’t much like the wind.  It unsettles me and makes me feel anxious.  I worry about trees falling and branches flying and downed power lines.  If this was the 19th century instead of the 21st, I’d worry about sailing vessels and shipwrecks and imperiled sailors.  As it is, I think about anyone who has to be out in the storm and wish them safe travels.

Yesterday was the stormiest day of the two weeks Marta has been here.  Not all that bad by Oysterville standards – rainy, to be sure, with winds of 24 mph and gusting to 40 – but not overly scary.  Even so, we were glad that Arbor Care took a break from their work across the street and it seemed a great relief later in the afternoon when the wind died down.

Splashers in Oysterville

More and more, I find excuses not to go out on blustery days.  I’m turning into one of those old ladies who peers out the window and has only a limited view of the passing parade.  So, it is that I’ve noticed the Arbor Care trucks across the street for the last few days (until the wind revved up) and watched one of the climbers (was it Jon?) find his way up into the branches of the old deciduous tree in front of the W.D. Taylor House.  A fruit tree?   I don’t remember.

Rainy Day Project

Later, I spied Tucker and Carol’s granddaughters, Danielle and Gabi, romping and splashing with great delight in the ‘Church Pond’ across the street.  I tried to take some pictures but they didn’t come out satisfactorily and, anyway, there is no zoom possibility for capturing their exuberance and enthusiasm.  They seemed oblivious to the wet and the cold, and when I talked with Tucker later he cheerfully reported that they were ‘soaked’ and he was building them a fire so they could dry out.  (Not warm up, mind you.  But, then, kids have no built-in thermostats…)

Marta seemed content to stay indoors with me – sorting and polishing silver.  Industrious, companionable, safe from the wind.  Perfect!

Stock: to take or to make?

Friday, December 29th, 2017

Prophetic Words on Last Year’s Calendar

These days between Christmas and the New Year are a good time to take stock – to review the last twelve months and balance accomplishments against failures, resolutions kept versus those that need renewal.  This year, my stock-taking is easy.

For one thing, I didn’t make any resolutions at all last year.  Not consciously, anyway.  It was a year with a singular focus:  Nyel’s health.  If I’d had thought to choose a ‘Letter for 2017’ (as I often do) it would likely have been ‘N’ for Normalcy.  That was the goal.  To get Nyel to a place where we could carry on as usual, or as close to that as possible.

Along the way, I learned a lot.  Maybe more than in any other single year when it came to matters of the heart.  On the one hand, of course, it was a year of teams of cardiac doctors and of hospitals and nurses and technicians and procedures – all focused on Nyel and his Congestive Heart Failure.  And, on the other hand, I learned, in ways never before experienced, the enormous capacity for caring among so many friends.  Perhaps last year’s letter could have been ‘H’ for Heart.

Another Bit of Good Advice

All-in-all, as hard as it was, 2017 was a good year.  It made me realize the importance of those day-to-day routines and seemingly insignificant happenings that are often obliterated by the unusual.  It might have been an ‘A’ for Appreciate year.

Like right now, for instance.  Nyel is in the kitchen making turkey stock!  Never mind that our spiffy new stove is still clotting up most of the available floor space in the kitchen and will not be operable for another ten or twelve days.  And never mind that he has precious little counter space to work on and that the hot plate shuts itself off too regularly for even, dependable cookery.  ‘P’ for Persistence and ‘D’ for Dependable and ‘W’ for We’ll Never Go Hungry all come to mind.

Three more days to wrap up this year.  As Jill Trenholm’s song says, “I’m looking forward to looking back on all this” but with high hopes that next year will be better.  I’m not quite sure what the Letter of the Year will be.

Helen, Mary, Marta, and Me

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Marta with Mary’s Letters

One hundred thirty years ago, in 1887, Helen Richardson and Mary Wallace lived three houses apart in East Oakland, California.  They were nine years old and were best friends. Ten years later Mary would marry a musician named Hamlin and would move to Santa Barbara; not too many years after that Helen moved to Oysterville as Mrs. Harry Espy.  They were bridesmaids at one another’s weddings, remained friends throughout their lives, and visited one another whenever circumstances permitted. When I was a little girl, my grandmother Helen sometimes told me of their childhood tea parties and of the pet monkey given to Mary by her uncle.

From Mary to Helen, 1887

I can’t remember if we talked about the paper dolls that they created or of the letters they sent back and forth when one of them was sick – letters dutifully delivered by Mary’s father “Postman Wallace.”  A number of years ago, I had the paper dolls framed – a triptych of ball gowns and capes, tea dresses and nightgowns, skirts and bodices, sister-brother outfits, and matching mother-daughter costumes.  They were drawn in exquisite detail using pencil on the backs of notepaper, wallpaper, wrapping paper, advertisements, business cards and whatever else came to hand.

Children at Play by Mary Wallace, 1887

Still tucked away with a few remaining paper dolls is a little envelope chock-full of the “letters” between Helen and Mary.  Some contain plans for paper doll activities:  Paper dolls marrage [sic] at Addie Blood’s home.  By Helen. Some refer to books they are reading – Little Women, Little Men, Robinson Crusoe.  Most contain plans for their next get-togethers, often scheduled for later that very day.

Triptych of Paper Dolls

Yesterday after breakfast, I ‘introduced’ those little girls of long ago to Marta.  We spent an hour or so, poring over the old-fashioned handwriting and marveling at the detail of Mary’s drawings.  Unfortunately, we don’t have the ‘other side’ of the correspondence – the letters that Helen sent to her friend.  Were they, too, illustrated with such intricate detail?  We can only surmise and be grateful that Helen saved as much as she did – especially for us.  Or so I like to think!