Posts Tagged ‘Winter in Oysterville’

When older is better – a lesson re-learned!

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

Electricity came to Oysterville in 1936 – the year I was born.  In Seattle it was 1910, the year before my mother was born.  And in Portland, 1888 – two full generations before FDR’s rural electrification program made it here to the outlying areas.

I’m not sure whether my grandparents and great-grandparents complained about that delay in getting up-to-date.  Probably not.  I doubt that they cared much about the amenities that might be possible were they able to plug in – except maybe the possibility of giving up the outhouse in favor of indoor plumbing.  That was the first improvement in most houses.  Once an electric pump could be installed and water could be pumped directly indoors… tah dah!  Flush toilets!

Those of us who live in the outlying areas take some pride in being able to manage power outages without much ado.  Granted, many people now have their own back-up generators but I tend to think that those folks are mostly ‘newcomers’ from the urban areas.  Probably a kind of reverse snobbishness on my part.

Actually, though, power outages are few and far between these days.  Just frequent enough to remind us of what life was like for our forebears. Not that we outliers don’t still have our crosses to bear.  Nowadays, it’s high speed internet access and reliable cell phone service that we can’t depend upon.  Until recently, I think I’ve shared the somewhat skeptical do-we-really-need-that attitude my grandparents probably had about Edison’s new-fangled invention.  Land lines and dial-up and other fledgling conveniences have been do-able.

But, suddenly Nyel’s medical needs have bumped smackdab into the twenty-first century.  He now has two devices – a pacemaker and a CardioMEMS unit – that depend upon satellite transmissions to the doctors in the big city.  They don’t work.  Not that we don’t have cell phone coverage here in the Oysterville outback.  It’s just not good enough.

Fortunately, the CardioMEMS machine could be re-calibrated this morning (by the patient, himself!) to transmit its findings through our landline.  (And thank goodness we re-grouped a few years ago and got that landline back after thinking we could save money by going completely cellular!)  As for the transmitter for the pacemaker – we need to see if we can’t turn this one in on an older model.

Like I’ve been saying for years… older is really better in oh-so-many ways!

The big box stores? You’re kidding… right?

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

from our bookmark

As a former independent bookstore owner, I have a very healthy skepticism about big box stores – in particular Amazon and CostCo.  Come to think of it, maybe they are beyond the big box category.  But, in large measure, they put our bookstore, the Bookvendor, out of business at the turn of this century.

We simply could not compete. They were selling books at a retail price that was far less than we paid to get those same books directly from publishers or from our distributor.  Our pockets just weren’t deep enough or full enough for us to sustain.

For a while afterwards, we had our own little boycott going.  If we bought a book, we bought it from an independent store that was, somehow, able to keep on keeping on.  Better yet, if we were interested in a new book, we tried to buy directly from the author knowing, as we did, that they often get a little higher percentage that way.

But, over time, we have relaxed our position somewhat.  I even have placed a ‘button’ on my website so that readers can buy directly from Amazon if that’s their choice.  For most of my own books, that reduces my cut to single digits rather than double digits per book.  I’m talking pennies here, folks.  Seriously.

So, the other day I ran up against yet another way that big box stores adversely affect authors.  This time, it’s not a matter of the bottom line.  It’s a matter of the ‘in the beginning was the word’ part.  Last week I agreed to write another book for a local organization – a book that had been suggested and encouraged by the nation’s leading publisher of regional and local photographic history books according to the publisher’s acquisitions editor.

At this end we decided that a good release date for the published book would be eight months hence, to coincide with a big, local annual festival.  A great time for a book launch we thought.  Maybe came the answer from the publisher.  Maybe they could make that publication date.  I would have to have the book completed by early April so that it would come out in mid-October.  Say what?

I get six weeks.  They get six months.  What is wrong with this picture, I asked.  The answer wasn’t what I expected but not exactly surprising, either:  The main issue with the timeframe is that the six months for production and printing is not really an accurate reflection on how much time we need to put the book together but rather the requirement on us from chain stores for advanced notification about upcoming books. They need that time to plan their inventory across all of the publishers with whom they work…  Even though we use a number of retailers and distributors to help get the books in front of a wide audience, having a major retailer refuse to carry a book can really impact it negatively…

So, there you are.  That old bottom line again.  Big Box Bottoms this time.  I repeat… who knew?

The Hours in a Day

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Time is one of those concepts that I don’t understand.  I only know that there never seems to be enough of it.  But that space-time continuum thing and the-seeing-something-from-a-speeding-train-while-someone else-sees-it-from-the-platform thing… You know, that mass and energy E=mc2 thing that Einstein figured out?  That completely escapes me.

I do know that time moves much faster for those of us who are older.  Instead of waiting forEVER for Christmas, it now gallops into view at warp speed, ready or not.  Each of our days is shorter, too.  What happened to those long, lazy afternoons of childhood when we had time down at the bay to build castles and dig tunnels and slide on the moss-covered ballast rocks for hours and hours and hours before dinner?  Now, it seems to take all afternoon just to walk down the lane to the bay and back, never mind the building projects.

I was never one to waste time being bored, though.  No one ever told me that “boredom is a choice.” I always knew, instinctively, that time was precious and that once the day was done, you couldn’t get it back.  I remember thinking about that the first time I ever flew to the East Coast, back in 1957.  As I recall, from San Francisco to New York was a five-hour trip in those days, but the trip back home took a shorter amount of time.  So, did that mean I had added or subtracted a bit of time to my life?  And what if I just kept flying in the same direction every time I took a trip?  Could I prolong my allotted time on this mortal coil?

But, as we all know, time is an arbitrary measure, Time zones and the international date line are man-made concepts to help us keep track of ourselves as our planet rockets around the sun.  It was probably easier back when the earth was flat and the sun did the moving.  Although, come to think of it, I don’t think people lived longer in those days.

Bottom line: I have a lot to do these next few days and I’m not sure how to manage all of it.  Time to get on with it.  Or, as we’ve always said in this family, “Times a-wasting!”

Peninsula Time and Other Imponderables

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

“Judge not that ye be not judged” says the Good Book.  That’s a hard one, at least it is for me.  It’s right up there with “patience is a virtue,” though that particular idiom didn’t come from the Bible.  On the Peninsula, I bump heads with those two thoughts on a regular basis.

Take a matter as simple as timeliness.  It doesn’t take newcomers long to run smack up against the concept of “Peninsula Time.”  Almost any event – a meeting, a funeral, an appointment, a theater experience – may start a bit late here.  Perhaps five or ten minutes after the appointed time.  Sometimes there is a formal announcement but, more often, just a murmur throughout the crowd… “we must be starting on Peninsula Time.” Old-timers don’t seem to mind.  More chance to do some serious visiting with someone you haven’t seen for a while.

Forty years ago, when I was new at this fulltime Peninsula living business, that proclivity for mooshy starting times irritated me to the max and I did not think kindly about whoever was in charge.  And never mind my thoughts about those who ambled in late, counting on a few minutes of grace before things got started.  It was all very irritating.

I think I’ve gotten over myself on those particular peculiarities of Peninsula living.  In fact, when I’ve been the one in charge, I’ve been known to make the announcement that we (for whatever reason) will be running on Peninsula Time for this event.  I’m sure that people have judged me unkindly in those instances.  Tit for tat, you might say.

But, I still haven’t gotten over my frustration with a close relative of the Peninsula Time syndrome – Callback Failure.  I absolutely cannot understand why local workmen do not return calls – not even to acknowledge that you want to hire them.  Not even to say, “I’ll need to put you on the list; it’ll probably be a few weeks before I get to you.”  I can’t believe that business is so good, ever, that people do not need to pay attention to customer good will.

Of course, I’m not absolutely sure that Callback Failure is peculiar to the Peninsula. But it seems to happen here on a continuing basis – perhaps understandable (kind of) in good times when there’s a plethora of work but, still shortsighted, by my reckoning.  I have long been a proponent of hiring locally.  It just makes sense to have someone who knows our weather conditions, is familiar with the local regulatory policies and procedures, and can network with nearby sources for equipment, materials or consultation.  Why would you hire someone from afar?  Why, indeed?

It’s not exactly happenstance that I am spending this rainy February morning thinking about these issues.  But, prudence suggests that I say no more.  Perhaps that other Peninsula anomaly will kick in: the All-of-a-Sudden-Before-You Know-It phenomenon!  We can but hope.

Don’t Talk To Me

Friday, February 16th, 2018

“The Scream” by Edvard Munch

Don’t talk to me about thoughts and prayers.
Don’t talk about God.
Don’t even talk about guns.
I don’t want to hear about lives wasted
Or about the second amendment
Or about safe spaces or training teachers.
Say no more about mental health
Or a broken political system.
And not about Australia, either.
Don’t talk to me about freedom and democracy.
Don’t waste breath or words.
Don’t talk at me.

Feeling Blessed Midst Valentine Bouquets

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

Camellias from John and Steve

The rooms in our house are overflowing with flowers – roses, tulips, camellias, roses, cyclamen, a spring bouquet, more roses!  Every single room!  They were Valentine gifts from friends and from my beloved, as well.  I feel surrounded by cheerfulness and good wishes and promises of springtime and happiness.

I can’t help thinking that should I shuffle off this mortal coil without anyone noticing, it would be all right.  A rather morbid thought, to be sure, but it’s one I learned from my sainted mother.  More than once I heard her say at a funeral or memorial service, “All these flowers – wasted!  Bring me flowers while I’m living!”  And we did.  Yellow roses were her favorite.

Tulip Garden from Jon and Pat

I’m glad to say that flowers have arrived in abundance during my own lifetime and I have enjoyed every blossom… “as god intended” my friend Te would say. Nyel has spoiled me on many an occasion with long-stemmed red roses and I never cease to be amazed at the generosity of friends who arrive with elaborate bouquets on all sorts of occasions – as well as on non-occasions and just-because.

There have been tomes written about the meaning of flowers – Daisies: innocence and hope; Roses: love and desire; Yellow Tulips: cheerful thoughts.  Even the sorts of arrangements have meaning, from nosegays to bridal bouquets.  Speaking of nosegays, did you know that during the Victorian era a small one,  a “tussie mussie,”  might include chamomile flowers, which a woman might send to a romantic interest to tell him “Patience” whereas goldenrod represented indecision.  And I was interested to learn that the oldest evidence of formal arranging of bouquets in vases comes from ancient Egypt, and depictions of flower arrangements date to the Old Kingdom (~2500 BCE).

Roses from Kitt and Doug

In this stress-filled world of today, I’m so glad that the tradition of flower-giving continues unabated! Walking through a house filled with flowers goes a long way toward re-balancing my thoughts and putting my own corner of the world in perspective.  You just can’t be surrounded by flowers and not feel blessed!

The Urge To Help

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

The Alice

When I read that Bob Duke and some of his drone buddies were trying to find the Alice, I had an almost overwhelming desire to help.  Not by sending my drone up over the beach.  (I don’t have a drone.)  No, my urge was one I have rather frequently – to go back in time and spend a day with one or two of my forebears.  In this case, it was my Aunt Medora who came to mind.  She was just ten years old when she wrote:

                        Friday, January 15, 1909 at half past eight
Dearest Mama,
            There was a ship come in last night at three o’clock.  The crew consists of 27 men.  They can’t speak English.  Bradford, Dorothy and I went to see the ship.
            The ship is about a mile from Ocean Park.  There was quite a number going from town.       We didn’t have any school after (12) twelve o’clock because we wanted to go see the ship.
                                                                        Your loving daughter, Medora Espy

If only I could spend that afternoon with Medora and the group “from town” in their walk down the beach to the Alice.  I wonder if such an excursion would help locate the remains of the ship in the here and now. Even if Medora’s report of “about a mile from Ocean Park” was accurate, how far out beyond the tideline would we have to look?  How much accretion has there been at that part of the beach since the jetties went in?  Probably the Army Corps guys have facts and figures about that.  Or maybe Kathleen Sayce who has been working on sand and dune related projects for years.

By Bob Duke

As I understand it, the hope is for the drones to locate the outline of the wrecked ship, or at least the outline of her cement cargo, from on high.  When the graceful French sailing ship Alice blew onto the beach on that early morning 109 years ago, her cargo of 2,200 tons of cement was immediately catalyzed into hard packets by the salt water.  Plans for her salvage were not even considered.

The ship had left London six months previously with about two-thirds of a full load of pulverized cement in barrels.  She was bound for the Columbia River but when she came in sight of her destination, the tugboat necessary to a safe entry of the river could not approach because of the heavy winds.  For six days it was “in and off and hove to” according to Able-Bodied Seaman DeReugemond.

When the ship finally blew into shore, it was the howling of young Willie Taylor’s dog, Solano, that raised the alarm. Ironically, the dog, itself, had been a shipwreck-victim two years earlier when the Solano, a four-masted schooner ran aground four miles to the north.  And, hence, the dog’s name.

Crew of the Alice at the Taylor Hotel, 1909

The dog’s master quickly spread the word and the North Beach Life Saving Crew hitched the horses, placed the surfboat on the beach cart, and took off for the scene of the wreck.  Reaching the ship was difficult; soft sand and adverse weather made the horses balky.  Fortunately, all hands reached shore safely using their own lifeboat.

One of the cherished memories of the late Beulah Slingerland Wickberg (1893–1995), at the time a teenager, was of playing the piano at the Taylor Hotel for the Alice’s French sailors to accompany their singing.  “After all,” she would recall, “music is a universal language.”

Coming Up: Chinese New Year!

Sunday, February 11th, 2018

Chinese New Year Begins February 16th

We are just finishing up the Year of the Rooster, according to the Chinese zodiac.  Presumably, this was a good year for me (born in the Year of the Rat), dotted with occasional annoyances.  For Nyel (born in the Year of the Goat) health was supposed to be “the trickiest area of all” in 2017.  Well, they got that right.  But the fine print (or maybe the smallest stars?) said “you have to be focused and careful to avoid small accidents: your muscles, cruciate and bones are under more stress during this year.”  No mention of the heart which, as we all know, was the centerpiece of Nyel’s life in every single way last year.

But then…  I also read that the Rat and the Goat are absolutely incompatible.  In fact, in the Rat’s (me) overall zodiac, the advice is to never ever marry a Goat (Nyel); that’s the one (and only one) you should avoid.  Hmmm. Thirty plus years too late. But, it’s easy to see why we might not get along, at least according to the Chinese zodiac.

Nyel’s Sign in the Chinese Zodiac

Nyel (the Goat) is supposed to be gentle, mild-mannered, shy, stable, sympathetic, amicable, and brimming with a strong sense of kindheartedness and justice.  All of which fits Nyel perfectly.  The Rat, on the other hand, is quick-witted, resourceful, versatile, kind, smart, and lovely (yes, of course, that’s me!) but we lack courage, and good command skills. Rats are not capable as leaders (also true). And, worst of all, Rats do not have broad minds and, though we are kind, we are sometimes impolite to others (probably also true.) And, finally, “People of the Rat zodiac sign usually sleep late, for mice are nocturnal animals.”  Now, that is an absolute falsehood when it comes to me.  So…

On Friday we will be embarking upon the Year of the Dog during which “the 12 Chinese zodiac signs must show tolerance and empathy towards the people they meet to preserve their karmic balance, especially if they wish to avoid unnecessary conflicts.  Sounds good. (Plausible, even.)  Nyel’s predicted compatibility with all that preserving his karma stuff gets six stars out of ten, whereas I am awarded only five.  Sounds like it will be only a so-so year for both of us.  Hmmm.

Sydney’s Sign in the Western Zodiac

In the western zodiac, I am a Pisces and Nyel is a Leo.  About our chances together it is said, “It is incredible how two signs that represent love, can be so wrong for each other.”  So, there you have it.  Whichever zodiac we look at, eastern or western… not so great.  Which just goes to show you why I gave up all that “What’s your sign?” business when I left California forty years ago.  Before I met Nyel.  Thank goodness!

The thing about this aging process…

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

In My Mind’s Eye

You know how every once in a while, you run smackdab into some reality or other than you had never before considered?  Like this getting old thing.  I am in full acceptance of the fact that my mind and body are showing the ravages of time, but it is always amazing to me that my long-time friends are in the same situation.

Take parties, for instance. Traditionally in this house we have a big party once every year or so – usually Christmas.  My folks did.  We do.  By big I mean a hundred or so guests.  We move most of the furniture out to make room for the people.  I think of those parties as “California style” – everyone stands and mingles and moves (read sidles) from the food table in one room to the bar in another room and from group to group of people.  We stand.  We wander.  We talk and laugh and never think about the time.  I love those big parties.

A Friday Night Gathering

When I moved to the Northwest forty years ago, I found that most parties here were different.  They were smaller in terms of people, perhaps more elaborate in terms of food, and people sat (sometimes in a big circle) and visited.  The parties were cozy and welcoming and different from what I was used to.  And I love those sorts of parties, too. In some ways, I hope, we have incorporated that feeling into our Friday Night Gatherings.

But back to those California style parties.  The last one we had was Christmas 2016 and it was the first time I was aware that people needed to sit down.  Yes.  Needed.  Our friends were no longer whippersnappers of thirty or forty springtimes.  They were seventy or eighty with old legs, old backs, and maybe a few pounds (ahem) heavier than they were back in the day.  Some bravely sat on the carpet in front of the fire and, though I didn’t see the getting-up process, they must have managed because they weren’t still here in the morning.

A Stand-Up Group

There are some things that don’t quite compute.  Like the aging of our friends.  And our children!!!  (Now that’s another gobsmacker!  Say WHAT?  Hearing aids now in the younger generation?)  But, really, I’m just as happy having at least one time a year when we are again all in our prime, even if its only in my mind.  The reality check is the next day.  Will I remember where we stashed the chairs?  Or why?

If it ain’t one thing…

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

“Heart’s Content” by Martha Hinson

It doesn’t pay to relax.  No siree!  Not for a single minute.  Now it’s a failing drain field.  Maybe.  Pleasegodno I keep thinking.  But sometimes… you just know.

These days, you can’t just dig a new hole and move the outhouse.  And ditto a new septic tank and drain field.  There are too many of us and that means rules and regulations so we can keep our impact minimized.  Especially here near the bay.  We’re all for that.  But… now might be the time to win the lottery or, at the very least buy a ticket.  I understand these new fangled septic systems cost an arm and a leg.  At least.

The experts tell us that if Oysterville didn’t exist, it couldn’t be settled where it is today.  The water table is too high (and getting higher), we’re too close to the bay, and the million-dollar oyster industry is under enough environmental stress without our adding to the s***list, so to speak.  Fair enough.  But pleasegodno.

Our Lower Meadow in Winter

Sewage is a big problem here on the Long Beach Peninsula.  We don’t have a peninsula-wide sewer system.  Only the incorporated parts of the county have that luxury (or problem, take your pick.)  Both Long Beach and Ilwaco are struggling to keep up with state regulations.  They are dealing with ‘biosolids’ (a fancy term for certain kinds of sewage sludge, as I understand it) and trying to upgrade to Department of Ecology Standards.  Bottom line:  our winter rainfall makes the usual disposal methods unacceptable here.  Wouldn’t you know.

It all comes back to too many of us wanting to be right here on the western edge. Today it’s sewage; tomorrow a tsunami.  It doesn’t pay to relax.  Not for a minute!