Academia Visits Oysterville

Jun 24, 2013 | 4 comments

I believe that Oysterville (and its environs) has more than its share of creative, talented, productive people.  I don’t know if it’s our isolation or mild climate or the proximity of the sea that seems to draw artists and writers to the area.  But, we are a little short on scholars.  That’s not surprising since we are many miles from a university campus which is, of course, the natural habitat of academics.



Years ago – probably nearly thirty, now – Nyel and I stayed for a time in Headington, England, with our friend Elizabeth Bullock.  Headington is a suburb of Oxford and Elizabeth was a widow with three children (grown and gone) and two extra bedrooms.

Elizabeth reserved one of those bedrooms for visitors like us and the other she rented out to a student.  She also earned a bit of extra money by typing scholarly papers for professors at the University.  It was a fine arrangement and allowed Elizabeth to stay ‘connected’ to all the fabulous opportunities that living in proximity to a premier university presented.

It was an ideal arrangement for Elizabeth in her waning years and this week I’ve had occasion to wish that we had an Oxford or a Cambridge of a University of Oysterville nearby.  I blame our friend Susan Waters for this fantasy.  Susan is a PhD candidate working on her dissertation which she is scheduled to defend at the end of July.  For the past week she has been holed up in “the blue bedroom” upstairs working furiously.

Susan is the wife of Irish fiddler Randal Bays and the mother of their two sons, Willie aged 11 and Owen aged 8.  They live in Seattle, a comfortable commute from the “U-Dub” campus where Susan has spent the past five years as a graduate student in ecology.  Much of her work has involved field studies during which she has collected data regarding pollinators and the effect climate change is having on their interaction with various plant communities.


Susan Waters

Now she is pulling together all she has learned and writing it up for the last big step before she becomes “Dr. Waters.”  Her busy summertime household is not a place where she can retreat and work to accomplish her finished dissertation.  Oysterville has been the answer!

When Randal and the boys headed home after Vespers last week, Susan stayed behind to work.  We see her at lunch and dinner and occasionally when she comes downstairs and heads out for a head-clearing walk.  Otherwise, we are totally unaware that she is here.

Nevertheless, we will miss her when she heads home today. We have enjoyed our little peek at academia during our mealtime conversations with her.  And, most certainly, she will leave behind my fantasy of having other graduate students (all with the excellent guest-habits of Susan, of course) ensconced in an upstairs bedroom.  It has really been lovely!


  1. Linda J

    It reminds me of the time I did something similar. Remember when I sent you (in your office downstairs) an email (from my room upstairs) saying, “I’m bored”? I believe my studies during that time were to take the teaching certification test for Idaho. Fun times.

  2. Stephanie Frieze

    What a lovely idea, Sydney. There must be a way of attracting other scholars to your little bit of paradise!

  3. Andrew Bullock

    I’ve just read your blog with your comment on my mother Elizabeth Bullock. I was also interested not just because of her but also because last week we went to see one of her Grandsons, Peter, graduate with a 1st from Cambridge in Natural Sciences (chemistry). She now has 6 grandsons and 3 grandaughters. She also has four great grand children. So the academic connection is still there.

    • sydney

      Congratulations to Peter! Wouldn’t your mom be pleased! And, happily, not only the connection to Academia continues, but also the friendships among us all — due, in large measure, to Elizabeth’s generous spirit and abiding interest in others. We have much to remember her for!


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