Archive for the ‘Nyel Stevens’ Category

I can’t believe it’s been 20 years!

Thursday, October 26th, 2023

Cannon Salute 2011

On October 9, 2003, Nyel sent out this letter:

Dear Friends and Relatives,
Oysterville is gearing up for its 150th anniversary celebration — the Oysterville Sesquicentennial.  Events will begin on Sunday, April 11, 2004 with a reception for Oysterville resdents and participating sponsors.  The big community-wide celebration — which we hope you will come to — is scheduled for the weekend of July 31/August 1 2004.
On April 12, 1854, R. H. Espy and his partner, Isaac A. Clark, paddled up the bay for a rendezvus with Chinook Chief Nahcati.  The Chief showed them the stands of native oysters on the tide flats in front of what was to become Oysterville — and the rest is history!
Accounts of early celebrations in Oysterville often mention that R.H. Espy, dressed in “linen duster and beaver hat,” began the festivities by giving the signal for a cannon to be fired down at the bay  We have not been able to find out what happened to that cannon, but it seems fitting, in honor of the  Sesquicentennial Celebration that we try to re-enact that interesting bit of Oysterville’s history.  All we need is another cannon!
When Sydney and I visited Gettysburg last year,  I learned that a cannon and carriage can be purchased for $5,000 to $8,000.  We are going to try to raise the money for these items by forming an Honorary Oysterville Militia and selling commissions to interested friends of Oysterville.  Enlistees will receive a special certificate (suitable for framing) and all ranks above sergeant will receive an Honorary Oysterville Militia cap with appropriate logo.  Founding members of the militia will have their names inscribed on a plaque to be displayed with the cannon.  If we do not make our goal by the kick-off event on April 11, all monies will be refunded and the erstwhile Oysterville Militia disbanded,
I urge you to join now and enlist your friends and family in this worthwhile and historic enterprise!
Nyel Stevens

The upshot (so to speak):  We made our goal; cannon and plaque are on display (and, in the case of the cannon, in “ceremonial use”) from May 1st through October 1st each year and for all important holidays, memorials, and other events.  At the present time, despite attrition through “loss in the line of duty” over the years, we currently have 83 active members and are still selling commissions to interested supporters.

Lieutenants Scott and Jenny Mundine, Recent THOM Enlistees


September 13, 1987 seems so short ago.

Tuesday, September 12th, 2023

September 13, 1987

Thirty-six years ago today

Nyel and I were married

At Croquet.

Gordon was my Bridesmaid,

Roy was Best Man.

Joel Penoyar did the honors

Much to Willard’s chagrin!

Wedding Picture by Kati Downer

It was a surprise to everyone

Except to my son Charlie

My mother had the vapors

Dad had another drink.

I gave Michelle my bouquet

And she took it to class for sharing,

Proceeds?  To Water Music that year.

It was the best wedding ever!

Wedding Pillow from The Franks

“Sing me a song…”

Saturday, September 2nd, 2023

Marais and Miranda

I was so pleased that my friend Mary followed my blog suggestion yesterday and looked up Josef Marais’ song, “Pity the Poor Patat.”  She made no comment about it, but I was happy to know that someone “out there” had connected, perhaps for a first time, with Joseph Pesssach (1905-1978), a folk-singer from South Africa whose stage name was Joseph Marais.  For many years he sang with a partner and they were known as “Marais and Miranda” — and if you don’t remember them, you may be old enough to recall the Doris Day/Frankie Laine rendition of their song “A-round the Corner (beneath the berry tree}.”

I first learned of Marais and his music from my college roommate Sandra Peters (who, some years later, was to become my sister-in-law, making our children first cousins.)  Sandy came from a musical family, but more importantly to me, a rather quirky one.  Not only did she and her sister share an attic room with a pet bat (!), her dad played the musical saw and Sandy knew more off-the-grid folksongs than I’d ever heard of.

Sydney and Nyel – Wedding Picture 1987

However, it wasn’t until I met Nyel that all those songs (and more) came bubbling forth — perhaps because he said he didn’t sing (and, indeed, I never heard him do so — not even when standing beside me at church during the hymn-singing) — but he always asked me to sing!!  Me!  The one who can’t carry a tune in a bucket but remembers all the words — especially the kookie ones.

Mostly, his requests for “musical entertainment” came when we were on car trips.  Since I have always been pretty much night-blind, he would drive after dark and it was my “job” to keep him awake.  He didn’t seem to mind my tenuous tune-carrying and he enjoyed the lyrics — which often led to discussions about where I’d learned them, from whom, and about the years before we had met.  (It’s hard for me to believe that even as late-in-life as we did meet, by the time Nyel died, we had spent nearly half of our lifetimes together!)

Sydney and Nyel — Oysterville Sesquicentennial, 2004

It both amuses and pleases me that music was such a huge part of our lives, though both of us professed to a severe “lack” in that area of accomplishment.   But… I did follow my mother’s advice to “Make a joyful noise” and, somehow, ended up with the perfect appreciative partner!  And… back to yesterday’s potato patch discovery:  you can never tell what will trigger a song and a whole host of fabulous memories.  They don’t say “music makes the world go ’round” for nothing.


Replicating Nyel’s gazpacho recipe! (Maybe.)

Wednesday, August 16th, 2023

Nyel’s Gazpacho Recipe

There was a lot of peeling and chopping and dicing and pulsing in my kitchen this afternoon.  And laughing and wondering, too.  My neighbor, Carol, came over to assist me with a recipe for a soup she’d never heard of and one I’d never attempted.  After all, it was Nyel’s recipe and he, of course, was the chef extraordinaire of the household.

Gazpacho!  It’s  a spicy soup that is usually made from chopped raw vegetables (such as tomato, onion, pepper, and cucumber) and is served cold.  Year in and year out, I never think of it — until the weather turns hot and my taste buds get to hankerin’… Plus, there is no such thing as making “a little” gazpacho as far as I know.  So with house guests coming for a weekend which promises to be sunny (and maybe still hot), I got out Nyel’s recipe box and… voila!  (Almost.)

Carol Wachsmuth – July 10, 2016

The problem as I (the non-cook of the family) saw it, was that the “recipe” was simply a list of ingredients with their amounts and a one-word direction saying “pulse.”  So, I called Carol.  “Do you have a food processor?” she asked.  “Maybe…” was my unsatisfactory answer, “but I’m not sure where it might be.”

She realized way before I did how hopeless things  were and she said, I’ll bring mine over and we’ll make the recipe together.  Which we did, though it was mostly Carol.  “Do you think the cucumber (or tomato or red bell pepper) chunks should be bigger than this?” she would ask. “Well, I’ve seen them bigger… but I’ve also seen gazpacho that is completely smooth,” was my less-than-helpful answer.  And then we’d laugh some more.

End result:  it looks beautiful; it tastes terrific; by Friday night dinner it will have blended to perfection!  (At least, I hope so.)  Bless Carol!  Bless Nyel!  And bless whoever “invented” gazpacho.  In fact, gazpacho predates the 16th century arrival of tomatoes (and peppers) in Europe; most culinary historians say that its roots go back to Islamic Spain, sometime between the 8th and 13th centuries.  So there you have it!


He’d have been 80. We celebrated anyway!

Friday, August 4th, 2023

Nyel at the 2012 Oysterville Regatta

Today marked the 80th anniversary of Nyel’s birth.  I wish he’d been here to celebrate with us.  He’d have been “sore amazed.”  Actually, he was quite astonished that he lived to be more than 70.  He was 78 years, 10 months, and 2 days old to be exact.

He’d told me more than once that when he was five or six, the doctor diagnosed him with a heart murmur.  Noting Nyel’s mother’s concern, the doctor told her not to worry and assured her than little Nyel would no doubt make it to 70.  That seemed a very long time away to little Nyel and when he did reach 70, he considered each additional year a gift of immeasurable value.  So did I.

For a number of years — when he was in his 60s I think, we used to go on an “overnight” to the Tokeland Hotel with our friends Petra and Michael.  We would take a picnic lunch and eat out on the hotel grounds or find a spot down by the water.  Then, we’d go for a walk around town or sit in the hotel living room and chat, taking a time out to go choose our rooms.

Tokeland Hotel 2012

Usually we were the only overnight guests.  (On at least one occasion, not even the proprietors were on the premises and they left us the key to the hotel in a “secret place” and said they’d be there in the morning to fix our breakfast!)  Since the bathrooms were of the “down the hall” variety, we chose rooms in separate halls so that each couple had a “private” bath.  It always reminded me of the houses in Oysterville when I was a child — not quite up to the 20th century mark and always smelling just a teensy bit damp and mildewy. For me it was those overnights were the epitome of nostalgia!

A few weeks ago Petra wrote and suggested we go out to lunch for Nyel’s birthday celebration this year!  So we did!  Not  to the Tokeland Hotel, mind you, but to a place on the Peninsula that we’ve been before but maybe won’t go to again.  Way too loud.  But Nyel wouldn’t have minded a bit.  And deep down… neither did we.

Sydney, Nyel, Petra – Tokeland Living Room, 2009

This evening I’m going with the Wachsmuths to the opening reception at CPHM for Amiran White and her photography exhibit “Chinuk Ntsayka!” We Are Chinook.  I know, even before seeing it, that this is an exhibit Nyel would love.  During our courtship days when he was “commuting” between Oysterville and the University of Washington, he was taking classes on Northwest Coast Native Art from legendary professor Bill Holm.  What he learned during those classes informed the rest of his life.  (There is still a box of porcupine quills in our garage — painstakingly extracted from a road kill for “some day” use.)

He would have enjoyed celebrating “his day” with me and with our friends!  I tried to enjoy it doubly for us both even though we were only half there!


This old house takes a family…

Monday, July 10th, 2023

The First Two Sections — A Family Accomplishment!

Along the west side of our house, between the public right-of-way and the fence line, my father planted a row of Jean Marie Rhododendrons.  (Or did Nyel plant them when we first moved in?  I’ll have to look that up…)  In any case, once they became well-established they began to grow like Topsy.  (And if you remember who Topsy was, please let me know.)

Nyel-the-Rhodie-Trimmer, 2020.

For a few years, Nyel would trim them neatly in the late spring and they pretty much stayed under control.  More recently, when he was wheel-chair-bound, he and I tackled them, every spring or summer… usually.  When Marta came for summer visits, she got into the act, as well..  It was definitely a family gardening project and Nyel, being Chief Plant Guy took on the job of Quality Control.  He even made a small standing measuring stick so we could be somewhat consistent.

Today’s helper: My Little Red Wagon!

Last summer (after his death in early June), I honestly don’t remember if we gave the rhodies a thought.  Probably not because by this summer they have been threatening to block our kitchen windows and obliterate the south garden fence.  Enter Charlie and Marta — to the rescue.  Of the four sections, there is one short one — horizontally that is– to the north; two medium-sized ones; and one ominously long one at the south end of the property   The kids and I did a fine job on the short and one of the medium-length ones.  Not half of the total, but a good start.

The Final Section – for tomorrow.

Today I did the second of the medium-lengths.  It took about two hours and I can’t say it looks perfect but… it’ll do.  Tomorrow I’ll tackle the longest section in which the Dorothy Perkins Roses have intertwined themselves.  It may be a scratchy two or three-day job.  Stay tuned.

And where are those “kids” when I need them?  There have been a few interested tourists.  Perhaps I could try my Tom Sawyer routine on them…

Too Quiet On This Western Front!

Saturday, July 8th, 2023

Marta and Charlie

Charlie and Marta left a little after mid-day and it is all too quiet here at the house even though Chris-the-Mower-Man was here for an hour or so.  And I’ve set the hoses and hear the reassuring snick-snick-snick of the sprinklers magically greening the garden.  And I even put Cinderella to work, cleaning up a few crumbs left over from last night’s revelries.  But still… the silence is omnipresent.

How did the time go so quickly?  Twelve days and nights!  They told me they wanted to do whatever I needed so I put them to work bigtime with the things I cannot accomplish on my own — washing all the curtains, getting a head start on trimming rhododendrons for starters.  But still we laughed and talked and carried on as only family folk can do!

We chose this one!

Marta said she’d do all the cooking — and she did!  Charlie spent a day across the river with me — helping me choose a new kitchen stove and cheerfully accompanying me on various errands — to CostCo, to the Verizon Store, to Fred Meyers.  How much easier it was with him along!  How I wish that they both lived closer by.

We managed to take a few tentative steps toward the eventual disposition of the house and its contents. We went out to lunch and out to dinner, saw old friends, were treated to Marta singing with Fred, went to Vespers, and participated in The Honorary Oysterville Militia’s Fourth of July Cannon Salute.

Nyel’s Final Resting Place

Most importantly — and the real reason for this summer visit by my two beloved ones:  we placed Nyel’s ashes in the Oysterville Cemetery near the gravestone that he helped me design in the months before he died.  It was a fitting tribute to the gentlest of men and I was so grateful for the assistance of my son Charlie and bonus-daughter, Marta.  As much as I miss them right now in this overly quiet house, I can think of little else but how lucky I am!


A Final Goodbye to Nyel

Wednesday, June 28th, 2023

Gathering at the Cemetery

We gathered at the cemetery today to wish Nyel our final farewell — just a few of us — Charlie and Marta, of course.  Tucker and Carol who were with me in the immediate hours after Nyel died June 8, 2022.  And Miki and Cate, our long-time friends who spent the difficult hours a few days later going through his clothes and helping me decide — Good Will, Peninsula Players, or a keepsake for one of his friends or farmily.

Sydney says “Goodbye.”

All this time, Nyel’s ashes have been waiting in the Ginger Jar just as my father’s did in 1992 and my mother’s in 2009.  I guess it’s now a family tradition and I may well be next,

“Who will talk to me Who will answer me…” From “The Owl’s Lullaby”

Each of us placed a handful or two of ashes in the hole Tucker had dug in front of our stone and said a few words of farewell.  Cate, (bless her!) brought her guitar and sang “The Owl’s Lullaby” with Marta and me joining in as we could.

The “ceremony” was mostly solemn, yet poignantly upbeat.  Nyel would have approved.  And I think he’d have loved the tea and goodies we had at the house afterwards, as well.  Will this “closure” provide some respite from grief?  No, of course not.  Will I still talk to him, seek his advice, follow what I know would be his example?  I hope so.

Nyel LeRoy Stevens will always be the best part of me.  How lucky I am!


Today, I had a little talk with Dorothy…

Sunday, June 18th, 2023

The Ginger Jar

Nyel and I have waited for more than a year to  transport him to his final resting place.  Not that we are in a hurry, you understand.  He has been waiting patiently since I brought him home in the Ginger Jar more than a year ago.  I’m quite sure he is content.  My father and, eighteen years later, my mother, also waited in that Ginger Jar until the time was right.

For Nyel, the time will be right in the next few weeks when Charlie and Marta will be here for ten days.  Then we can go together to place Nyel in front of our stone — a stone he never saw but helped plan, right down to the size of the lettering.  He also knew exactly where in the Espy Lot it would go and where he and I would spend eternity together.


The burial (or probably properly, the internment of the ashes) for us has a bit of a ritual.  Charlie and Marta will go up to the cemetery that morning and dig the appropriate size rectangular hole.   Then in the afternoon, we will take the Ginger Jar up to the Espy Plot, take turns putting handfuls of Nyel’s ashes in the hole, perhaps saying a few words as we do so.

Last, we’ll cover the ashes with mounds of flowers — traditionally Dorothy Perkins — and, in a day or two, we’ll replace the sod that was removed to make a nest for Nyel.  This time, though… we may have to find a suitable substitute for the Dorothy Perkins.  And that’s what I had to speak to her about this morning.

Dorothy Perkins in bud

Her buds aren’t even as big as petite peas.  She is just lollygagging all over our west fence, not a pink patch of petals in sight.  What the heck?  I looked back at some photos of past years and by mid June, Dorothy was always struttin’ her stuff.  But not this year…

“You have a week or ten days,” I told her.  I hope she was paying attention but it’s hard to tell sometimes with Dorothy Perkins!

Dorothy Perkins in Ten Days?

You probably can’t have too many toasters.

Thursday, June 8th, 2023

The toaster stopped working a week or so ago.  It’s been threatening for a while now.  After all, it’s a 1950s model Toastmaster and it’s seen a lot of service in its time.  It joined the household when Nyel moved in back in the early 80s with all his worldly possessions (which, thankfully, were few.)

There were his cooking utensils — cast iron frying pans and several All-Clad pots and some carbon steel knives and, then, a gazillion tools, mostly old collectibles like froes and blacksmithing tools — but a lot of modern, more useful ones too.

He sold his furniture and other “big stuff” with his condo, fortunately, and then tucked himself into my 800-square foot house that Ossie Steiner and the Mack Brothers had just completed for me on the bay.  And the rest is history, as they say.

So, when the toaster died the other day I wondered when Tucker’s friend Dell might be up here again. If anyone can repair that toaster, Dell can.

Meanwhile, I’ve ordered a very simple  (and classic-looking) replacement with one great additional feature — wider slots to accommodate bagels.  Yay!  It arrives tonight and I still have four mini-bagels in my freezer given to me by Lynn and Michael Madigan, of Bowery Bagels in Portland!

The best of all possible worlds, I say!  Bring on the cream cheese (but you can hold the lox.)