Archive for the ‘Up Close and Personal’ Category

“…as ithers see us.”

Saturday, May 8th, 2021

Our Garden in Early May – Photo by Cate Gable

My take-away from Robert Burns’ 1786 poem, “To A Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church” has always been that we would be disabused of our pretensions if we could see ourselves through the eyes of others.  But, lately, Nyel and I have received or run across photographs of things near and dear to us that have simply given us a different perspective.  If there have been pretensions involved, they have yet to come clear.

Like the photo of our garden that Cate sent yesterday taken from the path to the east — a path seldom taken by us these days.  “Your yard is gorgeous!” said the accompanying note, and we had to concur. In this case it’s probably one of those “can’t see the garden for the grass that needs mowing” or “the weeds that need pulling.”  It is so lovely to look again!  Through Cate’s eyes!

Sydney at Greenridge c. 1962 — Photo by Bill LaRue

And then, midst the  “treasures” (NOT!) that we are clearing out of our nooks and crannies came some photos of me taken 50 or 60 years ago by my (then) photographer husband Bill La Rue (Marta’s Dad.)  I remember that I was getting ready for work, putting on my makeup, and he was somewhere behind me with his Hasselblad.  I was in a hurry and he was an annoyance.  There are six of those photos, each 7×9 inches, mounted on heavy cardstock.  Were they once on display somewhere?  I don’t really remember.  I don’t think I liked them much.  And now???  All I can think of  is “was I ever so young!?”

Come to think of it, that’s what’s so hard about this down-sizing and purging process — at least to me.  It’s coming to grips with how we “saw” things then and how we see them now.  After a lifetime, perspectives change.  I see myself and Robbie Burns’ “ithers” from a totally different point of view now.  A better one?  Not necessarily.  And does it make the sorting-and-discarding process easier?  Not that I’ve noticed.  Not so far, anyway  I wonder if everyone goes through these agonies when the time comes…



Purging the Back Forty Report #1

Friday, May 7th, 2021

Tin File Box

That tin file box has been sitting on one of the shelves in the back forty for so long neither of us had “seen” it for ages.  It is a nondescript brown and has a handle — portable, you might say.  It also has a lock which, apparently, has been engaged since I put it  in place.  (I say “I” because it looked vaguely familiar and Nyel said, “Not mine.”)  The key?  No Clue.

Nyel spent a half hour or so going through our Memorial Key Repository.  No luck.  “Just torque it open with a screw driver,” said I.  “It’s probably full of love letters,” said he.  “Really? Do you have love letters?” I was immediately interested.  “Of course.  They’re upstairs in that blue box on the dresser in the twin-bed room.”  “Who are they from?”  “Mostly from you,” he said.  “Really?  I wrote you love letters?”  “Lots of them,” he answered, and I made a mental note to take a look sometime.

When the box popped open we saw several packets of letters tied with various colors of ribbon.  To me!!  Pre-Nyel.  From… well, never mind.  I have set them aside for now… Maybe I’ll read them.  Maybe not.  I’ve made another mental note.


A day late and… you know the rest.

Friday, April 30th, 2021

Clearing Out The Back-Forty — A Scary Proposition

As I wrote a few days back, Nyel and I are doing what we should have done during the Sheltering Time of 2020 — clearing out, cleaning up, relegating, and passing on.  It’s one of those love/hate jobs.

I love the re-discovery parts — coming across all those once-upon-a-time treasures that we couldn’t part with back in the… well, in the once-upon-a-time days.  But now that time has passed and our lives have actually taken on some semblance of “patterning,” we are almost having a good time of it.  I’m not sure “patterning” is the right term.  It’s whatever you call having lived long enough that your memories and the physical things connected to them fall into clear(ish) categories.  Mostly.

And it has something to do with having put chunks of things behind us.  Like the years before we lived here or before we met.  Or some of our vacations that we know won’t be repeated.  Or the events we participated in or, perhaps organized, that are over  and done with.  By now, all of the “stuff” associated with those things are easily parted with — but so fun to look at one more time and do some reminiscing.

Granny’s Cake Plate, 1897

We’ve also made it easier on ourselves by finding “homes” ahead of time for many of the things we’ll be sorting through.  Any Espy family related stuff — especially documents and photographs will go up to the Washington State Historical Research Center to join the Espy Family Archive.  Or to appropriate family members.  Our personal treasures, especially if community related, will go to appropriate local organizations or to relatives if items are family connected.  And then there’s the Good Will and Friends of the Library and local thrift shops.

The “hate” part of this chore, of course, is facing up to the fact that most of the “stuff” that has brought us so much pleasure during our lifetimes will have little or no meaning to anyone in the years ahead.  It’s just the way it is.  Especially when you leave no grands or greats.  No one to say, as I so often do about things in this house, “This cake plate was the first purchase my grandmother ever made with her own money, after she was married in 1897.  It cost her ten cents as I recall.  Or maybe it was twenty-five.  (Perhaps in all our purging I’ll find that list of her wedding gifts and the one of her first household purchases somewhere.)  History seems so much more “real” when it’s entwined with family and memories.  Doncha think so?

Snip! Snip! And… goodbye pigtails!

Saturday, April 10th, 2021

Goodbye Pigtails!

They were fun… until they weren’t.  By the time my pigtails were getting long enough to braid — which had been my CHG (Covid Hair Goal) — I had to face up to the fact that I my old gray locks were just too wimpy to do anything with.  Eighty-five-year-old hair, at least on my particular head, doesn’t have the volume it takes for even one braid.  Damn!

Indistinctive Again

So, I called on the kindness of a friend and she did the dirty deed — a serious haircut.  I wish I could say that eleven months of sheltering robbed me of my natural curl.  But no such luck.  With each snip of the scissors, a new curl emerged.  I could clearly hear each one say a different cuss word — as in what Mary Anne Shaffer, author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society famously said: “Naturally curly hair is a curse and don’t ever let anyone tell you different.”

Fun While It Lasted

Short, curly hair is also the “norm” for almost every little old gray-haired lady who is still up and taking nourishment.   So, now I are one again. (Is the opposite of distinctive, indistinctive?)  I couldn’t even feel badly because I knew full well what would happen.  Nyel, however, apparently did not.  As I was making my to-cut-or-not-to-cut decision, I made the mistake of showing him a picture of a “pixie haircut” that I liked because it partially covered the ears.  (I hate my sticky-outie ears!).  “My hair is too curly to look like this.  I just want her to leave it long enough for ear coverage,” I told him.

He didn’t get it.  (Do guys ever?)  When I came home for the Big Reveal, he looked absolutely dumbstruck.  And not in a good way.  “What???” I asked (even though I knew.)  He hedged a bit but under pressure finally said, “But I was expecting it to look like the picture…”

Oh well.  Some days are like that.  And now, they will all be like that.  It’s a curse, for sure!

Doncha just hate when that happens?

Saturday, September 26th, 2020

Sydney’s Neck

Not that I can understand the specifics behind my severe neck pain, but here is what I learned yesterday from my Primary Caregiver.

The x-rays showed:
Grade 1 anterior spondylolisthesis of C2 on C3, C3 on C4 and C4 on C5.  Plus moderate to severe degenerative changes fron C4-C5 through C6 and C7.

It’s probably fortunate that I really can’t read X-rays with assurance and that I don’t know the ramifications of big, scary-soundy words like spondylolisthesis.  Because of my age, “corrective surgery” is not an option, and I’m not sure it would be, anyway.  It would involve fusing some of those pesky vertebrae and I would then have little to no ability to move my head.

Sydney, 1941 — In the days when head-turning wasn’t problematic.

So, for the foreseeable future, I will depend upon muscle relaxants every eight hours as needed, tylenol for pain, and giving wide berth to activities that are likely to exacerbate the situaltion.

And, FYI,  as of today, I’m up and about and going on with life as usual, but a bit more slowly.  End of story.  But, probably not the end of the pain in the neck!


A Footnote to Our Local History

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

Sealand-Nahcotta 1890s

Perhaps you read my article about Sealand in the July 23rd Chinook Observer.  If not, you should be able to read it by cutting and pasting this link:

It was the fifth story in my series, “Once Upon A Time in Early Pacific County” and it’s one I thoroughly enjoyed writing — perhaps because I had a bit of first-hand knowledge about Sealand “the town across the tracks.”  Although I was a generation too young to have known it personally, I grew up hearing my grandparents refer to it — always.  When it came to the town four miles south of Oysterville, they never spoke of Nahcotta.  Only of Sealand.

Dorothy at Graduation fron IHS, 1948

So, I can hardly express to you the pleasure I felt when I received a note the other day from my friend, Dorothy Trondsen Williams.  Dorothy grew up here on the Peninsula — in Ocean Park — and was the granddaughter of J.A.  Morehead who figured prominently in my Sealand article.  Some years ago, I had written about Dorothy’s growing up years in my series “North Beach Girls of the Teens and Twenties.”  I drew from some of her reminiscences for the recent Sealand story.

In her note to me she said:  I especially enjoyed the Sealand Morehead articles in the Observer recently and thought you might be interested in the fact that I recently obtained J.A. Morehead’s desk.  Daughter Barbara plans to laminate the stories and they will be stored in the desk in a cubby hole for future generations to enjoy.

I couldn’t be more pleased!



Sartorial Splendor and Quality Control

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

Summer Wardrobe

I swear to you, half or more of my sheltering time has been spent trying to get a new pair of blue jeans.  So far, I’ve had no luck at all.  I blame it on sloppy quality control with a tad of over-zealous marketing thrown in.  Plus, I’m convinced that as Americans have chunked up, manufacturers have changed their sizing so we’ll all feel better about ourselves.  For those of us who haven’t chunked with the times, it’s not working.

For 20 years or maybe more, I’ve bought the same brand of jeans.  I don’t mind telling what brand they are — NYDJ.  “Not Your Daughters Jeans” which, they promise, will fit and enhance the “mature” figure.  Hmmm.

Not Measuring Up!

When I bought my first pair — size 6P, one size smaller than usual as advised — I was five-feet-two and weighed 120 pounds, give or take 5.  Now, I am five-feet-one-ish, still weigh 120-ish and am, perhaps a little thicker through the thorax than previously.  Twenty years can do that to a girl.

Add to that information that I have two (count ’em 2) wardrobes — summer and winter.  In summer, I wear blue jeans and a sweatshirt with, maybe, a tee shirt beneath it.  In winter, I wear blue jeans, a sweatshirt over a tee shirt, Nyel’s old down vest, and a rain hat.  When I “dress up,” no matter the season, I usually wear black NYDJ jeans and a black sweater and, if I remember, a colorful scarf.  Neat and tidy is my goal, not fashion plate.

Winterized Sydney

So, when I ordered a new pair of jeans, same size as usual, my expectations were also as usual.  The pants came and they seemed a bit loose around the middle.  Washing in hot water should take care of it I thought.  It didn’t.  So, I hung that pair in the closet and ordered a pair of size 4P.  For some Covid-19 related reason, there was a long delay.

Last night the package finally arrived (bless Fed Ex).  I’m here to tell you that 4P fit me perfectly!  Except that my legs seem to be three inches too short.  Despite my last experience, this new pair is in the washing machine.  If they are still too long, I’ll send them back — none of this hiding them in the closet until they change their mind.  Daughter-schmaughter!  Could we just have a little quality control?


Another Wednesday… and so it goes.

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

Perspective really is everything when you come right down to it.  Right now, during this sheltering time, my perspective has mostly to do with what day of the week and what week of which month it is.  Today being Wednesday, there are two all-important concerns on my agenda.  It is Observer day and it is garbage day — usually thought of in that order.

My interest in the Observer is often quite personal.  Take today, for instance.  It’s the day my column usually appears — the first Wednesday of the month.  Plus, I have a series going about early settlements here that are no more — “Once upon a time in Pacific County.”  There is no set time for the articles to go into the paper but, once I turned one in, I am ever hopeful.  I’ve been looking for several weeks for the most recently submitted — on Bruceport — and even took a look online this morning rather than waiting until I can get to the post office for our hard copy.  Sadly, not yet in print.

The other biggee on Wednesdays is getting the garbage out in time for the new, earlier pick-up time — 8:30 a.m.  Depending on which week it is, I try to get everything in the dumpster on Tuesday night so I just have to wheel it out in the morning.  Sometimes I even remember to place the car in the garage so I can get that pesky dumpster past it without backing out, repositioning, or whatever.   Putting the garbage out the night before is not an option, of course.  Bears!

Then, there’s every other Tuesday when we cross the river to Fred Meyer’s to pick up our grocery order.  That’s an adventure in and of itself — especially the unpacking part when we get home to find out what’s missing or what’s extra.  Yesterday, no Johnsonville brats and, instead of unsalted butter, it was salted.  And still no bread flour.

But we are well-stocked for the next two weeks, and therein lies the impact on this particular Wednesday morning.  By the time we put away all those groceries, re-packaging some things for the freezer, dealing with plastic bags (I thought those were outlawed in Oregon…) I had forgotten all about garbage day coming up.  Or was too tired to care.

And so it goes.  It all reminds me of that great book I used to read to kids:  The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown.  Each page followed a pattern in which the author told us what she thought was most important — never mind all the other characteristics — of a spoon or an apple or a shoe.  The kids often had their own ideas and didn’t always agree with Ms. Brown.

That would lead to the kids writing  their own “important books.”  One of my favorite (and, therefore, still memorable) pages was by a second grader who wrote:  “The important thing about me is that I am kind.  It is true that my name is Steve and that I am seven  and that I have two sisters.  But the important thing about me is that I am kind.”

The important thing about Thursday is…

Coming To Grips With Necessities

Monday, May 18th, 2020

In addition to our Covid Shags, there is the matter (in my case) of the Covid Claws.  It’s been years — at least 30 — since I’ve had to bother with manicuring my nails.  For a few years it was Jan and, for the last 20 or so, it’s been Gina To The Rescue — every two weeks come hell or high water, as they say.  And then came the Coronavirus!

Knowing that dozens of others are in this same high water boat doesn’t help.  My nails are a disaster.  And it doesn’t help to remember that before their introduction to the wonders of acrylic, they were also a disaster.  Bottom line:  I have crummy nails.  They are weak.  They flake and peal and bend and break.  They are pretty much useless without being enhanced.

But, as with the other amenities of enhanced feminine allure — lipstick, mascara and all sorts of makeup; nail polish and “nail art” (as they call it); hair colors and haircuts; and all those piercing and waxing and tatting possibilities — I’ve more or less lost touch with the purpose of things.  I mean, what is the purpose of lips or eyebrows or, for that matter, nails?  Fortunately, except for a bit of makeup (when it occurs to me) my only indulgence has been those acrylic nails.

Works In Progress

I find that sheltering in place is a fine opportunity to get back in touch with the purpose of things.  Fingernails, for example,  “shield the fingertips and the surrounding soft tissues from injuries. They increases the sensitivity of the finger by acting as a counter force when the pulp of the finger touches an object.”  Or, according to the experts, that is what they are supposed to do.

Mine never did any of that very well and, so, enhancement has been a godsend.  But now that the acrylic is loosening and extending to disruptive proportions, I am having to remove the “fake nails” one, by one.  Right now, I am in Digital Transition which gives a whole new meaning to the DTs.  My fingers are sensitive, my own nails still too short and too flimsy to be useful, and my three stubborn, remaining nails, ugly  and bothersome beyond belief.

The big question, of course, is will it be Gina-to-the-Rescue as soon as she can be back to work?  Or will I be “sensible” and try to get used to the natural (albeit inferior) keratinous, translucent structures at my fingertips?  Will I be forward thinking and come to grips (so to speak) with the very real possibility that this sheltering time will need to be repeated?  And, besides that, what of my waning years and decreased abilities to keep up appearances?  To say nothing of the unsightly changes to my fingers from arthritis — as in why draw attention to them?

Fortunately, summer is on its way and nails grow faster in summer.  Perhaps giving my fingertips a break (so to speak) for the season will help me decide.

Ponderables In The Age of Sheltering

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

Ready-to-Go Basket of Masks and Gloves

It seems to me that we are already getting used to parts of the “new normal.”  Masks and gloves, for instance.  I have a baskets of freshly washed masks and disposable gloves located near our front and back doors.  Plus some in the car (and a leaky bottle of hand sanitizer, as well.)

However, every time I mask up to go out in public, I wonder how long I’ll be clear-sighted.  Do I have my glasses situated just right or will I fog up before I get where I’m going?  Contact lenses must be the answer.  As we enter the long haul with our various virus protections in place, contact lens manufacturers should do a booming business.

Or… I could just remember my very brief foray into scuba diving and spit on my glasses like I was taught to do with my mask.  Magically kept it from fogging.  I don’t remember ever hesitating as I readied to plunge into the briny depths but… somehow going to the post office seems to require more… what?  Formality?  Decorum?  Definitely a subject for pondering as I sit here sheltering.

Our Front Porch

And then there is the rather unnatural — “Speak for yourself,” says Nyel — focus on food that seems to accompany sheltering.  I finally took courage and weighed myself yesterday.  “Same- old Same-old,” said the scale.

It’s lying, of course.  These extra bulges couldn’t just be due to that old time-and-shifting problem.  You know, like with the shifting sands of time.  What am I doing differently now that I’m sheltering?  I know for a fact that it has naught to do with exercise.  That’s never been a part of my lifestyle.  So… why?  I ask you!  Something else to ponder…

One thing that requires very little pondering, however, is the diminished capacity of my mind.  Not enough mental stimulation — which for me has always involved socializing.  Being around people and interacting with them — not all the time, but periodically — is what keeps my imagination and creative juices dribbling along.

One “Friday Night” Before the Sheltering Began

Telephone, skype, email, and text are fabulous… but only as a stop-gap measure to in- person-up-close-and-personal encounters.   I’m thinking of inviting people over for “gate talks” as the weather improves.  They can stand at our gate, we can come out onto the porch and visit from twenty-five feet away.  Definitely worth pondering!