Even though I know better…

September 12th, 2022

Sometimes I think that certain medical problems are sort of like fads.  Take sleep apnea, for instance.  Thirty or forty years ago, most of us had never heard of sleep apnea. Then, in 1965 it was “discovered” and in 1981 continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy was introduced through a nasal mask.  “The rest is history,” so to speak.

In fact, it seems to me now that every other person I know has been involved in at least one sleep study and wears some kind of a mask at night.  Granted, most of these folks are  older — the same age as the grandmas and grandpas of my childhood who used to rattle the windows with their nightly snoring.  And, it stands to reason that as our medicos have become more sophisticated in diagnosing and prescribing, “new” ailments are turning up in enough numbers to get our attention.

Another one of these new fangled “fad” ailments is “trigger finger” — also known as stenosing tenosynovitis. It is a condition in which one of your fingers gets stuck in a bent position.   Your finger may bend or straighten with a snap — like a trigger being pulled and released.  Often it is work related, in that it can be caused by frequent repetitive movements.  People who have diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis are at higher risk of developing trigger finger and it is more common in women than in men.”

“Trigger finger,” like “sleep apnea” is a term I had never heard ten or fifteen years ago — maybe even shorter ago than that.  My awareness, of course, has nothing to do with the  severity or the extent of the problem.  I just find it interesting that we (or at least I) flail along unaware of these sorts of conditions and then, when some sort of critical mass is reached, I become aware of multiple situations.  So different from the concerted world-wide effort put forth to educate us about a pandemic…  But, as they say, “it’s all relative” as well it should be.

It seems that some things are just on a need-to-know basis.  I truly hope I don’t need to…


Oh no! Not more treasures!

September 11th, 2022

“Self,” I said to myself… “It’s high time to get on with this downsizing project!”  It’s a project Nyel and I began several years ago with an eye to leaving the house in understandable condition when it’s our time to shuffle off. “Understandable” translates to getting rid of all of our personal “stuff” — those keepsakes and photos and endless file folders of written material that will mean nothing to those who will be here next.

We made good progress and between the things that went to museum archives and collections, the things that are designated for family members, the things that we took to thrift stores and Good Will, and the detritus we threw out, we  probably redistributed 80% of the items in the garage and our back forty storage area.  But even so, what remains seems daunting.

I began this morning with a heavy cardboard box labeled Dale’s Photos etc. ’98? “Piece of cake,” I thought to myself.  “Those were the years when mom was at Golden Sands and later at the nursing home.  I probably took most of those pictures myself.  They’ll be easy to cull…”

And the first thing I ran across was an envelope sent from Williams, Arizona on March 22, 1931 — addressed to “Miss Dale Espy” in Redlands California and written in my father’s familiar handwriting  Postage: 2 cents.  It turned out  to be a letter written after my not-yet-dad and a friend had hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back while on Spring Break from the University of Redlands.  Two weeks later, on Easter Sunday (April 5th), Dale Espy and Bill Little would announce their engagement.

Hard on the heels of that treasure, I ran across a postcard in my own tidy 22-year-old’s handwriting sent from Perugia, Italy on March 8, 1958.  The picture on the front was of Michelangelo’s “David” and I reported that we (Charlie’s dad and I)) were still crazy about Italy and that “Quad (which was Charlie’s toddler- nickname) is fine.”

Maybe it’s going to take longer to go through this box than expected…

Friends, food, flowers! Repeat!

September 10th, 2022

From Leigh

It’s Saturday and another week is ending — the thirteenth full week since Nyel left us.  It’s been a week of visiting and catching up — friends from Astoria, from Seaside, from Seattle, even from Nahcotta and Long Beach.  They’ve brought flowers, taken me to lunch, and dropped by for tea.  Each day has brought splendid remembrances of past adventures and many promises of more  delights to come.  How lucky I am!

From Lana Jane and Paul

And tomorrow — brunch at the home of friends who, though newish in our lives, had already begun to build memories that included Nyel.  It all reminds me of that song I used to sing with my 1st/2nd/3rd graders at the beginnings of most years:

Make new friends
But keep the old,
One is silver,
And the other, gold.

Tuesday, September 13th would have been our thirty-fifth anniversary.  I’m sure that it never occurred to either of us that we would get so close to such a milestone!  How lucky we were!  And how fortunate I am, still.  If you are among the many to whom I  haven’t given a direct “thank you,” please know that it’s a totally unintentional oversight!  I am ever grateful to each and every friend — for your sustaining thoughts, your heartfelt laughter, and for the memories that we are lucky enough to share. Read the rest of this entry »

Queen Elizabeth II and Me

September 9th, 2022

For whatever reason, for most of my life (and hers) I’ve identified closely with Queen Elizabeth II — not because of our similarities, mind you, but because of our differences.  She was ten years older than I and my first clear recollection of her was in June 1953 — the year of her coronation.  She was 27 and I was 17.

I remember sitting on a lawn chair in the yard (it truly wasn’t a “garden” then) of my grandparents’ house in Oysterville, pouring over the June 15, 1953 issue of “Life” magazine. Although she had been Queen for a full year, the coronation couldn’t take place until the mourning period for her father, King George VI, had taken place.  As I read, I wondered over and over how it would be to know from your childhood what role you would play in the future.

I, of course, had no idea of my own.  I had just completed my freshman year at Stanford, majoring in journalism which I liked but… I wouldn’t say I was “committed” to a journalistic career.  I wonder how the Queen felt about her own commitment.  After all, it wasn’t her choice.  Her uncle had opted out.  Would she?

Through the years, my admiration grew — except for the slight glitch when her sister Margaret was not allowed to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend.  Surely the Queen could have interceded.  And, again, her long silence after Princess Diana’s death…  It has taken me years to understand that her reactions (or lack thereof, at least in public) were part and parcel of that steady hand that kept the ship of the realm on course for 70 years.  At what personal cost, I’ve often wondered.

Queen Elizabeth wasn’t a role model exactly.  More… the best possible example of making the most of the hand you are dealt and doing so with grace and persistence, sometimes against all odds.  I’m glad I shared so many years with her — even if from afar.



A touch of home for Helen…

September 8th, 2022

Granny’s Oil Lamp

My grandmother, Helen Richardson Espy, left the comforts and cultural amenities of East Oakland, California in 1902 to set up housekeeping in Oysterville — “just for a short time,” she assured her three-year-old daughter Medora and year-old son Albert.  Helen and her husband Harry had come to look after his aging father, patriarch of Oysterville and recently widowed.  Surely it wouldn’t be for long.

But even so, she brought along a few of the amenities that she could not bear to part with — a few treasured pieces of furniture, her china and crystal and sterling silverware and a lovely kerosene lamp with hand painted globe and pedestal.  Somehow, they have all survived — through Helen’s fifty years in this house, through the raising of seven children and through the vicissitudes of life as a dairy farmer’s wife.  They were used with love by my mother for twenty-plus years and continue to be used by me.  For all these years Granny’s treasures have symbolized realities embraced even as unrealized dreams have been set aside.

The Switches — one for the top, one for the bottom.

When FDR’s rural electrification program came to Oysterville in 1936, Papa saw to it that Granny’s lovely “oil lamp” was electrified.  I remember how proud I felt over the years when I was allowed to pull the little chains that activated the on/off switches and the top and bottom of the lamp would light up.

Forty years ago or so, the switches wore out.  And ten years ago, give or take, Nyel took the lamp apart and wired it so that it would work without the switches.  You could just plug it in and…voilà! Let there be light!  But it wasn’t the same.  Nyel knew it wouldn’t be, so he ordered new parts, got a wiring diagram, and put everything carefully in a zip lock bag.  For when he had time…

Dell at work!

Meanwhile, there were hospital stays and therapy sessions and uncertain recoveries and more doctoring.  And where was that zip lock bag, anyway?  Not long before Nyel died, I ran across it but… And then we both thought about Tucker’s friend Dell.  Not only did he seem to like to tinker and repair and clean up and revitalize all manner of things — he was good at it.  Really good!


So last weekend when he was here at Tucker and Carol’s, I asked him if he’d take a look.  Two days later — ten hours of work, Tucker told me — the lamp was back to 1936 condition — only better.  LED bulbs replaced the old incandescents, not only giving more light but less heat.  The brass fittings (which Dell had carefully cleaned) wouldn’t corrode as they had before — or at least not so rapidly.  And I learned that the style of switches and other hardware in the lamp did match that 1936 time period for the conversion to electricity.

 And best of all?  I totally enjoyed listening to and watching Dell and Tucker (who have known each other for many years) banter back and forth as Dell worked and Tucker acted as his assistant, finding just the right tools, the right sized bulbs, or wires or…  Of course to me it all comes under the heading of “magic.”  I can never thank the two of them enough!  And how I wish my grandmother could see her precious lamp glowing even more brightly 120 years after coming to Oysterville “just for a short time.”

Uh oh! Silly little tree frog!

September 7th, 2022

There’s an unmistakable and instant “recognition” when you stick your bare foot into a garden boot right on top of a frog — even if you’ve never done it before!  Fortunately, my synapses were firing on all four burners and before I shifted my weight to put on the other boot I absolutely knew: if I do that we’ll have a boot full of mess and we’ll be missing one of the more delightful of our garden creatures.

So, out came my foot and I gently upended Mr. Treefrog from his hiding place.  He hippity-hopped over to the wall where he posed just long for me to take his picture.  He didn’t look very happy about it, though.  When I came back from setting the hoses, he was nowhere in sight and I was glad of that.  I hope he found a safer haven nearby.

So far this year, I’ve not heard the Treefrogs singing to one another.  Perhaps I haven’t been outside at dusk.  I’ll make a point to remedy that now.  I do love to hear them call out to one another — often from our hanging baskets of fuchsias.  Harbingers of Fall for sure, marking the end of yet another Summer.

Every Little Once In A While

September 6th, 2022

I don’t like to argue with tourists.  Mostly, I don’t have to. When visitors to Oysterville happen to ask me questions and I happen to be able to answer, I’m usually met with respectful interest and often with a righteous exchange of information.  Learning something new is the part I enjoy most.

But sometimes the questions and answers don’t go so well.  Like today.  An older man — though probably a good deal younger than I — stopped in front of the house as I was waiting by the gate for  a friend.  “Whatever happened to that Manx sign on this house?” he asked.

John Crellin House, 1857

“I beg your pardon?” was the best I could do.

” You know — the Manx sign.  It’s three legs running in a circle.  It used to be on this house.”

“No, I told him.  There’s never been a Manx sign on this house — not in my lifetime, anyway.”

“Well,” he said, “It was on some house around here.  This place was settled by Manxmen you know.”

“No,” I said.  “Two of the old houses were built by the Crellin brothers from the Isle of Mann — this one and the one up the street that has all the bottles in the windows.  But that was more than a decade after the town was founded and they were the only two Manxmen to settle here as far as I know.”

Tom Crellin House, 1869

“Well,” he said, “I’ve  been coming here for a number of years and I remember that sign clearly…”

At that point, my friend arrived and I tuned out of the conversation.  The visitor went over to the churchyard to sit on one of the benches.  Maybe he’s waiting for the sign to appear…

This is certainly one of those times that I wish Uncle Cecil was still around.  His memory went back to the 1880s.  On the other hand, I’m not sure that this was a visitor that had ever been mistaken about anything.  There are people like that, I’m told.  Go figure…

Oysterville’s #1 Place To Meet and Greet

September 5th, 2022

Headed South on Territory Road, circa 1900 — when it was a Plank Road.

The main thoroughfare through Oysterville when I was a child was Fourth Street.  It was graveled and we just called it “the road.”  It wasn’t exactly the center of activity but it was the main way to get wherever we wanted to be.  On land, that is.  The men of the village were probably more oriented toward the bay, at least in terms of their work days.

I don’t remember ever being told not to play in the road.  Cars and trucks weren’t really a problem.  Not only were they few and far between, you had plenty of warning that they were on their way.  Gravel is crunchy, for one thing, and progress was often snail-paced as people slowed to take a look at how Bob Kemmer was coming on painting his boat or whether Harry had finished up the fence on the south side of his meadow.

We didn’t get many strangers in town — especially not during the week or during the winter months.  And when we did get visitors, they were usually expected — even when they were not our visitors.  In a little place the size of this, we were excited no matter whose friends or relatives were coming to town.  It was always an occasion!

Looking South on Territory Road, Oysterville, c. 1920 — when it was sand or mud, depending on the season.

In my mother’s time — during the 1910s and 1920s, the road was even more tranquil.  One of our family stories that my Uncle Willard wrote about,  even though it was about himself, went like this: …by my third birthday I was reading easily, and by four my preferred reading was any book big enough to give me trouble carrying it.  I read wherever I happened to find myself – in the yard, in the privy, in the barn.  I am told that I had a curious habit of reading myself to sleep in the front road, often quite naked.  I cannot remember this at all. 

These days, we are more cautious, of course — both about what we are wearing and where we read.  When grandchildren are visiting, their grandparents put out those “Caution” Children at Play” signs and, where it’s possible, most pedestrians walk along the county right-of-way — “the verge” as we call it.  If several residents meet along the road whether on foot or in vehicles, they are likely to stop and exchange the latest village news.  We’ve long called those discussions “Oysterville Meetings” — often the source of the news disseminated by the Oyster Shell Telegraph. These days, too, the official name of the road is Territory Road — hearkening back to what it was back in the beginning, or so it says on the Historic Oysterville Map.  I don’t know how it got to be Fourth Street, but I’m glad it’s back to Territory Road now.

Walking on Territory Road in 2012 when, as now, it was asphalt.

I thought about all these road experiences yesterday after Vespers as I visited with people leaving the church.  We were, of course, in the road — though enough to the side that we didn’t present a hazard.  I didn’t get home (a two minute walk) until after five o’clock — so many people to talk with after Cate and Starla’s Vesper performance.  A perfect ending to a perfect afternoon!

With Much Love On Your 100th, Marian Lee!

September 3rd, 2022

Sydney with Marian and Jim Lee

Tomorrow, September 4th, is Marian Lee’s 100th birthday — the official one!  But it was today that the community came out in force to celebrate with our beloved centenarian and her family.  It was breakfast at the Senior Center in Klipsan Beach from 8:30 to 10:30 — with Barbara Bate playing at the keyboard (loved all the Scott Joplin!) and the crowd singing Happy Birthday as Marian took her place at the head table.

It was packed!  Every possible chair at every possible table was taken.  There were folks from all over the Peninsula and far beyond. “We’ve never served so many breakfasts!” more than one waitress said.  And, as always it was service with a smile and “Would you like more coffee?” or butter… or syrup… and it would soon materialize!

I wondered if dear Marian and her handsome husband, Jim, ever got to eat anything at all.  There was a steady stream of well-wishers at the table — sometimes a whole line-up.  Marian, gracious as always, didn’t seem to worry about her pancakes and sausage getting cold.  She held firmly to each well-wisher’s hand and smiled and smiled.

“Thank you for coming!” I heard her say over and over again!  It seemed a bit tacky to say, “Thank you for making it possible!”  But what DO you say to the birthday girl who seems to think that you have done her a favor by celebrating such a fabulous achievement?

Come to think of it, there aren’t a lot of precedents.  So far, only two in my lifetime — two women who I count as friends:  Betty Paxton and Marian.  How fortunate are we who have known them!

Happy, Happy Birthday, Dear Marian!  Thanks for sharing your celebration with all of us!


Cate and Starla Gable! Vespers! Sunday!

September 2nd, 2022

Starla and Cate Gable

Did you catch Cate and Starla on Carol Newman’s  KMUN show, “Arts Live and Local,” today?  They told about their plans for Sunday Vespers at the historic Oysterville Church — a musical tribute to women songwriters including, of course, our own Mary Garvey, and at least one song by Cate, herself.  There will be ballads, folk songs, old favorites and audience participation.  It sounds like the Gable sisters are planning to close out the Summer Vespers Season in grand style.

It’s their tenth Vespers performance which is truly but a drop in their lifetime bucket of music together.  The sisters began singing, literally, about the time they could walk,  Singing in harmony came shortly thereafter — a spinoff from their dad’s involvement with a nationally rated barbershop quartet.  “When we would come to the beach from Yakima, dad kept us ‘occupied’ by teaching us the latest songs his barbershop quarter was singing,” they said.  Dad, Mom, Cate, and Starla each took a part and the long drive passed harmoniously in more ways than one.

Sunday will be the final Music Vespers program for 2022.

I took a my own little drive around Oysterville this afternoon while I listened to their radio show in my car.  They played two songs, live, and I am so happy I was back in my garage for the second one — the lullaby from the Big Island that they sing at the close of every show.  I wept and wept… tears of remembrance and tears of longing, tears of heartache and tears of thankfulness.   It’s just one of those songs… And Cate and Starla are two of those singers…

I wonder if I’ll weep again on Sunday.  Perhaps I’ll stuff my pockets with Kleenex just in case.  No matter what, I can scarcely wait!  It’s like hearing angels sing!  Truly.