Seeing Red and Other Matters of Interest

Aug 30, 2014 | 0 comments

Oysterville Regatta, circa 1890s

Oysterville Regatta, circa 1870s

Conversation was lively at our house last night – first, during our Friday Night gathering and later, around the dinner table with our weekend visitors. Topics ranged from the Oyster Cup trophy that Tucker brought for ‘show and tell’ to zip-lining among the ten-and-almost-thirteen-year-old set. We also discussed Betty Paxton’s hundredth birthday party, the fact that bees don’t see red, and why the commissioners felt the need to recuse themselves from hearing our (Nyel’s and mine) appeal regarding a vacation rental decision in Oysterville.

About the Oyster Cup: today it will be awarded to the winner of the Annual Oysterville Regatta. I think this is the 20th Annual of the modern-day event, begun by Chris Freshley and being carried on by his cousin, Tucker Wachsmuth – both Oysterville sailing enthusiasts.

Unlike the famed Oysterville regattas of the late nineteenth century in which oystermen raced their working boats called “plungers,” the boats in today’s races are all lasers – a class of small sailboats described on the international laser website as “single-handed racing dinghies.” Tucker said there are ten entries this year.

Betty Paxton, 2012

Betty Paxton, 2012

Also today is Betty Paxton’s 100th birthday party! “Quite a many!” as my mother would have said. She wrote out some of the important events of her long life and asked me if I’d talk about them – a little “history from the historian” she said. I am honored! She also told me that her plan was to be in Aruba today. I certainly hope she was kidding – but you never know with Betty. After all, how many hundred-year-olds do you know that are still working as bag-ladies at Safeway?   None, of course. She’s the oldest employee in the entire Safeway chain.

Willie and Owen Bays are here with their parents for the weekend, too – a last hurrah at the beach before school starts. They regaled us with stories about the week-long summer camps they each attended and their mom told us about her summer with her vegetable garden(s) – one in their backyard and one at a community garden in their Seattle neighborhood. Among many other things, Susan grew scarlet runner beans in both gardens but unexpectedly had good success at home, but not so great in the community garden.

Squash from Susan's Garden

Squash from Susan’s Garden

Her theory is that it had to do with pollination. The flowers of the scarlet runner beans are red and are perfectly shaped to entice bees. But, bees don’t see the color red. (Who knew?) So, Susan thinks that at the community garden (which happens to be the biggest and the oldest in Seattle) where there are many, many flower choices, the bees just aren’t that attracted to those “gray” runner bean blossoms. In her backyard, where choices are more limited, the bees weren’t quite so picky.

I wonder if bees are more even-tempered than insects who do see red. And what about people who are red/green color blind? Are they calmer? Or does the literal aspect of ‘seeing red’ have anything to do with the figurative?  (As in maybe if I didn’t see the color red, I wouldn’t have been as upset about the commissioners and their recusal…) There’s always food for thought at our dining table when the Waters/Bays family is here.

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