Posts Tagged ‘Autumn in Oysterville’

Sure as Santa… the season has begun!

Saturday, December 3rd, 2022

2019 Christmas Tree

“The Nutcracker” is on in Astoria.  The Bayside Singers are booked at both the north and south ends of the Peninsula.  Tuba Christmas is coming back to the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum.  And there are bazaars and craft fairs all over the place.

But that’s not how I know “the season” has begun.  No.  Nothing quite so festive has alerted me.  It was my overwhelming desire (unconquered, though I tried) to clean house, polish silver, sparkled up the crystal and glassware and think about transforming the house one more time.

2021 Christmas Tree

I’d sort of planned on a break this year.  You know — just a low-key get-together with friends and family to count our blessings, sing a carol or two, and maybe raise our glasses to sweet memories and  tomorrows of hope.  Maybe just a little tree and some greenery on the mantel…

But, somehow, that wasn’t the family consensus.  “Oh, Mom, let’s have a big tree — just one last ten-footer,” said Charlie.  And why was it that Marta was in perfect agreement, anyway?  She isn’t even going to be here this year.  (When you make your living as a pet-sitter, holidays are seldom your own.)  And since when is Christmas still all about “kids” even though they are approaching 70?

2012 Christmas Tree

I thought about those things as I fluffed up the dining room today, all the while singing along with Joan Baez and Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra…  Tomorrow, the living room and the next day the library.  And by next week, I hope all will be ready for that ten-foot tree — not only the house but the crew of helper elves who have offered their holiday assistance!  And then… let the toasting begin!

 

Wow! This one is tough!

Friday, December 2nd, 2022

Dust Jacket – Front

Louise Penny’s latest book arrived on my front porch right on time.  In fact, probably 12 hours earlier than the “pub date” which was November 30th.  I was waiting with baited breath, having timed my life so I could dive right in.

A World of Curiosities is the 18th book in Penny’s Inspector Armand Gamache series.  I expected to read straight on through and surface only to eat and maybe sleep a little.  But that’s not how it’s working.

Dust Jacket — Back

This book is hard going, at least for me.  Really hard.  I can only read a smidge or two at a time.  I’ll tell you that, as usual, the topic is timely and of concern to each and every one of us — those are the things Ms. Penny gifts us with time after time.  The subjects that bring up past and present concerns (or perhaps horrors) and make us intimately aware of the extent of our ineptness and, yet… the infinite capacity for good that abides in us all.  Almost. Maybe.

As always, I am impressed with — no, overwhelmed by — Penny’s percipience and her almost uncanny ability to gently push her readers onward until they, too, see the possibility of hope.  Or closure.  Or can come to terms with… whatever it is.

I’d love to sit down and chat with her, though I know the “conversation” would be one-sided and I’d feel way out of my depth.  On the other hand… the times I’ve seen her interviewed on various television networks, she seems full of humor (often at her own expense) and infinitely approachable.  I am full of admiration.  She is a master at her craft and a genius at human understanding.  How lucky we are to have her in our lives, only a printed page away!

 

Yep, Bob! It was definitely one of them days!

Thursday, December 1st, 2022

It felt like this could happen today — but it didn’t.

I left Oysterville shortly after nine this morning, headed for an appointment in Astoria and then one of those grocery shopping, liquor store replenishers, and top up the gas tank as long as you’re at it kind of days.  The potholes were filled with rainwater but the sun flirted with the clouds between curtains of gray and occasional slushy flourishes that clotted up my windshield wipers.

“Oh crap, Bob!” I said.  And right out loud, too.  “Is it going to be one of them variable days?”  Just then the first real snow began plopping down and I knew Bob had heard me (and answered) loud and clear.

Bob Meadows (or “Old Bob” as we sometimes called him) lived in the house just south of the church with a chicken or two and a cat or two and who knows what else.  He was the unofficial village handyman.  It didn’t much matter if you needed a tree felled (he’d been a logger back in the day) or a brace if geese plucked and readied for the oven (had he worked in a restaurant, too?) — Old Bob was the guy to approach.  If he couldn’t do it, probably no one else within hollerin’ distance could either.  And for Old Bob, every day was “variable” — weather-wise and every other wise.

Beautiful — but not today, thank goodness!

Before I reached Chinook it was looking hopeful again.  Yet, when I parked at my destination, the car that pulled in beside me had five or six inches of snow on the roof. “Do you live here — up in the hills?”  I asked.  “No.  Seaside,” she told me!  Go figure.

I met my friend Miki for a noontime coffee and we settled most of the world’s problems — but not the weather.  Where was Old Bob when we needed him?

FYI — We quit calling him “Old Bob” not long after my folks moved up here full time — and for a very good reason, I thought.  Check out my 2006 Blog called “Old Bob ” using this link:
http://sydneyofoysterville.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2547&action=edit.

It’s a skill I’ve not yet mastered…

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

Measuring time.  Sometimes I think I have it down pat.  The roast is done perfectly when expected, I get to the doctor’s with that ten minutes to spare, or I have all my ducks rowed up in time to enjoy a solitary moment with the full moon rising.

But mostly, time and I are never quite in sync.  Either there’s not enough of it or it hangs around interminably daring me to use it wisely.  It always seems a gigantic treat when what I’m doing (which, of course, is wildly important!) gets completed “on time” or, better yet, “with time to spare.”

All of that, though, I have learned to consider faults of my own making.  Even a very long lifetime doesn’t bring perfection in timing — not if you have any sort of expectations for what you’d like to accomplish in the time allotted to you.  No.  The elasticity of time that is bothersome comes along unexpectedly (but regularly).

At this time of year, you might notice it in the late afternoon.  Dark already.  Deep dark.  But not time to think about the evening meal yet.  In fact, did I even bring in the garbage dumpster?  Are the bears out there already?  And how is it that I didn’t answer even one of my emails out of the seven that were waiting for me this morning?  Where did the time go?

But wait!  Dark as it is, the clock says it’s only four.  Really?  Then why does it feel like I should crawl under the covers and call it a day?  But that would be wasting time and we all know the adage, “Waste not, want not.”

Again, really?  If I do something spectacular with these next four or five hours of pitchy, icy blackness, will that earn me points so that our Oysterville Regatta will last longer than its usual “fly with the wind” speed next summer?

Somehow,  I doubt it.  Making each minute count for as much as every other minute is a skill I’ve not yet mastered.  I wonder if anyone has…

Quick! I hope there’s time to check it twice!

Tuesday, November 29th, 2022

It’s been happening for a while now.  Ever since retirement, I’d say.  Suddenly the end of November is upon us and Christmas is already demanding our full attention.  There’s the Naughty’n’Nice List to double-check, the gifts to gather and wrap and beribbon, the baking to be done, the house to decorate — maybe even outside as well as in! — the events to attend — and the loved ones to gather close.  Oh my!

The question that always nags at me is how in the world we did all that and worked, too, back in our salad days.  Especially those of us who taught little ones.  Multiply the paragraph above by at least two — you know, the classroom to be decorated (and the halls and the gym) and the Christmas program to plan and the rehearsals and secrets and… oh yes.  Be sure to stay on track with all those curriculum requirements.  Bless all of you teachers who are still carrying on — and I think it’s probably way more complicated these days.  Can we even call it “Christmas” or is everything a “Winter” celebration or ????

As I reflect on all of that, my own little holiday plans seem much more manageable.  And, wonder of wonders, good friends have offered help — to climb-that-ladder-to-adorn-the-top-of-that-ten-foot-tree kind of help.  I feel teary with gratitude and Christmas spirit.  And I’m here to reassure you that even though these holidays are bittersweet, they have their own special comforts and delights for us old folks!

Tiny Tim had it just right when he said, “God bless us every one!”

It’s hard to keep up!

Monday, November 28th, 2022

Charlie and Sydney at Stanford Commencement, June 16, 1957

Sometimes (maybe oftener and oftener) I am totally confused by what I read.  The source doesn’t seem to matter.  This morning  it was a sentence in the New York Times.  It went like this:
Nine-year-olds lost the equivalent of two decades of progress in math and reading, according to an authoritative national test. Fourth and eighth graders also recorded sweeping declines, particularly in math, with eighth-grade scores falling in 49 of 50 states…

Amazing!  Imagine nine-year-olds losing 20 years of math and reading learning!  It boggles my mind!  And just how are they testing kids on their achievement in basic subjects these days, anyway?  I’d like to see the test that could determine what an individual knew more than a decade previous to their conception!  Huh???  Say what???

So… giving the reporter the  benefit of the  doubt, I’ve tried to parse out the meaning.  The sentence I quoted was in an article by Sarah Mervosh and began: Remote learning erased students’ progress in math and reading.  Perhaps Ms. Mervosh meant that the test scores had slipped when compared to test scores of two decades ago.  That would make a little more sense.  Maybe.  But that’s not what was written.

NYT Newsroom In “The Olden Days”

It all led me on a fanciful flight of journalistic wonder — as in how many decades has the NYT lost in the communication skills of their writers due to the effects of remote investigating and reporting.  Perhaps more than we can imagine.

But then, I tend to be tough on writing standards — my old 1957 BA in Journalism from Stanford still shakes a finger now and then at what I read.  And that criteria DOES go back few decades to be sure!

 

Is it that post-

Another Naked Turkey Story!

Sunday, November 27th, 2022

Not Quite Table-Ready!

Some years ago,when I was nine, I wrote a story called “The Naked Turkey” for the Children’s section of the Oakland Tribune.  It was my first published work and was life-changing — but not in a way you might imagine.  You can read it in my blog of November 21, 2010 at: https://sydneyofoysterville.com/2010/the-naked-turkey-or-how-i-came-to-realize-that-i-couldnt-write-fiction/

This year I ventured forth on my first solo trip without Nyel as navigator and, amazingly (and among a few other disasters) that naked bird came back to haunt me.  (Actually, it appeared in all its glory to my Thanksgiving hostess, Kuzzin Kris.)

There had been a bit of a premonition about how this holiday would go.  When I took my lunch break at the Salem Rest Stop, my GPS stopped working.  “Never mind,” thought I.  “I have Kris’s very clear written directions for which freeway exit, off ramps etc. to take me to her new apartment in Beautiful Downtown Eugene.”

Not As Simple As It Appears

Of course, I didn’t think about how I might keep one eye on the road and the other on the rather complicated directions which, I soon gave up and just got the hell off the converging on, off and who-know-what ramps as fast as possible.  I ended up in a HUGE GoodWill parking lot and a lovely young woman talked on my cell phone to Kris and explained…

That was Wednesday.  On Thursday, we”scratched-and-laughed” and got ready for Kris’s friend. Judy, who was joining us for dinner.  No cooking, though.  The entire meal, turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and even brussel sprouts with garlic would be ready for pick-up at Safeway at three o’clock.  Kris, in full hostess mode, went by herself to pick up the meal in her little red wagon.

It seemed to take a long time and, when she returned, Kris was a bit subdued.  Apparently all the accoutrements were cooked to perfection but the turkey was not only naked but totally raw.  A discussion ensued (as you might imagine).  Kris had been gone from Eugene for several years and during the interim Safeway had stopped offering cooked turkeys.  Which prompted a lot of questions like then why offer a full Thanksgiving meal ready to eat???  Time for such deep marketing examination was limited however…

Kris And Her Handy-Dandy Little Red Wagon

“But what shall I do?” she asked the clerks (who I think by this time had gathered ’round in sympathy.)   “How about chicken?” someone said.  “We have both roasted and fried and we could cut them up and give you the portions you’d like of each kind…”

“Done!” said Kris!  And I have to say that it was the best Thanksgiving Turkey-less dinner ever!  Topped off by two pies and then a visit to another friend’s place for two more pies.

I’m sure there were lessons learned, as well.  But, really… who cares?  We were replete!

We are as usual…

Saturday, November 26th, 2022

Julia Jefferson Espy c. 1895

If my great-grandmother Julia’s letters are typical of those of others of the 1800s, it seems to me that  a good deal of time was spent discussing the various health issues of family members.  This was especially true in her weekly letters to her three eldest children, Edwin, Dora, and Harry (my grandfather) when they were away at school.

In those days, the 1880s and ’90s,  the Oysterville School went through the 8th grade but there was no practicaL way for students to continue with their secondary education here on the Peninsula.  For the R.H. Espy children, the solution was to send them to Grace Seminary in Centralia where they boarded during the school year, returning home for vacations much as students in boarding schools of today do.

It was Julia’s  habit to write to her absent children each Sunday afternoon, presumably the only time during the week that she really had to herself.  From reading those letters of long ago, I think it was a time (perhaps the only time) Julia had for reflecting on the everyday things that consumed her life as mother of seven, wife and helpmate to one of the most prominent men in the County, and the friend and acquaintance known as “Mother Espy” to every other woman, young or old, of the  village.

Harry and Dora Espy circa 1894

Besides village and family news, Julia’s letters are peppered with health advice for her children.”  On March 4, 1894, she wrote to my grandfather (then 17 years old): I am sorry you have such a cold and advise you to put a wet pack on your throat at night, not forgetting to rub it well with cold water when you take it off in the morning.  I think it would take 3 doses of Belladonna (not too large) about 6 hours apart for the sore throat.    If the croup indications continue, take Aconite and Hepar Sulphur alternately.  I will send you some Spongia, put 1 powder in 4 spoonsful of water and take 1 spoonful at a dose half an hour apart in the morning if you are threatened with croup.  Then in six hours take the Belladonna as directed above, if the throat is sore only and no croup, leave out the Spongia.   Be careful to keep the mouth closed and breathe through the nose when out of doors.  I hope you will soon be better.

Julia Jefferson Espy’s Funeral Cortege, 1901

Interestingly, Julia seldom used the word “Mother” in any of its forms to sign the weekly letters to her children.  Occasionally, she did use “Mama” but even that was followed  using her full name, “J. A. Espy.”  And, if she had not included specific health news about any of the family members, her final line before closing was, “We are as usual.”

 

Doncha just hate that?

Sunday, November 20th, 2022

So… the headline said:  “Want to live to 90 years old? A new report reveals how you can.”  Always interested in what’s ahead for me — after all, I’ll be 90 in just three years and a couple of months — I read on.

The article was by Najja Parker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and dealt with a research study based in the Netherlands.  Bottom line:  I’m not tall enough to have a good shot at living past my 90th birthday.  Not tall enough by several inches.  Never have been. Say what???

But there it was in black and white:  “In fact, the authors [of the study] found that women who were taller than 5 feet 9 inches were 31 percent more likely to reach 90, compared to those who were under 5 feet 3 inches.”

Well… sh**!  I’ve never reached the five-foot-three mark in my life.  “Five feet two, eyes of blue…” that was me.  Until maybe ten years ago when I began to shrink.  I think I’m under five feet now and no telling if I’ll even be tall enough to measure by 2026!

I gave the rest of the article only cursory attention (as you might imagine!) but in a related article I saw some interesting news from a study done by the University of California. “After analyzing the results, researchers found that those who drank two glasses of beer or wine a day were 18 percent less likely to die before reaching their 90s…  Those who exercised 15 to 45 minutes daily were just 11 percent less likely to die before their 90s.”  In other words, alcohol outperforms (ahem) exercise in the Aging Department!  (Doncha just love California??)

I may have to re-think a few priorities here…

An Adventure for the Non-adventurist!

Saturday, November 19th, 2022

The Bowline Hotel, Astoria

I’m not what you would call an adventurous eater.  Or so it would seem after yesterday’s experience at Tiffany and Brady’s newest pub and eatery, The Knot Bar at The Bowline Hotel in Astoria.  (Don’t hold me to that “newest” comment — I honestly can’t keep up with their cutting edge entrepreneurship — a latest count includes the Adrift Hotel, Long Beach; Adrit Distillers, Long Beach; Inn at Discover Coast, Long Beach; Pickled Fish Restaurant, Long beach, Boardwalk Cottages, Long Beach; Ashore Hotel, Seaside; the Shelburne Hotel Seaview and now the Bowline Hotel and Knot Bar in Astoria.)  And to think I knew Tiffany when she was in the second grade class across from mine at Ocean Park School!  She was a force to reckon with then, as well!  And the Tiffany-Brady alliance seems to know no boundaries!

But… back to The Knot.  In all fairness, it is an “eatery” last — or so I see it.  First:  THE VIEW — right on the river’s edge within hailing distance of passing ships and  just westward of a gentle bend that provides a view of Astoria’s intriguing shoreline and ever-changing cityscape.  And second — A BAR which is more about beverages than snacks, although their website says this:
Locally sourced food and classic cocktails pair with post-industrial aesthetics…Our cocktails are handcrafted and celebrate local distilleries. The food menu is Scandinavian-inspired and pays homage to our community’s seafood history…

My Bloody Mary came with a small garni of celery and a generous piece of beef jerky on a cocktail swizzle (which I finally managed to extricate in multiple pieces.}  The menu, divided into four categories: “Snacks,” “Small Plates,” “Plates,” and “Sweets” was exotic (by my standards) and made for difficulty in choosing.  The listings, all spendy, included Foie Gras Tart, Beef Tartare, Bitter Greens, Sliced Duck Breast, Sweet Carrot Crepe Cannelloni and many many others.

I finally had the celery root soup which was served with flair from a glass flute (about cup-size) into a large bowl at the table.  Michael, who ordered the same thing,  explained the lukewarm quality — the individual serving of piping hot soup was decanted into bowl just out of the freezer.  With it, I had and a side of bread which was a very generous serving (four slices, I think) with butter. (Nothing special, but I freely confess, Nyel spoiled me for life in the Bread Department.)

Entrance to The Knot at The Bowline

The best part of the meal — visiting with old, dear friends and having the lounge completely to ourselves.  I understand it’s “jumping” during the evening cocktail hour but if you’re looking for a place for a noontime tête-à-tête with a view to die for — The Knot at The Bowline is just the place to put down your mid-day anchor!

P.S.  I won’t be offended if you tell me I’m showing my age.  It’s been on raging display for some time!  And aren’t I the luckiest “Old Broad” (Gordon’s pet name for me) in the world to have wonderful friends who keep me up-to-date and well-nourished?