Posts Tagged ‘Autumn in Oysterville’

Goodbye To An Old, Old Friend

Thursday, December 17th, 2020

Boxtop With Cliff House Watercolor (c. 1880s)

Last night I spoke by telephone to my old high school friend, Neil MacPhail, who lives in San Francisco.  It was one of those “covers-the-waterfront catch-up” kinds of calls and, among other things, he mentioned that the Cliff House Restaurant was closing; he’d seen it in the morning Chronicle.  The last time Neil and I saw one another was when we met there for lunch three years ago.  “You and Nyel were on your way to Santa Cruz to see Sandy…”

The Cliff House and I go back a long, long way.  Not quite to its beginnings in 1863 when “the First Cliff House” was built, but certainly as far back as 1896 when the first renovation occurred.  My grandmother wrote of dining there before her 1897 marriage to my grandfather.  Apparently, the two families had gone for a celebratory meal and she told of a conversation she’d had there with her soon-to-be brother-in-law, Ed.  A “city girl,” she was anticipating her honeymoon trip to Washington.  She wrote years later:

My Grandmother Helen Richardson (Espy), 1896

I didn’t know what to expect of Oysterville.  Ed had kept talking about “the ranch” but when I asked him if he lived in the country he said, “Oh no, our house is right in the center of town.”

But, on her arrival,I saw people pumping water out in their front yards and taking it into the house in buckets.  But the Espys were more civilized.  Their pump was on the back porch.  Even so, Mother Espy was using whale ribs as chicken perches…” 

Among my treasures is a very battered little wooden box in which my grandmother kept her childhood treasures  — paper dolls and little books that she and her friend Mary Wallace had made beginning in 1887 when they were eleven.  On the cover of the box is a delicately painted watercolor of the Cliff House.  I wonder when she got it and what it originally contained.

Cliff House, 1950s (Was I working that day?)

Years later, during the summers of 1953 and 1954, I worked at the Cliff House Gift Shop earning money for college.  I mostly remember selling teacups and saucers which seemed to be all the rage as collectibles.  But I also remember that, on occasion, one of my high school friends — perhaps on a day off from their own summer job — would come over and meet me for lunch.  Corn dogs, I think, purchased from a stand just down the hill from the Cliff House’s front door.  Perhaps one of those friends was Neil…

Neil and I reminisced and lamented the iconic restaurant’s closing.  “Perhaps someone will come to its rescue,” we said.  We can but hope.



A Yearful of Patches and Projects

Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

Re-roofing The Toolshed

It’s not news that we patch-patch-patch more frequently and rapidly as we advance in age.  And so it is with our belongings — our homes, our vehicles, our clothing.  Although in this day and age does anyone actually mend and darn any more?

As I look back on this year, I realize that we, along with many of our friends, have had more than the usual quota of projects going on around home. Some are of the repairing and renewing variety; some are of for-the-first-time-ever variety.  And why not?  It was the perfect year to pay attention to the home front, being here for most of the time as we were.

Tucker and The Apple Tree Stump

Most of our projects were of the outside variety.  And, given our aged and infirm status, most involved friends and worker bees.  We had the finials on our balcony re-made and replaced, the roof to our toolshed re-shingled, the west section of our picket fence re-painted, our unhealthy apple tree removed, and our rhododendrons to the west and east seriously pruned.

New Woodshed

New projects included replacing our old vegetable garden with lawn and the installation of a wheelchair-friendly back patio and walkway.  In addition, at long last, we had a new woodshed constructed.  It is now ready for a few cords of wood which will, no doubt involve another project of sorts.

Many of our friends have also been busy with projects this year — most far more glamorous than ours:  Mark and Elo, a kitchen remodel and new lighting in their dining room; Pam and Tom, a new garden shed; and so many more.  We hope that they, too, feel that sense of satisfaction knowing that they’ve “used their time wisely” (as I used to advise my 1st-2nd-3rd graders.)  When the time comes that we can kick up our heels again, we’ll be able to do so with wild and reckless abandon and feeling totally guilt free!


Oh boy! It’s an errand day!

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

During these sheltering times, we tend to save up all our “erranding” to do in one fell swoop if at all possible.  It just seems a more effficient use of time.  But, come to think of it, we have plenty of time these days…

Anyway,  today is the day and on our list are the following:

  • Ocean Park Clinic: Lab work for Nyel.
  • Ocean Park Timberland Library:  Pick ups and returns.
  • Nahcotta Recycling:  Flattened cardboard boxes.
  • Surfside: Christmas Delivery to friends.
  • Oysterville Post Office: sending and receiving.

I’m not crazy about doing errands of any kind.  Never have been.  These days, though, I chunk them together and Nyel usually goes with me so we make an “outing” of it.

Sometimes we drive through an area we haven’t visited for a while — maybe Seaview or maybe out to the end of Stackpole Road.  Not ever far.  Just enough for a change of scenery.  Nyel, who is always more observant than I– my excuse these days is that I’m the designated driver — is the one who points out things that are new or have changed or are noteworthy for some other reason.

These outings always remind me of the “Sunday Drives” we went on when I was a child.  It was after the war when we could finally have a car and be able to count on tires and gasoline and other things that had been rationed for so long.  I loved those drives — they seemed so relaxed and sort of pointless.

Come to think of it, it’s so like me to combine a “pointless outing” with necessary errands.  Perhaps my New Years Resolution should be to do more things that are pointless…  But it’s hard to see the point.

Another Run of King Tides Coming Up!

Friday, December 11th, 2020

High Tide on Clay Street, February 12, 2017

I’ve never put together until recently that the term “King Tide” has to do with Climate Change.  I knew, of course, that we didn’t have anything called “king tides” when I was a kid — just high, low, ebb, slack and a few other descriptors.  And every once in a while there’d be a ginormously high tide.   Folks would just say, “Wow!  That’s a really high tide!” and the wags would get out their rowboats and or canoes and paddle down Fourth Street (as Territory Road was then called.)

But when I heard on KMUN that this was to be another King Tide Weekend — the second in less than a month — I decided to find out a little more.  As in why have we only heard of king tides recently?  It all made sense when I learned that the term was originated in 2009 when Australia experienced their highest seasonal tides in almost 20 years.  Since then the concept of “king tides” has become a common colloquial term to describe higher than normal high tides.   So there you have it.

The Meadow at High Tide, February 10, 2017

According to a recent news report from Depoe Bay, just down the coast apiece, “Tourists, nature lovers and amateur scientists are whipping out their cameras to document the effects of extreme high tides on shorelines from the United States to New Zealand, and by doing so are helping better predict what rising sea levels will mean for coastal communities around the world.”  The article goes on to say that what we see this weekend will approximate what the shoreline will look like (as a result of climate change) in 2050 with the tide about a foot to a foot and half (30 to 46 centimeters) above “normal” (to us) water levels.

Wow!  Finally there will be a crystal ball (of sorts) right here in Oysterville and we will be able to look thirty years into the future!  And right out our east windows, too!  High tide times during daylight hours will be:  the 13th, 11:44 a.m. 12.6 feet; the 14th, 12:29 p.m. 12.8 feet; 1:14 p.m. 12. 7 feet.  (Actually these times are for Nahcotta four miles to our South, so they may be off by a few minutes.)  Of course, should there be an unexpected storm with high winds pushing that water shoreward, the high tides could be even higher…  Don’t forget to wear your rubber boots!


The Least of My Problems

Monday, December 7th, 2020

Yep! It’s Me!
Sydney, 1941

My hair!  It’s the bane of my existence.  Always has been.  It is fine, curly (or used to be), and frizzes up with the least bit of humidity.  When I was young, my mother struggled (and I endured) putting it up in “kid-leather hair curlers” so that I would have perfect corkscrew curls on special occasions.  They lasted (sometimes) long enough for a picture to be taken.  Otherwise, it was a disaster.

I’ve learned, in all the years since, that I can depend on regular styling and cuts by a fabulous hairdresser or I can let it grow long enough to put it in a French Twist if I’m patient, or in a plain old bun if not. Right now, of course, I can do nothing but wait impatiently for it to grow.  And complain.  I do that regularly and loudly.  Nyel’s answer:  “Get a hairnet!”

Ruth Buzzi’s “Laugh-In” Look

His suggestion immediately conjures up the image of Ruth Buzzi on “Laugh In” and, somehow, in this context it no longer seems funny to me.  If I’m outside, I find that a hat helps keep these wispy gray locks contained.  Inside the house… good old-fashioned bobby pins and patience.  I tell myself daily that, if this is my only complaint, I am truly blessed.  (And, don’t tell Nyel, but I am seriously considering the Ruth Buzzi look.  I wonder if he’ll notice…)

His Mother Would Be Proud!

Friday, December 4th, 2020

Cowboy Nyel with his Mom, c. 1946

I never knew Nyel’s mom.  And, though Nyel doesn’t speak much about either of his parents, after thirty-five years with her son, I feel somewhat acquainted with Muriel Dalrymple Stevens.  From the time Nyel was six months old, she was a single mom.  She was a waitress.  She developed rheumatoid arthritis and, by the time Nyel was in high school, she could no longer work.  She raised Nyel to think for himself, to be independent and self-reliant.

From the get-go, I was impressed that in addition to all the expected “guy things,” Nyel ironed his own shirts, was handy with needle and thread, could repair almost anything whether it was made of wood or leather or china or fabric.  He learned cooking basics from her — mostly through observation — and then fine-tuned his skills to gourmet levels.

But besides those nitty-gritty necessities of life,  Nyel developed a number of character traits that I find totally admirable — and sometimes annoying.  For example, it is hard to engage him in an honest argument.  Or even a heated discussion.  I think that comes straight from his mom brooking no such impertinence.  He is endlessly patient — perhaps from years of waiting for his mom to get off work before he could… whatever.  Muriel was definitely a force to be reckoned with and so is her son.

Nyel’s Fruitcake

And then there are the fruitcake stories.  I’ve heard about “Mom’s fruitcake” for years.  That it was dark in color.  That it was wrapped in cheese cloth that had been soaked in Mogen David wine for several weeks before being served.  That it was delicious.  That, even though he tried eating other people’s fruitcake, none was like his mom’s.  And he lamented that, of all her recipes, that particular one was missing.

The Moment of Truth

Finally, this year, he decided to try to replicate that fruitcake.  I knew he was thinking about it when a bottle of Mogen David wine showed up with one of our grocery orders!  He talked with Charlie Watkins (of Double J and the Boys fame) who makes huge batches of fruitcake each year.  He pondered and stewed and finally dove in.  A few days ago was the Moment of Truth.  OMG!  I happen to be fairly neutral about fruitcake.  But this!!!  Fabulous!

Best of all, Nyel concluded after just a bite or two, that it is exactly as he remembers his mom’s fruitcake.  Wow!  I hope she knows, somehow, and takes pride in all she did to influence the man her little boy became.  Somehow, the story is all in that fruitcake!

Our Friend Marty

Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

The news came first thing this morning — a most elegant and unusual announcement from Marty Frank’s eldest son, Michael.  Just an email with the subject line, “My Father… Sad News.”  And then a drawing with Marty’s name and his birth and death dates.  That’s all.

And yet it was perfect.  Even the choice of a line drawing was impeccable.  Marty had the most lined face of anyone I’ve ever known.  I always thought it reflected years of playing tennis under Los Angeles skies.  Or, perhaps, each wrinkle stood for a concern or worry or care, or even a joy, that he harbored as head of a household of wife and three sons — each a strong, independent individual in their own right.

His face was the personification of Alastair Reid’s poem, “Weathering.”  I quote the poem here as a tribute to Marty and his remarkable family.  I feel honored to have known him.

I am old enough now for a tree
once planted, knee high, to have grown to be
twenty times me,

and to have seen babies marry, and heroes grow deaf –
but that’s enough meaning-of-life.
It’s living through time we ought to be connoisseurs of. 

From wearing a face all this time, I am made aware
of the maps faces are, of the inside wear and tear.
I take to faces that have come far.

In my father’s carved face, the bright eye
he sometimes would look out of seeing a long way
through all the tree-rings of his history.

I am awed by how things weather: an oak mantel
in the house in Spain, fingered to a sheen,
the marks of hands leaned into the lintel,

the tokens in the drawer I sometimes touch –
a crystal lived-in on a trip, the watch
my father’s wrist wore to a thin gold sandwich. 

It is an equilibrium
which breasts the cresting seasons but still stays calm
and keeps warm.  It deserves a good name.

Weathering.  Patina, gloss, and whorl.
The trunk of the almond tree, gnarled but still fruitful.
Weathering is what I would like to do well.

Oysterville’s Winter People

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Egret on Clay Street – Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

The pair of egrets that showed up a month or so ago are still hanging out.  Their winter address seems to be “Willapa Bay at Clay Street.”  That’s where Tucker and Carol have been seeing them on their daily walks along the bay path in front of town.  Yesterday, Tucker took a few photographs that they may want for their Winter Vacation in Oysterville scrapbook — if egrets keep scrapbooks.  Which is doubtful.

Actually, the doubtful part might not be the scrapbooks.  Some folks could question whether or not these are egrets.  According to Wikipedia (whose information is also sometimes doubtful) the distinction between a heron and an egret is rather vague, and depends more on appearance than biology. The word “egret” comes from the French word “aigrette” that means both “silver heron” and “brush”, referring to the long filamentous feathers that seem to cascade down an egret’s back during the breeding season (also called “egrets”).

Egret In Flight – Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

So some could wonder if this lovely white pair, who have apparently moved in for the season, are actually our year round great blue herons in their winter disguise.  After all, we have lots of great blue herons around Willapa Bay.  There are several GBH rookeries near Oysterville and the information about their winter plumage could cause confusion.

Accordingly, I investigated a bit further.  A National Wildlife Federation blog had this to say: Great egrets are a little smaller than the white-phase great blue heron, but the real giveaway is the color of the legs. Great egrets have black legs while white-phase great blue herons have much lighter legs. Herons also have slightly heavier beaks and “shaggier” feathers on their breast.

Carol on “The Bay Path” in Oysterville – Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

Hooray for Tucker’s fabulous photographs!  The legs of our two visitors are clearly black, an obvious indicator that  these particular “winter people” (in contrast to the “summer kid” that I once was) are, indeed, “great egrets.”  Or just Esther and Ethan if they say so.  They are certainly a welcome and treasured addition to our little community for however long they choose to stay.

Oysterville’s “C Team” On The Rampage!

Sunday, November 29th, 2020

Cinderella on Automatic Pilot

As unlikely (or bizarre) as it might seem, Mrs. Crouch (our resident ghost) and Cinderella (our roomba robot vacuum cleaner) have paired up!  And not to any good purpose either!

First it was Cinderella cleaning the bathroom without any instructions. The day before Thanksgiving, we had received notice that her Mother Ship was having technical difficulties.  They asked for our patience.  On Thursday, Cinderella began an “independent” cleaning frenzy — no directions from us.  Included in the rooms receiving her attention was the bathroom.

On Friday we found that our 350-pound clawfoot bathtub had fallen off her right rear leg.   Of course, we blamed Cinderella who “navigates” by gently bumping into obstacles in her path.  It’s that particular let that is most difficult to reach (of course) and the one our plumbing contractor had trouble with twenty years ago when the bathroom was “redone.”  Meanwhile (of course) he has retired and, besides, it was the day after Thanksgiving.  Not a plumber in sight.

The Second Broken Leg

That afternoon I noticed that the tub’s left rear leg had suddenly come unmoored!  And, not only that — it was a considerable distance from where it had previously been attached.  Not Cinderella this time…  she’s been grounded for a while.  It was definitely someone else.  Not me.  Not Nyel.  That leaves only Mrs. Crouch.

Last night, I was thinking all of this over — hoping against hope that the plumbing attached to the other end of the tub doesn’t give way before we can get help.  I went into the bar, was just preparing to fix myself a calming Bloody Mary, when the jigger (which is kept on a window sill behind and above the bar) leaped (truly LEAPED) into the air and crashed (truly CRASHED) into the bottles lined up below said sill.

I screamed.  Nyel, in the kitchen, tried to rush to my rescue and dropped a bowl of — well you don’t need to know, but it involved a raw egg and the whole mess landed all over the kitchen and dining room floors.

The Fallen Tub

In the thirty-some years we have “known” Mrs. C, this is the first really mean episode she’s  been involved in.  I don’t know what it was that annoyed her.  We think it must have been something Cinderella did or said.  We can only hope that the tub situation can be remedied before there is new trouble — like the plumbing giving way.  (I did try to turn off the shutoff valves but one half a twist resulted in water leakage so I returned the handle to its original position.)  YIKES!


7:00 Nov. 28th:

Saturday, November 28th, 2020

The Oyster Crackers in Red — Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth, 2018

The Peninsula’s very own Oyster Crackers —  Bette Lu Krause, Rita Smith, and Cryst’l Mack — will arrive here this evening in a live stream performance from the stage at Longview’s  Columbia Theatre!  We can enjoy them from the comfort of our own homes via the magic of cyberspace!  They are part of a series called, “Artists in Our Midst” shot at the Columbia Theatre with the conviction that “if you can’t come to the theatre, the theatre will come to you!”

Recorded some months ago, “We did all of our favorites,” Bette Lu told me recently.  She was non-specific but I truly hope that my own favorite,  “Bring Me Li’l Water, Sylvie” (by Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter) is included.  And, just in case, I’ll have my handkerchief ready.

The Oyster Crackers – a Tucker Wachsmuth Photo, 2018

It’s not the only one of their songs that makes me teary, however.  You know, those unbidden tears that come  — not from joy, exactly, and certainly not from pain.  Probably from something akin to nostalgia and almost always triggered by music.  I’d call them “old lady tears” but I know for a fact that they are not confined to age or gender.

I’ve said it before and, no doubt will say it again:  The Oyster Crackers are an absolute pleasure to listen to.  Their voices gently glide and spiral around one another, carrying the listener to places of possibilities and contentment.  They are polished, professional, and profound!   And their performances always bring me a deep feeling of peace.  I can’t think of a better beginning to this Covid-plagued 2020 Holiday Season!