Posts Tagged ‘Springtime in Oysterville’

Snow, Rain, Sun Flurries — it’s March!

Saturday, March 25th, 2023

Well, if the 24th of this month means we’re heading out of it, I hardly think it’s very lamb-like.  I guess with all this climate change biz, you poets had better get busy creating new words to live by.  The old standbys aren’t working any more.

Like many proverbs for the month of March, ” In like a lion, Out like a lamb” can be traced back to Thomas Fuller’s 1732 compendium, Gnomologia; Adagies and Proverbs; Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) was a British physician, preacher and intellectual.  In addition to his compilation of proverbs, he published two medical books and famously said, “Be you never so high, the law is above you.”

I do believe we’ve lost sight of more than the lamb and the lion, Dr. Fuller!  I wonder how you would improve your Gnomologia if you could have a stab at it today?



For shame, Stanford law students! For shame!

Friday, March 24th, 2023

David Leonhardt of the New York Times greeted me first thing today with these words:  Good morning.  A federal judge spoke at Stanford Law School.  Chaos ensued.

Not being much in touch with the news (always too horrifying and depressing for my aged sensibilities), I was definitely compelled to read further.  It was, after all, my alma mater that Mr. Leonhardt was talking about.  Stanford, so subdued and reasonable during my student days in the ’50s — but then wasn’t everyone?  And later, so  namby-pamby during the days of rival Cal Berkeley’s student protests in the’60s.  About this latest news, I was sore amazed!

 Stuart Kyle Duncan

The speaker was Stuart Kyle Duncan, a federal court appeals judge appointed by Trump.   It seems that the students at the lecture did some serious heckling and Judge Duncan asked the school administrators to calm the crowd.  Instead, the associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion (seriously? they have an associate dean for that??) walked to the lectern and began her remarks by criticizing him.  She has been placed on leave.

The judge described his experience in a Wall Street Journal essay, the Stanford president and the law school dean have apologized to him, and all law students are to attend a mandatory half-day session on freedom of speech.

Commentary is coming in from all sides — from other Universities both in support of the students and otherwise and, of course,  of Stanford’s position on the matter.  News pundits and talking heads who thrive on controversy are weighing in ad nauseum but, so far, not much from the students, themselves.

I did look in the Stanford Daily but found that the big news was “Stanford canceled all remaining final exams on Tuesday due to ongoing weather-related power outages, which are affecting buildings across campus.”  I was glad to see that the Daily still has a clear vision regarding their mission.

Yep!  Let’s keep our priorities straight!


On Being Politically Correct… Or Not

Thursday, March 23rd, 2023

Gathering Oysters In “The Olden Days”

I guess it’s a given these days that historical research is automatically on a collision course with political correctness.  As I see it, though, you can’t have it both ways.  If you are trying for historical accuracy, I don’t see any way to be PC in “reporting” what you find out.  Even though my present project is mostly focussed on re-telling some of the wonderful stories about our past, I’m pretty sure I’ll run up against a sticky wicket or two.


And then I wonder if I will get any blowback from those who would sooner erase our history than face up to the facts of how we were — of what we said or of how we behaved.  I don’t really expect that all my readers will enjoy my stories with historical perspective in mind or will rejoice that change is gradually taking place.

I thought about that a lot today as I was writing about “Old Cripple Johnson” — a beloved Oysterville character of my mother’s childhood.  His given name was George and he was crippled and there were extenuating circumstances.  Will modern readers “get” that he was beloved by the entire community and the feeling was reciprocal?

Clamming In The Days When Commercial Diggers Averaged 500 lbs. per tide

Perhaps it will help that I’m telling stories often through the eyes of people who witnessed the experience.  In my mind, using their words (no matter how non-PC they have become) gives us in the here-and-now an opportunity to understand a different point of view — one developed within a context almost completely unexperienced by most of us.

Still… I think about all that as I look for 150-year-old “facts”  to corroborate the stories I am telling or re-telling.  There is no doubt that sensibilities were different in the 1800s than they are today.  Can I honor the past without offending the present?  I hope so.

I love the old stories just as I love these old photographs.  I do so hope my readers will love them, too.  And I hope they’ll give me some feedback along the way.  (You’ll see a story each week in the Observer. So far there have been three.)






Country Roads? Or County Dumpsites?

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023

Somewhere Else

Driving the length of Sandridge Road has finally become an exercise in the Use of Extreme Caution and its companion The Feeling of Foreboding.  God forbid that you need to pull over to get out of the way of a speeding vehicle heading straight for you as it passes four other over-the-speed-limit nitwits.

The wayside is cluttered with all manner of artifacts — from “take me” refrigerators and soggy “free” oversized sofas to the county’s own tsunami signs and mile markers — to say nothing of telephone poles and broken down ditch barriers and reflectors on tall white sticks.  It reminds me of the streets of San Francisco years ago when the garbage men were on strike.

Good Idea! Take note Pacific County

At least there was a little humor to that situation.  It was around Christmastime (in the late sixties, maybe) and people were desperate to get rid of their garbage.  It became popular to wrap up your kitchen refuse in fancy Christmas paper and leave it on the front seat of your parked, unlocked car.  Many-a-thief scored boxes filled with potato peelings and egg shells and moldering meat scraps to say nothing of empty tin cans and glass bottles.

But, let me be clear:   along our County byways, the mess has nothing to do with our hard-working Sanitation crews.  Those of us who have garbage pick-up service can count on those workers to empty our dumpsters on schedule, rain or shine.  And, I might add, most of the garbage dumpsters appear and disappear quickly — they don’t sit on the roadside adding to the clutter.

And never mind the rusting cars and boats and collapsed abandoned buildings that clutter up our fields and woods and “vacant” lots.  Sometimes it seems that we live in the middle of a gigantic dumpsite.  I do believe there are ordinances that deal with such matters.  Why are they not enforced?  I’m sure the answer would be something to do with money.

Beautiful! And Litter Free!

So perhaps the County needs to refocus its priorities.  Like maybe  we need to consider taking care of what we have before courting more building, more population, more need for county workers to help “expand” our economy.  It’s election season, folks, and we’ll be choosing a brand new County Commissioner.  Let’s find one whose first priority is keeping our County clean and green and fit to live in.  What a treat that would be!

I’m not exactly a foodie, but…

Tuesday, March 21st, 2023

Chef Nyel and The Lamb Roast! April 17, 2022

It seems like I’ve been hankering for lamb for four or five years now — leg of lamb, lamb chops, rack of lamb… you name it.  Lamb chops, especially, were a staple in this family.  Broiled with a dash of salt, pepper and dredged in oregano flakes!  Yummm!  The best.

But then the local butchers said lamb was costing too much to keep it in stock.  CostCo held out for a while but then said they could only get it from Australia and supplies were limited.   And then came Covid and we just stopped looking.  Mostly.

But yesterday I found THREE loin lamb chops at Freddy’s!  Count ’em: one, two, three.   Tucked way out of sight, they were, almost like they didn’t want to be found.  I do so wish my closest girlhood friend, Joanne Bruner, were still among us.  I’d call her and ask her to come up from California for a meal!

I so clearly remember when we were Freshmen or Sophomores in high school and I asked her over for dinner.  “We’re having lamb chops!” I enthused.  Her face fell — just a little.  She’d never tasted lamb.  Her folks “didn’t believe in it” she said.  Something about them being from Colorado and “beef country.”

At Gulley’s Butcher Shop, Astoria, 2022

Huh?  I didn’t get it at all.  I still don’t — probably have the state wrong.  But she came to dinner and I have to say, one bite and she was hooked.  We had her to dinner on lamb nights many times after that…

I also remember that I was seven or eight years old before I really understood that beef and lamb were different from one another.  They both tasted great to me.  It must have been about the time that we tried horse meat that I noticed all meat wasn’t the same.  (It was during World War II and meat was rationed so you managed the best you could.)  I remember that mom used it in a stew — the chewiest stew ever! From then on, I paid a little more attention to just what kind of meat we were eating and I realized that I liked lamb the best.

Last year, Nyel wanted to do a lamb roast for Easter.  We ordered it from Gulley’s Butcher Shop in Astoria.  Four pounds boned and rolled! .  “Money is no object,” Nyel said.  And it wasn’t.  I’ve totally forgotten what it cost but I’ll never forget the pleasure Nyel had in cooking it and our subsequent enjoyment at Easter dinner.  I haven’t had lamb since.  But, soon!

…And everywhere that Sydney went,
Some lamb was sure to show!




Do you think the house noticed?

Monday, March 20th, 2023

Our House – March 16, 2023

I freely admit it.  I am house proud.  I love this old home of my grandparents.  It’s where my mother and her siblings grew up.  It’s where I spent the summers of my childhood and the best years of my adulthood.  It has been a playground, a gathering place, a refuge and a solace for all of my eighty-seven years.

And it’s not just the house, itself, with all its quirks and crannies.  It’s the furniture my grandmother brought from California when they moved here in 1902.  It’s the paintings — many by family members —  and the wavy old glass in the windows.  It’s the contents of the cupboards and the treasures lurking in “unused” closets.  My great- grandfather’s books, my grandmother’s china, my father’s collections of cut glass and Nyel’s numerous old tools.  Yes… I am house proud.  More than.

Dining Room Table –Thanksgiving 2013

I love it when visitors “oooh” and “aaah” and I’m always ready to give a tour or tell a story about something that catches a curious eye.  I take the compliments and admiration absolutely personally, knowing full well that I’m only the custodian — not the creator — of this house that I am so lucky to call “home.”  And knowing, too, that I am biased and still smarting at a 1978 remark by an uppity relative about this being “juxt a shabby old farmhouse.”

Those feelings — all of them, the good, the bad, and the ugly –engulfed me last night as I listened to Fred Carter’s music — love songs to Vicki and songs from his youth and a final song that he played, once again, for Nyel.  I was struck by the difference in the potluck dinner offerings of twenty (or even five) years ago — last night almost all “store bought” offered on paper plates and in the plastic containers they came in as opposed to the plates and platters and serving dishes of previous House Concerts.  Not quite in keeping with the ambience of this old-fashioned residence.

And I wondered if only I noticed.  But, no.  I’m sure the house felt the difference, too.  After all, it has seen more changes in its 124 years than any one of us will ever note.  And still it smiles and is welcoming to all.  “So be it,” I said to myself.  “So be it.  Times they are a-changing.”

Every Day: An Adventure In Time And Space!

Tuesday, June 21st, 2022

Nyel and Sydney, 2018

Tomorrow will mark two weeks since Nyel and I had our last conversation — at least our last communication that was two-sided.  As we all have known from our cradle days, one-sided conversations (which, I guess, are not  technically “conversations”) are not all that uncommon.  In fact, in recent years “self-talk” has become a recognized teaching technique for use with young children. So, I make no apologies  for my occasional comments and questions that go unanswered… at least not out loud.

Charlie in Dickensenian Mode

On the other hand, I find it very hard to deal with modern technology when it comes to communication in the here and now.  Last night, for instance, I had an important — maybe even urgent — message for my son Charlie who lives 1,000+ miles away.  But when I called him, the call went straight to voicemail and I was told I could not leave a message — his mailbox was full.

So, I emailed him to call me.  And some time later, emailed him again saying I was going to bed but to call anytime.  I slept soundly until about 4:30 a.m. — no interruptions by phone.  Checked my emails and found three urgent ones from Charlie.  His phone was not working — it said.  Contact him by a zoom link he had sent.  And, finally, that he’d hold the zoom link open for another fifteen minutes… But that had been hours ago.  So… I emailed a response.  Said I’d check in every 1/2 hour or so now that I’m up.  And decided that whatever I wanted to talk to him about probably was no longer urgent.

It all put me in mind of the days of my childhood when we had a crank phone in the kitchen and all long distance calls went through the switchboard operator  in Ilwaco.  I don’t know what time the “exchange” closed down for the night — maybe 11 p.m. — but I’d be willing to bet that if there was an emergency, there was a way to get through — even if it was a midnight drive in the Model A to roust J.A. Howerton, owner of the Ilwaco Telephone & Telegraph Company.

Maybe we’re regressing.  Maybe I shouldn’t give up my landline after all…

Where in the world is that top hat?

Sunday, June 12th, 2022

Sydney and Nyel (in top hat) Croquet Gala 1985

Miki came over from Astoria this morning bringing coffees and good energy and her usual practical words of wisdom!  I had asked her if she would help me pack of Nyel’s clothes for the Good Will.  “Sure!  When would be a good time?” was her always willing response.

We sipped our coffees and visited a bit and then got to work.  She had brought about a gazillion banana boxes for us to fill.  Meanwhile, I had called Rita and asked her if the Players would be interested in Nyel’s tux and cut-away and, also, his fencing togs and épée.  And maybe a hat or two.  “Yes!” was her response!  “those are ‘costume’ items and would definitely be a great addition to our costume collection.”  Nyel would be so pleased.

Sydney and Nyel (in top hat) Oysterville Sesquicentennial, 2004

I set aside a couple of shirts I think I’ll wear around the house now and then.  For warmth — of my soul, if not my body.  Cate came by and I offered her a shirt or two and a Levi jacket, too.  And Miki chose a few items she thought her husband would enjoy.  !

“Does it have to be Good Will?” she asked.   “There is a thrift store in…” But yes.  Nyel was all about the Good Will — he often looked for specific things there and that was always his go-to donation place.  Yes, it had to be Good Will.
As Miki left, Cate opened her laptop to go over Nyel’s obituary with me.  And her column which will be devoted (mostly) to him next week.  I didn’t cry.  Not then.

The Wisdom of the Widows

Saturday, June 11th, 2022

From Stephanie and Dave

If you are lucky enough to reach a “certain age,” you will find that the preponderance of your peers are widows.  Not widowers, mind you.  Widows.  The life expectancy of women is longer for a number of reasons and in married women, even longer and so, by age 86, widows outnumber widowers by a goodly number.

So it is that I now join a number of my friends in that not-so-very-rare-state.  In just these last few days, I have already received notes and letters and Facebook messages from widowed friends offering me advice . No matter the situation of my widowed friends — affluent or not, “educated” or not, married for a long time or not — there is great similarity in their advice:

From Jean: I’m so sorry to hear of Nyel’s passing. I know you will miss him every day and feel his presence as the days pass. He will always remain in your heart and his memory will be a comfort to you as the time passes. I send my love.

From Karen:  He will be in your memories forever! And you aren’t not alone for he is your angel watching over you, helping you make difficult decisions and more. Just keep putting one foot ahead of the other and close friends will help more than you know. Hugs Hugs Hugs

From Gwen: I am so sorry for you, Sydney. I lost Robert two months ago. The voyage has been intense. In his death, I was reborn. The most personal and painful experience. Be selfish of your time and your feelings. Throw yourself into this mourning so you can make peace in the end…

From Betty — Yes, there are things you’ll be needing to tell him. You’ll find yourself turning to him to comment on something. You will feel him near you physically and that will be a comfort. But embrace it and know he is there… always nearby, loving you always.

From Eric, Mike, and Paige

From Ruth C:  You will be numb for a while… that’s a good thing.  You will do well with all the details that need you, right away — sortings, documentations, the making of order.  You’re gifted at all that.  That, too, is a good thing.  Still the changeover from partnership to solo takes time to figure out.  Now you must do everything alone, do all the household planning alone, negotiate life alone without Nyel to talk things over with,  You will miss talking with him, his very presence, his essence.
Do take every bit of assistance you are offered, and ask friends to do things that would help.  They will want to help and may not know exactly how to… or even what to say.  Love will buoy you — your loved ones will be literal, real, welcome support.  You can’t practice widowhood ahead of time.  You’ll feel your way along and likely be very busy.  Sydney, dear one, take time for yourself when it all feels too much.  I’m so glad you have folks around you who will be there for you, whatever you need.


Peonies and Pictures and Pondering

Thursday, June 9th, 2022

From Fred and Vicki

The first bouquet came today and I could scarcely believe the two lovely peonies front and center.  Peonies!  Or Pea-own-knees, as Nyel was taught to call them by his Grandma Martha.  His favorite flower!  But they have always been a bit cranky about growing here in our mild climate.  Not like in Idaho.

“Put ice cubes around their base every morning,” someone said.  We didn’t but they grew anyway, even if ever so slowly.  “This year you’ll have a bumper crop,” I told Nyel. Lotsa buds but they’re even slower than usual.  When they finally come, the season will be long over.

From John Snyder

And how I’m enjoying the pictures of Nyel that friends are posting!  One from my former team-teaching mate, John Snyder.  It shows Nyel in front of our old “Bay House” probably in 1984 or 1985.  I’m not sure what he was doing — maybe transplanting a baby tree — but he sure was handsome!  And that never changed.

I remember that he planted a grove of alder trees just south of our road — transplanted the babies that would “grow into our wood lot,” he promised.  They did, but by then we had moved into town, into the family house.

They say that a house becomes a home after it has seen a wedding, a birth, and a death.  My great-uncle Cecil was married here in 1910 by my Grandfather, then the Justice of the Peace.  I don’t know that there has ever been a birth here — except for the batches of kittens that are periodically born underneath the once-upon-a-time parlor. (My grandmother went to Portland or Olympia to have her babies.)  And I’m not sure if anyone has ever died in these rooms.  Until yesterday.   So finally, after 153 years, is this officially a home?