There’s always a flip side!

Nov 8, 2022 | 0 comments

The invitation arrived this morning by email from Josephine LaCosta, a woman I’d never heard of (or so I thought) and, apparently an author.  I was a part of a string of folks being invited to a book launch party because I was “so generous as to agree to be interviewed by me two years ago for my forthcoming  book, Tangerine on the Sill.”

Really?  I was?  I have absolutely no memory of the author, the proposed book, or the interview.  Damn this aging process, anyway!  I looked back through my emails (few of which I trash) and there on February 21, 2021, I found this:

* The following brief vignette on Oysterville is interspersed with selections from an interview I conducted with Sydney Stevens, a third generation Oysterville resident. We had the interview after I wrote this section. Sydney’s words are in italics. 

(p) Quickly after toast, Laura and I gathered ourselves and drove to Oysterville. This town sits asleep, forgotten, yet still inhabited by “children of the pioneers” at the tip of the Long Beach Peninsula along the Willapa Bay.

My mother was born in 1911. There were more businesses here in her childhood than there have been in my lifetime. 

In the graveyard a headstone for two unnamed, drowned sailors reads, “And the Sea Gave Up the Dead.” 

But I often wonder what’s going to happen when there is a tsunami. I just wonder how much water will come into Oysterville from the bay. Will it really be 30 feet of water, or not? I just don’t know. My plan, if this does happen, is to go to the cemetery and hug a tree! It’s the highest place in Oysterville at 30 feet above sea level. 

Oysterville Baptist Church and Congregation

Adjacent to the graveyard is a grassy, undulating field. At its feet a house rests crookedly, half caved in, with its erect side lifted by the collapse like a sinking ship. The whole town seemed to be sinking into the marsh. 

During high tides, the path down along the water is under water. My mother said that along that path there was an old road and there were old businesses that were on pilings there. They didn’t care too much about permanence in those days. All of Oysterville eventually just withered away. Businesses moved down to Nahcotta when the train came. Houses were left vacant. I remember abandoned barns and old sheds falling in. This has happened in many of America’s rural communities which have been left behind. 

I watched small waves from the bay lapping up against the coastline, slowly swallowing its shape. The marsh itself was moving with the tide and the distinction between land and sea went slack. It did feel like the town was under a spell. 

(laughs) Yes, the peninsula is almost floating these days.

Time had moved through Oysterville only as far as a cry can travel underwater: muffled.  Something about the mist in the air, or the sag in the marsh had preserved it. All of the low slung fences were covered in usnea and they were leaning. Before climbing back into the car, I noticed how wet it had gotten and wondered if I had gotten that wet or if it had even rained. 

Photo by Susan Andrews

During very high tides, the water has come as far as 4th street and covered the road. This has only happened twice in my lifetime, and I’m 84. High tides are fleeting, as soon as they come in they go right back out.

Laura suggested we cruise down the main drag, past the chipping paint and the sea glass bottles in windows and the historic plaques, one last time. But I couldn’t bear it. We were yawning, Oysterville was beginning to slow us too.

When hunger snapped us from the jaws of historic torpor, we found ourselves pulling off the side of the road towards a ramshackle painted wood sign which read, “goat’s milk, goat’s cheese, and soaps” on three different planks.

Wow!  So there it was!  Do I remember the interview now?  No.  Are the words about Oysterville mine?  Yes — right down to my age at the time!  How I wish I could attend the launch party but it is scheduled for the same day as our next House Concert here!  I am so sorry to miss it but hope to learn where to get the book.   Stay tuned!  Meanwhile, I can only say that forgetfulness I am willing to accept as part of this aging process — but could we also be blessed with the ability to clone ourselves?  Just for book launches, maybe.

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