Waves, Sand & Sea Spray


I love the ocean in the wintertime. I’m transfixed by white foaming rolls of water that slam into the rocks with a deafening roar. But my childhood memories take me back to Huntington Beach, in May during the 1950’s.

In Southern California May meant warm sunshine and an annual beach field trip. With swim suits worn beneath our clothes, and with our drawstring bags filled with towels, lunches and dry underwear, we would scamper aboard the big yellow school buses anticipating our day of carefree play.

At the beach the buses would park in nearly empty parking lots, the doors remaining closed until the teachers and chaperones finished giving us last minute instructions. Then we would hear a low squeak as the driver slowly pulled on the lever that opened the door. We would all be on our feet by then, anxious to race off of the bus. But Mrs. Gallagher would stand in the aisle and move slowly toward the back, forcing us to stay in our seats until the kids in front had cleared the way.

As soon as our feet hit the blacktop we would bolt for the beach; shedding our shoes as soon as our feet left the pavement. We would settle on the sand in groups of three or four—the girls over here and the boys over there—all of us distancing ourselves from the teachers and chaperones.

This beach trip was a big deal to my sister and me because our family never picnicked on the beach. So it didn’t matter to us, that while the other kids spread out big bright colorful beach towels, we had brought along the oldest bath towels Mother could find in the hall closet.

Sometimes, when we arrived, a damp fog still made the water look opaque and our shoulders feel cold.  We would wrap our towels around our shoulders and tiptoe to the water’s edge.  We would stand there letting the icy water wash sand between our toes. Close to shore the waves would create little mounds of foam that tumbled over each other like tiny puppies at play. We would hold hands with each other while we jumped over the swells that made their way to shore.

As the day warmed up we would shed our towels and venture farther out. Inch by inch we’d go until the water seemed warmer than the marine air. We would laugh and play with our backs to the waves until—Blam! A large wave would roll in and slam us forward into the swirling tide. Legs and arms would flail in all directions. We would choke as the salty brine entered our mouths and noses. Sometimes when we weren’t nimble enough we’d tumble forward, pushed by the tide, until we ended up at the water’s edge with our faces planted in the sand.

As soon as we had caught our breath and our eyes quit burning, we would find our way back into the ocean for another go-round.

It makes me a little melancholy when I remember that my mother was afraid of the water and never shared that adventure with us.



Three word Wednesday:  opaque, nimble melancholy





Please Critique Me

Please critique me,

I don’t mind.

Please be honest,

but be kind.

I  have just finished reading Alan Ziegler’s, The Writing Workshop Note Book.  This book is one that I will add to my desk top. It is more than just a guide for you if you are attending a  writing workshop. It introduces you to the mechanics of a writing workshop and it provides tips for reading, writing, critiquing and teaching the craft.

Ziegler acknowledges that writers’ have different approaches to writing by sharing examples of students he has taught, writers he has known, as well as what he knows about historical writers of the past.  He encourages you as a writer to find your own style and voice.

Interlude 1 is a collection of writing exercises that provide inspiration for all writers, no matter what you write.  One suggestion has already helped me create a long list of new pieces for my memoir collection.

The section called Prepping for the Workshop, is an approach to revisions.  It provides guidelines for critiquing the work of others, but you will also go back to it frequently  to revise your own work.

The closing section has advice to help you accept the critiquing process and to get the most out of it.  Zielger shares several short antidotes about his own experiences that will amuse you and remind you that everyone can benefit from thoughtful critiquing.

Read to Write

I took a writing class one time at a nearby bookstore. When the discussion leader asked us what we read, one of the participants said, “I don’t read. I’m too busy writing. I haven’t read anything in years.” I found this unbelievable. Reading other’s work is the best creative outlet I know. I seldom read anything that doesn’t prompt me to make a note of something that I might write later.

Reading other blogs has become one of my favorite ways to come up with ideas for writing. Recently J.T. Weaver, one of my favorite bloggers shared a story about his son playing soccer. It reminded me of watching my 4-year-old granddaughter play with her team. (I’ll share that story later.) Another of his stories about planting tulips with his daughter once again reminded me of my 3-year-old-grandson helping pick potatoes. And even less directly, J.T.’s blog prompted this blog post. Thank you J.T.

How does one write, even fiction, without reading?


The Mackinaw

I remember the first day I met him, only because it was my first day in the office and I didn’t know what was expected of me.  The day I met him however, is very different from the day I noticed him. The day I noticed him came later.  He had just come from Hurricane Ridge where he had been preparing the slopes for the weekend skiers.  He wore a red plaid mackinaw wool coat and his prematurely silver hair was still damp from the mountain’s exposure.

He stood at the reception desk just outside my office so it was easy for me to scrutinize him without his knowledge.   He wiped the moisture from his glasses before the receptionist sent him in. I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like to work up on the mountain all alone isolated from everyone else.

I grew up in a warmer climate and I never learned to ski.  Knowing that he often spent hours up there grooming slopes and maintaining equipment made him seem a bit mysterious to me.  I could tell that he loved the job, even if he never admitted it.  He was so faithful to it.  It wasn’t unusual for him to slip into the office late in the afternoon,  to pick up payroll or payroll reports, just before we locked the door.  I’d quickly instruct him about deadlines for mailing whatever report was due and he would be on his way–at least in the beginning.

I’m not sure when I realized there was something important happening between us.  I should have been aware sooner than I was.  He’s a very observant sort of guy.  One day he came in to the office and I had my hands wrapped around my coffee cup to keep them warm.  That year at Christmas he gave me gloves.  I’m guess I am a little dense, because it wasn’t until many years later that I realized that was really a very personal gift.   Even the first bottle of perfume didn’t send up my sensors.

Had I noticed him?  You bet I had, but he was nice to everyone.   I figured I was just another bookkeeper to him.  And there’s a bit of an age difference so I didn’t expect him to pay any attention to me.

Then one day he took me out to lunch.  Of course he was wearing that red plaid coat.  I, in my isolated little world, thought of it as a business lunch.  And it wasn’t until several lunches later that I realized –oh, this is more than just a business lunch.

I hadn’t planned to ever marry again.  And for a long time, although I was attracted to him, I saw him more as an escort than anything else.  My job included membership in a number of professional organizations.  That meant there were often social functions to attend.  Social functions can feel pretty awkward if you always have to go alone.  At those times he traded the red wool coat for a sports jacket and he became a great escort.  Not only is he interesting and charming, but in the early days, nearly everyone in town either knew him from his work on the ski lifts or from his construction business. He often knew more of the people at the event than I did.   He is such a social person that I never had to wonder if he was having a good time.  He could and still can start a conversation with anyone, anywhere.

I can’t pinpoint when I realized I wanted more than an escort.  But I have to admit there is nothing like new love.  I will always cherish those early days.  Days when he would show up at the office at noon or at closing time with a couple of sandwiches from a deli or fast food restaurant and we would drive out to Ediz Hook and watch the waves bounce off of the rocks or watch the sea gulls fight for crumbs.  During the colder months he always wore that red plaid coat as we walked along the beach and talked.

There was a time when, in the mornings before work, we would meet for coffee at Birney’s.  In the winter it always made me smile when he came in wearing his red plaid coat.  We’d hold hands across the table while we read the newspaper and the time to go to work always came too soon.

For years winter months brought out that red plaid coat.  Our lives together have grown, but when he retired it was as if that coat retired too.  It seldom comes off the hanger now.  Every time I clean out the coat closet, I think, it takes up a lot of room, but it makes me smile.  And I can’t imagine not seeing it there when I open that closet door.

Three word Wednesday:  Faithful, isolate, scrutinize.









Happy Birthday Avon–

Avon Miller of Port Angeles will celebrate his 90th birthday this month.  He was born in Port Angeles to Charles and Mary Miller in 1923.  He grew up in the Beaver and Sappho Logging Camps in the west end of Clallam County.  Avon attended Beaver Elementary School and graduated from Quilleyute High School (Forks) in 1941. 

Immediately after graduation he enlisted in the Navy where he served aboard various vessels in the Aleutian Islands and the Pacific.  During World War II he was a signalman and part of Admiral Halsey’s Flag Allowance.  He was aboard the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945 and watched the signing of the treaty with Japan.

  After leaving the Navy in 1946 he attended classes at Seattle Pacific College; worked as a merchant marine; worked for Middleton Motor Parts; and built a boat and tried his hand at commercial fishing; before joining his brother, Claude Miller, in Fairbanks, Alaska where they both worked for Benson Montaigne.  This is where he met and married  Geraldine Awe.  They moved back to Port Angeles in 1951.They have two children together, Leslie and Scott.  Avon worked for Aiken Oldsmobile (now Ruddell Motors) until 1955 when he started his own business.

Avon ‘s construction company worked on various projects throughout Washington State including water systems and fish hatcheries;  the road to Hurricane Ridge and the tunnels when that road was built; and various projects for the National Park and Indian Health  Services.

In 1965 Avon and Ted Simpson purchased the ski lift equipment at Hurricane Ridge from Larry and Tom Winters.  Originally they serviced the Sunrise, Bunny, Intermediate and Bowl Slopes.  In 1970 Avon aided in the organization of Olympic Ski Lifts, Inc.  This corporation sold shares to finance improvements, including adding the Pomalift.  He assisted Glen Brown, the contractor, with its installation.  For several years Avon continued as the operations manager for Olympic Ski Lifts, Inc.

In addition to skiing he enjoyed years of hiking in the Olympics and fishing in the Straits.  In 1985 he married Mary Ann Davis and added her children, Vincent and Judy Davis, to the family.  After his retirement from the Construction business in 1991 he and Mary Ann made several trips across the United States visiting with family and friends.

Today he spends most of his time having coffee and conversation with friends; working on projects in his woodworking shop; and writing short stories about growing up in the logging camps at the West End during the 1930’s.

Avon claims four children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Happy Birthday my dearest friend.


The Farm

I know I have not posted much lately…more on that later.

I thought I would share with you the short memoir that I wrote and that J T Weaver generously posted on his site last month…here goes.

The Farm

There is a large two-story farmhouse that sits across State Route 50 from the little town of Avon, South Dakota.  Over the years it has been substantially remodeled and although it sits on its original foundation there is little about the house or property to remind me of the farm I remember from the 1950’s. My grandparents lived and farmed at this location for many years.

 “Working from sunrise to sunset” was not a cliché for them it was their way of life, their livelihood.  I was raised in the city so as a child I did not realize how hard they worked.  There were no three-week vacations for them; no nights in fancy hotels, just days of chores repeated over and over.  Electric lights and running water were their luxuries.

Early in the morning, sometimes before the sun was up, and again each evening, Grandpa lead his cows into the barn, lined them up in a row and secured their heads in stanchions.  The cows were content to eat the hay or chew their cud while Grandpa went about the milking. If we entered the barn before the milking started the smell of freshly tossed hay would tickle our noses and make us sneeze.  The cows however never seemed to mind.  They just stood there, swishing their tails back and forth like a row of metronomes, and started their daily chorus with a low rumble increasing volume until they reached their peak.  Then the volume would decrease before their mooing surged again.

Grandpa would grab a bucket and balance himself on his three-legged stool.  Then with hands made strong by daily labor he would manually extract the milk.  After emptying the pail into the separator he would move down the line until all of the cows were milked. Sometimes he let us try.  He would wrap his weathered hands around ours and gently squeeze until the milk flowed freely into the bucket.  When the milking was done Grandpa ran the milk through the separator and filled freshly washed quart jars, readying the milk for the daily customers.

Normally Grandma gathered the eggs, but occasionally she would hand us the big brown basket, the one filled with straw to cradle the eggs, and send us to the hen-house.  There was no harmony in the hen-house.  When we opened the door there was a flurry of squeaking and squawking and of wings beating.  Straw and feathers filled the air.  It was a good thing Mother always went with us because there was sure to be one old hen not willing to relinquish her eggs.  Mother would prod her gently until she flapped her wings in defeat.

Late in the afternoon, when the summer sun still baked the fields, Grandma might hand us the bucket from the counter in the kitchen and send us out to the pump.  Although pipes for City water had been extended under the highway and connected to the house and then to the faucet in the kitchen, my Grandparents still pumped their drinking water from the cistern on their east porch.  We would stand outside and pump and pump.  Then we’d say, “But Grandma it doesn’t work.”

Grandma would say, “Keep pumping.”

And suddenly “Splat,” the first splash of water would hit the pail.  We’d stop pumping and the water would stop running, so we’d pump some more.  When the water started to fill the pail we would pump and squeal with excitement not realizing we needed to stop before the water reached the top.  When the water reached the rim it gushed over the sides and slithered along the wooden porch until it found the openings between the slats.  Then it ran freely on to the ground below.  It always took at least two of us to transfer the pail from the porch back to its spot in the house.  Nothing ever tasted as good as a long cold drink of water drawn from a pail we had filled ourselves.

By the end of the day my Grandparents fell asleep early, worn out by their daily chores.  We, too, fell asleep early, worn out by our daily adventures.  But early the next morning when the light came through the window we crawled out of bed and tiptoed to the window.  We listened for the melody from the birds that lived in the big old tree that sat in the corner of the yard.

It is different now.  The hen-house was dismantled years ago.  The barn too, has been torn down.  There is no longer a faded red porch or water pump on the east side of the house.  Even the tree where birds used to sing has been removed from the yard.  It saddens me when I look at that spot, where once was a farm, an adventurous plot, for today there stands only–a house on a lot.