Three days on the road from dry desert country and I arrive back on the Peninsula in an afternoon downpour. It’s “rain turning to showers” for days in a row with snow and freezing nights thrown in for good measure. But, you know what? — I’m glad to be home.

My first stop is Jack’s for some fresh salmon — lightly braised — and cranberries — bubbling on the stove with a little honey. Then I bring in a stack of wood and sit by the fire sorting my voluminous stacks of mail (kindly collected by neighbor Ann Gaddy — thanks!).

How does anyone get through these winter days without a fireplace? (This is, I know, a first world problem.) I love the light it throws on the walls, the snap-crackle, and the heat. Just seeing the fire from across the room seems to warm my innards.

Last night — while tucked snugly in bed — I began reading about a Somali woman and her son who have lived for four years on a bench under a blue tarp in Tooting, England, a district of South London (https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-50211901). The Somali community and London city officials have offered them housing but they prefer their bench.

Is this an example of choosing freedom, of wanting to stride along through one’s own destiny; an inability to understand options for self-care; or simply a stubbornness? It’s unthinkable to this Washingtonian. Maybe I’m just a wimp, but I can barely sleep comfortably unless I have the correct number of pillows on the bed.

Time to tend to fruit trees

Before I left for my southwest sojourn, I spoke to Todd Wiegardt about pruning my fruit trees. Nope, he said, too early. But when I got home from my Tucson adventures, I was gratified to see that Todd had been at work in my yard whipping those buddleia into shape, cutting back the escallonia, and trimming various trees.

While I sipped hot coffee this week, Todd arrived again to continue his work, tackling the horse chestnuts and underbrush just over my fence.

Watching Todd working away outside — while I sat warm and dry just inside the windows — was such a pleasure. And knowing that a professional is tending properly to the fruit trees that provide me (and the birds and other wildlife) fruit in the harvest months gives me a good feeling.

I love my fruit trees — Liberty apple, Asian pear, Montmorency cherry and green gage plum. It’s a tiny miracle that delicious edible goodness can spring from the earth with just a little sun and water. How did humans get so lucky?

Now I have four enormous piles of branches and clippings scattered in my wild lower yard, primed for later burning.

Or maybe I’ll leave a few big jumbles because they provide such good refuge for wildlife.

In other news — Veterans Lunch

I returned just in time to witness the third annual Veterans Lunch this year at the Moose Lodge, organized and spearheaded by Nanci Main. Her “management team” of Cliff Pedersen, Al Betters, Steve Kovach and Kathy Haney along with a huge crew of volunteers fed 87-plus local vets. The Women of the Moose were everywhere too, tending to the coffee pots, serving and clearing, and, with Steve’s help in the bowels of the kitchen, cleaning up and washing dishes.

The night before the lunch, 75 pounds of beef was roasting in the Moose Lodge ovens (Cash ‘N Carry in Warrenton helped with these provisions), and there was a nearly bottomless vat of gravy.

At the lunch, empty plates were filled — and I mean piled high — with roast beef and gravy, buttered carrots, roasted Yellow Finn potatoes (from Tom Downer’s garden), and handmade rolls (from baker Nanci). Cakes, pies, cookies, muffins, and sweet bread provided by our community filled the desert table, and the coffee was, of course, non-stop.

As the side room of the lodge filled, the air was buzzing with conversation — war phrases and fragments about roadside munitions, deployments, A company, sergeants, agent orange, VA stories. And there were vets from every war back to WWII (all hail Marian!) through Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan.

All branches of the service were represented — even some Coasties showed up.

Al presented Nanci with a plaque of appreciation — this is the third luncheon she has organized. The number of vets that showed up tripled this year. (A special thanks to the Chinook Observer for including the poster announcement in the newspaper and online; this helped boost attendance.) Nearly every seat was taken; when this happens again a new and bigger venue will be needed.

A walk back in time

One side story from the lunch was the felicitous hand-off to me of a piece of Peninsula history. Army veteran and Ilwaco resident Kathy Nurkowski was sitting at the back of the room. In a quiet moment I sat down to talk with her and discovered that she’d brought a copy of the Ilwaco High School — Il-Wa-Hi — yearbook from 1929 given to her by Walfred “Wally” Leback. She was hoping to find the right person to give it to and I volunteered.

It will soon be placed in the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum archives, but before I pass it on for posterity I wanted to show it to historian Sydney Stevens; so I stopped by for coffee. Nyel was just putting the last batch of oatmeal raisin cookies in the oven when I popped in, and, yes, there was a fire roaring in the fireplace.

We sat down and browsed through this charming document picking out long-time Peninsula family names — Wirkkala, Pesco, Williams, Goulter, McGowan, Doupé.

Sydney was even surprised to find a listing of past graduates that included uncles Edwin and Willard Espy (graduates in 1925). The style of the book is classic Art Deco, from the typeface to the stylistic advertisements including Vernon Brumbach’s Groceries, A.C. Pesco’s Pastime Billiard Parlor, Crohn Karson’s Spring Suits, and Mrs. W. B. Hawkins Sunday Chicken Dinner (“reasonable rates, all meals 50¢”).

The formal style of the clothing and the content of the prose are definitely from another era. And the women’s hair styles — all bobbed curls and tight waves — were reminiscent of earlier photos of those mothers or grandmothers of us Boomers.

It was marvelous to wander through the pages; they present a concise history lesson from a time long past.

I’ll leave this document at the front desk of the Chinook Observer office for a couple weeks in case anyone wants to come browse through it; then we will pass it on to Betsy Millard to store at the museum. I heartily thank Kathy for entrusting me with this document. It’s a 91-year-old treasure!

Tucson was fun but nothing like my first week back on our beloved spit of land at the end of the world.

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