HURRICANE (I was there!)

My hurricane was called Yankee Clipper, Long Island Express, or simply The Great Hurricane . People still talk about the New England hurricane of 1938.  Today we designate  hurricanes by female names, which may or may not be significant.  For instance those girls named Katrina may wish to rethink the spelling of their name at least.  Today Irene seems to be slowing down or pausing for reflection.  The wisest residents of states in her path have evacuated at least to higher ground.

In 1938 we moved to Connecticut, where my father was to be attached to the New London Submarine Base.  Right after my 10th birthday in April, we loaded our few belongings into our black Chevy sedan, and drove across country, taking four days and nights to do so.  It’s a good thing I was small and could curl myself into a ball in the back seat,  and liked to read and sleep, because otherwise it might have been a miserable four days for my parents!  There weren’t many motels then (they called them motor courts), which was a good thing as we couldn’t afford one anyway in the Depression.  My main recollection of the long trip was that the middle of our country is very hot and dry in the summer, and I have subsequently been very happy to live on its Coasts for most of my life.

The New London/Groton area in those days was mostly sleepy rural village, with a Norman Rockwell atmosphere.   The small two-room school which I would attend, was three miles from our house.  The small collection of houses where we lived were on a tiny lake, which would freeze in the winter, and allow us to skate across thus saving about a mile walk to school.   Right after the first of September,  the journeys to and from school were still quite warm with the added  pleasure the autumn colors offered.  Not that I was a bird fancier then, but I still recall the first and only brilliant red cardinal I ever saw flitting through the red/gold leaves.

On September 21, a gigantic hurricane struck, which to this day is said to be the most powerful, costliest, and deadliest to hit New England in its 350 year history  It began with light rain, which increased as the morning continued. The morning walk to school was wet, but not too windy.   The cloakroom was filled with the children’s wet wool clothes, and the smell, along with the accompanying odors of deviled egg and tuna sandwiches was unpleasant.  Later I remember the winds picking up and beginning to howl, and our little wooden building began creaking ominously.

We children couldn’t stay away from the windows, watching the trees in the nearby woods whip around in the gale.  Now and then a deafening clap of thunder shook the building.  Our teacher was obviously alarmed, and had trouble keeping us away from the large windows which shook with each gust of wind.  Some of the smaller trees were being uprooted and small undergrowth was tossed about like beanbags.  The noise was frightening.  It became apparent that we would be released as soon as the teachers had a plan.  The phone was out, and then the lights went out.  When I went to collect my damp coat, the building lurched, and I dropped the lunchbox I was carrying.  It was a loud and confusing scramble trying to get 25 children back into wet clothes and out into the rain.

A few parents were there to pick up some of the children, though most of the others seemed to live in the same direction as I, and we were left to walk.  It was difficult trying to jump over fallen debris, and avoid anything still being blown down.  As we hurried along the road, it became apparent as to why no one had come for us.  Many of the very old and large trees had fallen across the road preventing any traffic.  I don’t remember any of us being afraid, rather as a rather wet game which allowed us to escape school.  Some of the children lived in farmhouses along the way, and were very happy to get back home safely.  Finally I was left walking alone as I lived the farthest.  I tried playing mind games putting myself in a warm safe place, but as it became darker and windier the woods became scarier and more malevolent.  The howling of wind is possibly the loneliest sound there is.  I lost my prized new lunchbox when I tripped over a log, and while I was down on the ground, I heard a weak pathetic whine coming from just inside the woods.  Going to investigate, I found a small very wet dog whose collar had been caught by a bush.  Breaking him loose, I picked him up and we went home together.  The next day, my father found the owner, who was delighted to have him back home.

My main recollection is arriving home to the warm comforting smell of freshly baked bread, which my mother baked in our old black iron wood stove.  Never has bread been so welcome nor tasted so good.

The next day we discovered that the storm had accelerated later in the day, and took the roof off the old schoolhouse, and all of its windows.  The only thing left standing in the playground was the large wooden outhouse, and the swing sets.


Some years ago, while decadently enjoying oysters fresh out of the sea on Georgia and Emmett Oliver’s deck overlooking the Hood Canal at Lilliwaup, Washington, a group of us began tossing aroound the wonderful Indian names of the rivers in the Olympic rain forest just across the highway from us.  Hamma Hamma, Dosewallips, Duckabush, Elwha, Hoh.  Dr. Advice and I thought it would be a great idea to backpack through the rain forest up one of these rivers, and be met on the far side by friends who would bring us back to Lilliwaup.  It didn’t really matter that we had not done much if any backpacking, although we were great hikers and campers.  How difficult could it be?  When the oysters were gone, and a few more bottles of wine consumed, our plans were set.  We would go back home to Fremont, gather our gear, pack up Hilda our intrepid little dachsund, and return in a couple of weeks to begin the hike.  Collecting the right gear and supplies took a bit more time than we thought, so the trip was postponed until the end of August.

We arrived at the Canal in high spirits ready to be dropped off at the trailhead the next morning.  Along with dry food which we would be eating during the hike, I tucked in large bunches of fresh grapes which I thought would be a good way to hydrate us along the way.  Hilda was in rare form, cheerfully trotting alon g ahead of us reveling in all the strange smells and occasional scurrying of invisible varmints.  We had chosen to hike the Duckabush trail which was well marked on the Geologic survey maps we had acquired.  After about 5 miles, though we were shaded most of the way by the moss covered trees, it began to be hot, so we shed some of the clothing we had started with in the early morning fog.  Dr. Advice sang his old Boy Scout songs, and I ate grapes until their sweetness conflicted with the unfamiliar effort I was exerting and I felt I would embarrass myself if I did not sit and remove my backpack.  Dr. Advice, being of strong Danish heritage  offered good advice to throw away the grapes.

We continued for another few miles that first day, until strangely, my pack gained another 16 pounds, and I made the sensible suggestion to stop for the day.  Just about that time, we heard singing coming from along the trail behind us, and a large group of Boy Scouts were marching cheerily along on the way to the same bivouac we were headed for.  They waved at us, Hilda sniffed and followed them for a few yards, and we decided to go a little further and set up camp by ourselves instead of sharing the space with a bunch of 12 year olds.

We found a lovely spot with a tiny stream and threw our sleeping bags on the ground and called it home for the night.  Dr. Advice asked if I had seen the bear warning signs along the way, which I had not.  We made coffee on our little stove, and prepared to bed down.  We did not have food that the bears might be interested in, unless you considered Hilda, so I tucked her into my sleeping bag and told her to be very quiet.  I hung a pair of red lace panties from a tree, thinking this might discourage any bear who was brave enough to check us out, and we slept soundly until early morning.

I don’t remember much about the second day, except being very tired, and hungry for “real” food, so we took a straw poll and decided that 20 miles was about a decent stroll into this forest.  We turned around on the third day and headed back.  Emmett said he was surprised we had not gone all the way, but looking back, I am sure he knew we were pretty wimpy.  They picked us up at the trailhead and we all had a good laugh over my red lace panty episode.

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware”  Martin Buber



















For at least 8,000 years before Euro-Americans arrived, there flourished on the western shores of the North American continent a people and a culture highlighted by the omnipresent and hallowed dugout canoe.  It was an economic necesssity like a railroad or highway and also provided recreation which persists today in the sport of racing.

In 1985 our good friend Emmett Oliver, a Quinault, a prominent   educator and retired Coast Guard commander, conceived the idea of bringing Native canoes to the shores of the Puget sound  to celebrate the centennial of the State of Washington in 1989.  Emmett was at that time Supervisor of Indian Education for the State, and felt that the endeavor would bring pride to the native people of the state and renew the tradition of the importance of the canoe .  Initially in the first year,  13 tribes were interested, which grew to 18 canoes.  Canoes were to come from Washington and Canada to Suquamish.  The flotilla of Native canoes would then make a seven-mile journey to the shores at Shilshole Bay.

In 1985 dugout canoes were almost a lost art in the Pacific Northwest, found mostly in museums.  The idea was to have the tribes carve their own canoes, assemble at a rendezvous, and paddle across Puget Sound to Seattle.  They would camp in the park, and spend 2 days canoe racing on the sound and enjoying time together celebrating cherished features of Norhwest Coast culture.  Permits for trees were granted by the state, trees were transported and the actual work began in 1987.  Some had not carved a canoe for over 50 years, and some tribes had never done so.  Carving workshops were formed and finally,  framed by the rising skyline of the city, 18 canoes were ready to paddle across the sound.  With Emmett aboard a Coast Guard command vessel, and with 5,000 people ready to greet them, Paddle to Seattle was accomplished on July 21, 1989.  A roar of encouragement arose from the beach in a great surge of pride for the carvers, the canoes, and the paddlers who performed as though they had manned those canoes lifelong.  their shoulders bore the traditions of 8 millenia.

Last month, on July 25, 22 years after the first Paddle, 89 canoes arrived to be greeted and invited ashore by the Duwamish tribal representatives.  Marvin Oliver, son of Emmett and Georgia, is a well known artist and professor of Art at the University of Washington.  An Oliver Family honoring canoe was built to honor Emmett for this year’s Canoe Journey.  These family members make up the Quinault, Lummi and Duwamish.  The canoe was flying the Quinault flag, and family members were pulling, including 2 granddaughters of the 97 year old Elder., who were with him at age 9 as he greeted canoes 22 years ago.

The theme of the Oliver Canoe Family is “Homeward Bound” and all art was done by Marvin Oliver, which this year had a bright green and red salmon on the front and an eagle on the back.  Daughter Marylin Bard, is the Chair of the Family and organizer of the funderaising.

“The survival of the Indian people is knowing who you are and where you came from.”  James Rasmussen of the Duwamish tribe!    Isn’t it true of all of us?

“Love many, trust few, and learn to paddle your own canoe.”

Emmett with Granddaughters

Christina and Lisa

Marvin Oliver print



Forty-two years ago, in  a period of relative innocence, I asked a recently graduated daughter who was soon to enter the University of Washington what she thought the most important social problem we faced as a nation.  She quickly answered “Overpopulation”.  I said yes, that is indeed a big problem, but I think drugs may be our Waterloo.  Today, with more population and more drugs on the street, I have not changed my opinion.  Both involve choices.

The basic social element in any society is family, but what is family?  When life was simpler, it involved two parents and various children who were all related.   Today there are so many variations of “family”,  some of whom never sit down to a communal  meal together, that it boggles the mind.    But we are naive if we fail to recognize them as “family”.   We are all looking for approval and support, and hopefully, love, and this is what family is supposed to supply.

Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce.  We all know the statistics by rote, but do parents actually think about the children of divorce when the heat of anger and self-pity is burning?  In some cases, a good divorce is better than a bad marriage, and with mature caring parents who can work together in support of their children, it can actually work.  Many years ago, I heard a young boy tell another who was lost and crying in the throes of his families’ breakup, “But you will have two houses, two Christmases, etc.”  It never works out that way.  Mostly, one parent is driven away by a bitter spouse, and somethimes sees the child rarely.  Then new step-parents and half-siblings become a part of the child’s life as well, which further complicates matters.  What then has become of the child who was?  Where does she fit into the family?

Since the two people who were supposed to care for her parted, it surely must be some fault within her which caused it.  Otherwise they would never have left her.  So she looks for friends who can understand her problem, (perhaps having the same difficulty with self-approval), and as we have seen, there are far too many of them around.  The local Malls are great places to meet friends, as is Facebook, parties, and of course, school.  Whichever parent has custody is busy working , or just busy with Life.  Too busy for schoolwork, other children, or just talking.  They quickly lose touch with the child’s life, but she keeps seeking someone who understands and cares about her.  The sad part about this is that the parent has no idea that things have changed.  That somehow this child has grown apart from them, and they never noticed.  Some children are  indeed fortunate in having adored and adoring grandparents who live nearby, but even then it’s difficult to see changes.

The drug culture is rampant, and thrives not only in urban and suburban areas, but surprisingly in the farmlands of the Midwest and South, and in  deeply evangelical communities all over the country.  Where do the drugs come from?  Are there shady people hiding near the corners ready to pounce on unsuspecting kids?  We are all familiar with “Drug Cartels”, Mexican gangs, etc.  Surely, we have taught our innocent children to avoid these people, and “Just say no” as Nancy Reagan so naively put it.  Easy to say, and if this were the way drugs were presented, it would be easy to do.  But the kids give/sell it to themselves.  If you give me some, I may split it up and sell the rest, thus insuring that I can get more.  Besides, pot smoking is fun.  Everyone says so.  Older kids think it is a lark to “turn on” some younger child, just to see his reaction, and lo and behold, he likes the effect.  Parties are a wonderful place to share new drugs, and soon there is a real “pharmeceutical representative” born.  Prescription drugs stolen from parents, such as vicodin and oxicontin, both highly addictive, bring a high price.  The astonishing thing is the young age our children are falling prey to the addiction.  Age ten and eleven is not unusual, long before their young brains have formed .

Are all these children victims of divorce and abandonment?  Of course not.  They come from the “projects” as well as children of high society parents, and everything in between.  Wherever kids gather, it is a possible threat, unless SOMEONE IS LOOKING OUT FOR THEM!  But the so-called “troubled” children are most vulnerable.

Once addicted, can these young children recover?  There are Rehabilitation facilities all over the country, where those who can afford it may go for 30-60 days of  counseling, sometimes in a “12-step program”.   And afterwards they must go to a daily meeting with their counselors, perhaps forever.   It may take more than 30-60 days to “cure” the problem in which case the child lives with another “family” group of fellow addicts.  They are  given a mentor whom they can call on at any time they feel they may slip back into the morass.  In these days of cell phones, and social networking, it is so difficult to isolate a victim  from those who would drag her back into the Dark Side.

The effect upon the family is catastrophic and expensive and the outcome unsure.  It becomes all about choices.  And of course, a great deal of love.  There are so many successes, and we all pray for the same success with our troubled children.  KEEPING KIDS SAFE IS OUR JOB!!  When does childhood end?  Di it ever begin?


Webster devotes half a page to simply defining the word happy, but where is it?  Is it memory, or a place, or both?  We all have a memory of something wonderfully rich and satisfiying.  A sight or a place where you caught your breath in amazement, or comfortably settled in and stored it away in your memory bank to draw on when your funds run short.   I heard a young mother tell her overwrought child to “go to your happy place”, and thought that we all have a place in memory where we were extremely happy and content.

My “happy place” belongs to my dear friends Georgia and Emmett Oliver.  Their elegantly rustic home sits upon a rocky promontory jutting into the Hood Canal in Washington state near the post office “town” of Lilliwaup, on Highway One.   It touches the Olympic rain forest on one side, and is lapped by the tidal waters of the mile wide, deep water channel which is the Hood Canal on the other.   The Oliver family generously shared this beautiful spot with us for many years, and it remains my “happy place”.

In memory I lie on the large rocks which form the shoreline, feeling the cold salt water touch my sunburned legs, and I listen to the sound of the gulls fighting over an occasional fish.  My snorkel and fins are close by whenever I choose to dive under and reach for a sea anemone or small fish. An occasional small sailboat can slowly slip around the point, and since it is a deepwater channel, now and then a very large ship or tugboat will chug into “view”.   Sometimes (in my mind) my friend calls down to me from her comfortable perch on the deck above to see if I am still alive, but mostly I just vegetate alone.

It is a fine place to go during  a root canal, or any uncomfortable spot my body tries to take me!  I “visited” it a lot during the first part of this year while having a series of acupuncture, and most recently during an early morning MRI.   So “where is happy” is obviously grounded  in  each of our memories.   Perhaps instead of a place, it is a spot in Nature, or a beautiful painting or piece of music.  It is unique for each of us.  The important thing is to be able to withdraw it whenever we choose, and somehow replicate the feelings that memory invokes.


Surely one of the world’s more enduring and fascinating murder mysteries is the late Agatha Christie’s “Murder On The Orient Express”.  By far, the most astute portrayal of the hero, Hercule Poirot, the diminutive Belgian detective who engages his “little gray cells” to solve all his cases, is that of  the British actor David Suchet.  Hercule cannot be missed with his pommaded hair and ridiculous little black mustache, he is already an object of interest, and when we include  his dapper dress, mincing walk , wearing patent leather shoes with impeccable white spats and carrying his delightful cane with its silver swan handle, you have the character of whom all mystery writers dream .

Murder On The Orient Express takes place on  the Calais part of the trip, and includes a cast of about 12 passengers including a victim.  Poirot is not happy to be on  this train and remains in his compartment sullenly awaiting mealtime, when it is frantically called to his attention that the victim has indeed been done in.  Since he is the self-acclaimed “world’s greatest detective”, he is called to solve the bloody murder which has taken place in a locked compartment, and consists of at least 12 stab wounds.  The one car on the train has become snowed in with not much hope of escaping.  Poirot sees no footprints in the snow surrounding the train, so the murderer did not escape and is still on the train.

The 12 passengers and the train employees are gathered and interviewed, much to the irritation of most of them.  There begins to be a common thread, when Poirot discovers that at least some of the passengers were acquainted with a prominent family whose child was kidnapped and murdered some years ago.  Our suspicion lands on a ubiquitous young man who says he is a doctor, and who seems to be hovering over the detective offering advice by virtue of his medical expertise.  It is discovered that not only are there at leeast 12 stab wounds, but they have been delivered from various directions.  Mystery indeed.  If you were stabbing someone,  would you change hands betwwen stabs, or would you simply get the job done and get out?

Poirot zeros in on all the passengers, pursuing the common thread, and discovers that each of his fellow passengers knew the victim, a known Mafia associate,who had been the killer of the child 5 years before. Each of the people  had close personal relationships with the family.  So there we are led to think voila! the murderer should be self-evident.  The cast is assembled, the gray cells have done their job, Poirot is at the top of his game, and announces the killer—or rather, killers!  This murder has been a community effort.  All 12 passengers have delivered their final verdict.  The Mafioso had no choice and justice was done.   Or was it?

What will be done with these 12 assassins?  Obviously punishment is due someone, but which one?  Or all?  Hercule logically explains that he will decide what is to be done, while the unrepentent killers suggest simply pushing it all under the rug.

At this point,—–I FELL ASLEEP!  What did he decide to do?  Once awake, I could not go back to sleep.  If anyone out there can tell me the answer, I will appreciate it, otherwise I shall have to go to the library and read the book.




A long and sleepless night filled with anger and self-pity.  It doesn’t matter that it is your own idea, or that it is the right thing to do, when you watch all the heavy euipment which has been the source of your refuge and comfort for fifty years pass out the door, now belonging to someone else.  And it doesn’t matter that physically you are no longer able to throw another pot, or lift a 50 pound block of clay at a time.   And there is where the self pity takes over.  Laughable really, when I think of all the pages I have turned, and all the people I have admonished to “get on with it” when something didn’t go their way.  It is human nature to blame someone else for our own shortcomings, but worse when you have to turn the blame back onto yourself.  I am embarrassed when I think of my mother-in-law, who lived around the corner and daily complained that life was no longer worth living because she needed hearing aids and could no longer drive her car.  Both her children lived around the corner from her, and visited each day.  I was fond of reminding her of how lucky she was.  How insensitve and foolish I was in my youth.  She lived in her own home until she was 93 and died in her own bed.  We always hope for understanding from those closest to us, but no one else walks in our shoes.

I have recently watched so many dear friends come to the realization that they can no longer manage their large homes,and choose another path.  Surely this is far more difficult that breaking up a sculpture studio.  It has been a week, and becomes easier each day as I dispose of more and more bits and pieces, finding so much I had forgotten, and some which made me think “what in the world were you thinking?”  Strange the things I am keeping: dusty tools, boxes of dried up paint tubes, etc.  Perhaps one day I will part with those as well.


“At the end of the day, only kindness matters.”