Rites of Spring

Hope doesn’t always spring eternal, so the promise of spring is essential. But it is at this very time of year where the ocean pulls some fast ones. I always remind myself that Ray and Juanita’s house fell in on March 31, Juanita’s birthday. Just when you think you have snuck out of winter unscathed, ready for flowers and birdsong, comes the old Washaway smackdown.

Here’s what I will call the Yellow Compound at what, until recently, was not the end of Spruce Street, on March 3.

yellow compound

graffitiHere’s the Yellow Compound on April 4.

toppled yellow 1I would say that at least 50 feet has fallen into the ocean in the last few weeks.

overturned yellow 2overturned yellow 3

overturned yellow 5Which means it’s time for “salvage”/ looting. It was tagged with a message (in tar, a nice touch, I thought) to other looters: “Don’t do it” , i.e., this is mine.

don't do itAnd, indeed, its contents were choice specimens. Who wouldn’t want this green banana lamp?

green lampOr a place to rest your weary head

yellow house contentsor the most excellent vintage fridge hiding in the lower right corner?

yellow house contents 2It’s every salvager for himself. And you know a tree hugger like me loves recycling. My quarrel is that, after salvaging the scrap aluminum, there is, as in any industry, waste product, that which cannot be turned into cash. Therefore, you have the strategically arranged, heart-stomping garbage piles. Maybe I should emphasize that the beach’s name is misleading. It doesn’t all “Wash Away.” It goes into THE OCEAN. Where, like, fish live. Not only the wise and beautiful enormous creatures, but the ones that you and I eat. Please make a note of it.

insulation pile

green tankblacktopThings have been eroding pretty seriously, all of a sudden, just south of me. “We haven’t lost anything!” my neighbors whisper, guiltily. But while a relief, I feel the secondhand dread that accompanies a friend with cancer: this is not my doom, but when will the shoe drop?

You’ll recall this big brown barn/storage shed on March 6.

brown shed 3-6Well, it now looks like this:

tire, concrete, roofAnd then there is the adorable A-frame, once owned by a cute old couple, then looted, then bequeathed to one of my least favorite “salvagers”, now festooned with piles of crap insulation in the back , and about to fall in the ocean. Easy come, easy go, no?

A-frame March 6

A-frame March 6

A-frame April 5

A-frame April 5

I’m thinking about the dashed hope of spring, because it was a year ago today I donated my bone marrow to my Mom. All I was thinking about, at the time, was me, me, me, I’m sorry to say. Fear: fear of hospitals, of doctors “harvesting” a “spongy red liquid containing stem cells” with hollow needles from my spine. Would it hurt? It never occurred to me that my inconvenience would not save the day.

sideways tree

I will say that the dread was worse than the actual experience, probably a good life lesson, and John Hopkins’s drugs were excellent. I wish I had been braver, or more selfless, with what, now, I’m pretty proud of.

overturned roots

Too bad she died anyway. “I don’t think it was you,” my Dad told me today.

replaced signage

With or without my endorsement, let the rites of spring begin. You’ll see that there are a lot of pictures of dogs here. Coincidence. I don’t hire the talent, I just shoot ‘em.

Kite, boat, Jeep

Kite, boat, Jeep

Marcy in rainwatchers 02 watchers 08

watchers 15 watchers 09watchers 06watchers 05

They were excited to reuse the tumbled concrete. "We have a muddy yard and a fire pit," she explained.

They were excited to reuse the tumbled concrete. “We have a muddy yard and a fire pit,” she explained.


Crab apple

Woodworker Jeffro Uitto was salvaging Crabapple branches for Brady's Oysters' smoker. Yum!

Woodworker Jeffro Uitto was salvaging Crab apple branches for Brady’s Oysters’ smoker. Yum!

watchers 11watchers 04watchers 14The thing is to remember the promise, not the promise dashed. Right? As we’ve discovered, dread does little to change the outcome.

Posted in Watchers | 3 Comments


While I was on vacation, swimming and snorkeling in a warmer version of the very same water, the ocean was up to its old malfeasance. You’ll recall from my last post that this house was on the edge at Washaway.

70's house 7I shot some video of it with my fancy new telephone:

But now the whole thing is gone. Allow me to show you a week– no, four days–in the life.

Monday, March 3.

Monday 2


Katie, Monday

Sheet in sand, Monday

Sheet in sand, Monday

Fabric (drapes?) in sand, Monday

Fabric (drapes?) in sand, Monday

Monday 3Monday 4Monday 5Tuesday, March 4:

Tuesday video, 9.8 tide:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQ2ck6PRKtk


See? Only hacks use umbrellas.

overturned tree and mossTuesday 1Tuesday 2Tuesday 3Tuesday 4Wednesday, March 5:


A message to the ocean.

A message to the ocean.Wednesday 4

chunks of grass

Spruce St

Spruce Street

Wednesday 1Wednesday 2

A picnic house, further down the beach.

A picnic house, further down the beach.

WednesdayThursday, March 6:

No picnic.

No picnic.

Thursday 2

Willy B. Next.

Willy B. Next.

Thursday 4

Erosion control techniques: Rockpile Peninsula Project.

Thursday 5

Senja Antilla, who makes assemblage-mosaics of Washaway houses, on the hunt.

Senja Antilla, who makes wood assemblage-mosaics from Washaway houses, harvesting.

Thursday 6Thursday 7

Only the foundation remains.

Only the foundation remains.

more signageYou would think, after twelve years, I would be used to this. But I still find it very scary and sad and humbling and profound. I have property here, too, so it’s personal, and denial is essential.


And yet, inexplicably, there is the hopefulness that accompanies the first whiff of spring.

cloud of birds

Posted in Tides-A-Com'n | 4 Comments

High Waters

eroding bank 5I came to see the high tides and yes, there is some erosion going on, but it is slightly south of me. A 10.4 tide in the wrong weather can be deadly serious, so one must be thankful for a crisp, bright day.

eroding bank 3eroding bank 6

Units of Measure are in place to track any erosion with utter exactitude.

Craig flagAnd it’s those a little bit to the south who are, as we say at Washaway, “Willie B. Next.” This poor place has been gutted to the point where no one is enjoying the waterfront-ness, except maybe the looters:

70s house 270's house 570's house 670s house interior70's house detail70's house 870s house view 1P-INearby, someone’s compound of trailers has been trashed, pillaged, plundered, and it seems more like demolition and thievery than recycling. The heart sinks.

trashed trailers 1trashed trailers 2trashed trailers 3What an opportune time to stage a pile of garbage to fall into the ocean!

garbage hillside6-panel 26-panel 1It’ll be a duet.

eroded driveway 2eroded drivewayeroded bankemerging tiresBut we must practice gratitude. With any luck, there might be another summer.

low tidestand of treespurple sunset




Posted in Tides-A-Com'n | 2 Comments

The Last Minit

The Last Minit: A villanelle

(with apologies to all real poets)

Minit market 04I never went, and so you went away.

You weren’t that good, but I thought you would last.

My car broke down, I ate your food for days.

Minit market 08I picked up ice cream there a month or more

ago, shelves bare, as though the die was cast.

I never went, and so you went away.

Minit market 03The Local Store is where we all would stray,

its produce fresh, restocked before you asked.

Sweet berries and cilantro seize the day.

Minit market 05The Chevron on the rez came into play,

with hot fried chicken, pizza and cheap gas.

I never went, and so you went away.

Minit market 06My bike lies still, without the handy way

junk food and garbage produce were so fast

to get, to eat,  guilt-free as easy prey.

Minit market 09Expired food and bad wines bring dismay.

A rugged ship, it seems to now have crashed.

A “Bud Light” sign still glows to greet the day.

I never went, and so you went away.

Posted in News | 3 Comments


frozen leavesIt was cold for real when I arrived. Rain barrel: frozen. Drinking water, olive oil, dish soap  (watered down for the little froggies): frozen. You know you have an “unheated space” when you must put liquids in the fridge to warm them up.

fireFire is good. And, having no running water, my nonexistent pipes didn’t break. We must accentuate the positive.

The highest, or “king” tides of the year, have come and gone without incident.

Washaway BeachWashaway BeachIt could be the whims of what the South Beach Bulletin, Washaway’s newspaper of record, calls “Mother Nature’s Fury!” Or could it be all the earnestly applied Erosion Control Techniques?







This is not to say it’s been entirely uneventful. There’s been some Japanese tsunami stuff washing up.

Washaway BeachWashaway BeachThere has been some interesting sea foam.

Washaway BeachWashaway BeachOne day was a monochromatic cloud soup that was like wandering in the dark.  It would’ve been easy to sneak up on someone, or vice versa. Were it not for the ocean I would not have found my way.

cloud soup 1cloud soup 2cloud soup 3There was brief snow at the beach, which I missed. There’s been stormy weather, where the trailer shimmies and shakes. It is not connected to the ground. It is a vehicle, a gypsy wagon, transient as the beach itself.

Washaway BeachWashaway BeachWashaway BeachFor now, everything endures, even the excellent fort past the rock pile. Its tarps are so shredded they have become part of the landscape, like Spanish moss.

spanish moss tarptarp spanish moss 2Washaway BeachHere (Cape Shoalwater)

No news is good news. Besides, it is never a slow news day in the South Beach Bulletin:

“Friday, December 6, 6:10 p.m. 100 Block S. Montesano- Red Apple Market. Juvenile Problem. Three juveniles throwing snow balls at vehicles. Officer checked area with negative results.”

mussel poodle

mussel poodle

“Sunday, December 8, 1:47 a.m. Suspicious Person. Intoxicated elderly male observed staring at a boat. Officer provided courtesy transport to Holiday Motel.”

Washaway Beach“Sunday, December 8, 1:59 a.m. Suspicious vehicle. Officer contacted driver. No problem.”

Washaway BeachDo you know Hans Christian Andersen’s story of “The Little Match Girl”? This story is a real drag, one more reason I prefer the Brothers Grimm. A little girl, “bareheaded and barefoot”, has struck out trying to sell matches. “The poor little creature was hungry and perishing with cold, and she looked the picture of misery.”

She starts lighting matches, and with each brief flame, she has a vision: a big warm stove with brass feet and handles. A beautiful table with “a roast goose stuffed with apples and plums.” A Christmas tree, all lit up with candles. And, finally, she sees her dead grandmother.

“Oh, do take me with you,” she says. “I know you will vanish when the match goes out. You will vanish like the warm stove, the delicious goose, and the beautiful Christmas tree!”

So she lights up all the rest of the matches and her grandmother picks her up and they go flying away. The next day people find her frozen. “She must have tried to warm herself,” they say.

Washaway BeachNow, clearly, this story sucks. So I’m happy to report the story of Washaway’s own Little Match Girl:

“December 8,  3:51 a.m. 1800 Block S. Montesano. Female walking home called 911 stating she was cold, tired, and afraid of the dark. She then stated she saw streetlights and was OK. Officer checked area with negative results.”

Merry winter to all, and to all, a streetlight.

opal sky


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The weather’s so gorgeous, do we deserve this? (My friend Jake calls these “Conversations That Never Happen in L.A.”)  It is the most incredible October ever.

poodle and clammersOctober sunset 2October sunset 1October sunset 3october sunset 6October sunset 5October sunset 4This is not to say that there has been no erosion. It has been mild, but noticeable: the half-moon bays carved into the bluff, the backlit trees, the undercut banks.

doomed pinecones

new erosion 1trees before the fallother erosion next

Willy B. Next

Willy B. Next

I’m not waterfront yet, but the loss of fall leaves combined with electric sunset backlighting from the nearby edge is dramatic and ominous at the same time.

my sunsettracks filling in

There have been some high tides– 9.2, 9.4– and the corresponding low tides brought six days of razor clamming in fabulous weather.clam turtles

WW II gun turret, high tide

WW II gun turret, high tide

The beach was crowded, with cars and trucks

clam trucksand all manner of four-wheel drive vehicles.

clam wheelchair

The low tides often correspond with the sunset, making for scenic silhouette razor clammer pictures. Everyone is wearing knee-high rubber boots and on these occasions I am Washaway fashionable, even without clams.

wide clammers cropI ran into my friends Marcy and Bob while I was out taking pictures of clammers.

Bob and clams“Do you like razor clams?” Bob asked me. I had to admit I didn’t know, but wasn’t sure I wanted to.

“They’re not just, like, a big ol’ rubbery loogie?” I asked.

Marcy clam 1“You should come over and try one,” Bob said.

After he and Marcy caught their limit of 15 clams each they were going to go home, clean them and sautee them with butter and olive oil, mushrooms, red peppers and onions. Since I’d only heard of breading and frying them or making chowder, I decided to give their preparation a whirl.

Marcy clam 2

And they were tender and tasty, I have to say, subtle and mild in flavor but not rubbery, a texture thing, the texture being like that of a sauteed mushroom.

Clam model and hand model.

Clam model and hand model.

So I decided to school myself about razor clams, seeing how I’d been rushing to judgment all these years. Their Latin name is Siliqua patula, Pacific razor clam, due to a resemblance to a folded straight razor. And I would’ve called it Pruning Saw Clam. They are a large edible bivalve mollusk with a life expectancy of 5 years. Their maximum size is 6 inches, though these are seldom found.

Clammer catches an egg instead.

Clammer catches an egg instead.

Harvesters look for a dime-sized hole in the ground called a “show” that can resemble a dimple, a doughnut, or a keyhole. The tool of the trade is a clam gun, which works on the same principle as a straw placed in a Coke with your thumb over the top, enabling the removal of a core sample.

clams and gunRazor clams are susceptible to a marine toxin called domoic acid, discovered in 1991, which can kill you. So they check for it now before they let people dig.

bagged clamsFun fact: when Hitchcock was visiting a coastal town in California one time, all the seabirds were going nuts, which served to later inform and inspire his classic film “The Birds”, and the culprit was domoic acid.

clammers 6What sounds hard is the cleaning of the clams. You run boiling water over them for 5 seconds until they open. Then you shell them and put them in cold water. With a kitchen scissors, you then remove the dark parts of the clam–siphon, gills and digestive tract.

clammers 5Then you make a circular cut around the “digger” and remove the stomach, which may have something that looks like a clear straw sticking out of it?

clammers 2“It’s not hard, it’s tedious,” Marcy told me. “You open them up and take kitchen scissors and cut out the stomach and the poop and the crystal straw. They all have that thing. I’ll save you one if you want.”clammers 4clammers 7clammers 1I asked Marcy what she thought was the reason for the enduring appeal of razor clamming. Is it because it’s so easy to do, young and old can do it? Are they THAT good? Is it free food? Or does it have to do with a connectedness to nature, to the land, to the ocean, to the food we eat, sea to table?

clammers 8 “People just stampede out there,” Marcy said. “We don’t know why. We’re fair-weather clammers. But I think it’s tradition. Children hate it. It’s cold. But they always did it. So they keep doing it.”

clam sunset“A lot of people don’t even eat the clams,” she said.

Posted in Beach Access | Tagged | 3 Comments


“It’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from here.”

-North Cove Minit Market Tide Book

 I kept seeing these posters around the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, unsigned, an image of trees rising between brick walls and the caption, “REWILD”. Finally I saw one that was grabbable, and it turns out it is some sort of silkscreen, original artwork, on Tyvek Home Wrap. The idea of REWILD has stayed with me. I put it up on my Tyvek shack.rewild

Lost soles and Rewild

Lost soles and Rewild

Ready? Just like that, it’s fall. Mow the grass if you like, you’re in Raking Denial. I’m sure there’s a support group for us. The purple dusks, the golden sideways light, I love fall, I do! But the melancholy is palpable. You should see these spiders. And the nip of doom is in the air. How much time do we have? Is this it?

Summer, I loved you. Crappy events notwithstanding. Let’s have a little summer retrospective, shall we?

jelly heart

The turtle-tidepools, inland waterways, rippling sand, warm on your bare feet.

sept turtle 2sept turtlecloud waterwayThe fireworks:

Wonderful view

Wonderful view

The goofy drills of the seagulls, less cool than pelicans or crows, I feel sorry for ‘em.seagull drillfeatherThe frolic:

summer beach peopleTodd jumping

My neighbors Stanley, Resha and Yoshi, 9/26/13

My neighbors Stanley, Resha and Yoshi, 9/26/13

Yoshi & feet 2

The forts:

Fort view

Fort view

The sunsets:

August sunset

sept sunsetsept sunset 2sept sunset_I got my property this time of year, late September 2002. The seasonal accumulation of seaweed makes me think of the excitement of that time.

September seaweed

September seaweed

Now it is most definitely fall. Let’s not kid ourselves. Rewild. Reacquaint yourself with the wind that howls, the sea that roars, the roof that leaks, the ocean that steals and robs everything, like it has for over a hundred years. The sheets of clattering rain, the flying branches. Denial, dashed. I like fall, but it does send a message about the end of a cycle. Trees lose their leaves. People die. Do you think the dead can hear us thinking, or is this just a story we tell ourselves? I do a lot of thinking, just in case.

Guests, gearing up.

Guests, gearing up.

Just over a year ago I bought my Honda Accord from an 88-year-old woman named Bonnie at the beach who was about to move away. She told me she feeds the crows because they take care of their elders. So, for good luck, I’ve been feeding the crows ever since. It’s scary how smart they are. They gather in the trees, surround me, not hollering, just saying, with their presence, thanks. We noticed.

4 crows

fall pathfall golden grassKnow how I found Washaway in the first place? When I was driving cross-country in 1992 with my friend Julia, we were swimming in a blue lake near Albuquerque, New Mexico and we met these two cool girls, Lori and Kimi. They said, “You are girls traveling. We’ve traveled. Come drink margaritas with us, go dancing, and stay in our house.” So we did.

They were a couple, and their house was the coolest adobe cave. Kimi would wear these tiny flowered dresses with steel-toed boots all the time, cementing my love of steel-toes. Lori was a traveling nurse from Seattle and she moved back there, and when I moved to Seattle, from Virginia, that summer she took me to her uncle’s place in Tokeland. Tokeland is next to Washaway. I lost touch with her but for years I’ve wanted to thank her, changing my life like she did, but, to her credit, she was not on that boring time-vampire, Facebook.

Blue Pacific Sept. 2But my Seattle neighbor is in Harborview hospital right now, where Lori worked as a trauma nurse, and I was thinking of her, and decided to Google her for real. Can they hear us thinking?

vagabond window 2Lori seemed frazzled and tired, coworkers said. She was ending a relationship and was selling her house. Lori said she was taking a break, left her purse on the table, her truck in the lot, and went in the staff bathroom and overdosed on a skeletal muscle relaxant for tracheotomy patients, wearing scrubs and a T-shirt. Do we need to know what she was wearing? They didn’t check the bathroom for twelve hours. I think about the fearless sorrow that must’ve informed her her final act. Hopefully those were some good drugs. How many lives did she save before that morning in  June 2006? I hope she can hear me, though my words fail.

sandcastleI don’t mean to bum you out. But maybe we should get in touch with some people, just in case time is short.

Posted in Tides-A-Com'n | 2 Comments