Blessing Our Socks Off!

When a neighbor suggested I join an online neighborhood group, I thought it was a great idea. I’m for anything that brings people together and facilitates connections. And it’s been that–the offer of a free pile of firewoood, a notice of a little terrier that’s wandered away, the announcement of the garden club’s plant sale, a request for a reliable plumber.

Occasionally it becomes very personal and some of those are the best. This and a photo from a new grandparent of twins: “Born seven weeks early one month ago, are finally heading home. This was their first time together after being kept separate at Swedish Hospital their first four weeks. See them holding each other’s hands while lying on their dad’s chest–so sweet….”

Some of them make me laugh out loud, like this one: “Amazon mistakenly sent me a digital ovulation kit and given that I am awaiting the arrival of my first grandchild, I’m pretty sure that someone else can make better use of it….”

Some of them have astounded me. I had no idea so many lost and found cats and dogs are out there! It makes me wonder about some kind of elaborate canine/feline conspiracy. Also earrings and cellphones. One of the first notices I read was someone asking us to watch for a lost earring on one of our mud and gravel beaches. This notice appeared just a few weeks ago:  “My HS senior daughter is desperately needing to borrow a metal detector this week to locate her phone lost in the footing of a riding arena. Alternatively, she would be happy to have you join her on this treasure hunt. She would be forever grateful!”

Only occasionally do I jump into the action. Last month a woman asked about her lost keys and mentioned the site where she thought she’d dropped them. I’d noticed keys on top of a fence post while on my walk that morning. A phonecall or two and she had them back. Maybe a lost earring on a beach isn’t such a long shot?

I did not know what “trolls” were until I joined this site. None appeared at first, but as more and more people have joined, they’ve started to crawl out from their muddy ditches. I’ve never experienced trolls on my FaceBook page–people so kindly put up with my posts about children held in cages and my rantings about attacks on scientists who are working on climate change.

But the trolls have come out on this neighborhood site. Recently we had a lengthy but interesting discussion about drones operating in neighborhoods and invading private spaces. Then a troll or two entered and attacked. They use inflammatory words and are super skilled at name-calling and putdowns. One or two people reacted to that, but many simply ignored them and went right on with the discussion. Impressive!

In spite of wading through multiple warnings about strange cars, wandering bears (and endless speculation on whether there’s more than one or not), car prowlers, coyote sightings, mail thefts, break-ins, and lost earrings, I continue to read it. The ones that keep me reading are ones like this one from last week: “Yesterday a neighbor fell and hit her head as she wrestled with her compost bin while she mowed her lawn…..The wonderful crew from the 10th Avenue Station responded and felt it was a good idea to take her to the ER, just to make sure she was okay….I noticed the engine was still there after the aid car left, so I went into her yard to make sure everything was ok. What I found blessed my socks off! Two of the firemen stayed behind and finished mowing her lawn! How blessed are we here in Poulsbo to have such wonderful people caring for our community! Way to go NKFD! We love you!”

This is social media at its best.

Orchard Spirits, Spinster Sisters

“Spinster” simply doesn’t do it anymore. Did it ever? Somewhere out there floating around in Etymology Land is a yet-to-be-born word that will describe women who choose not to marry. These women often live vibrant lives, sometimes devoted to careers they love, to close friends and family, and to a sense of fierce independence and adventure.

When we moved into our house 45 years ago, I had two different sets of spinster sisters who lived close by to demonstrate to me that the word “spinster” simply didn’t cut it. Both sets were Norwegian.

Mabel and Aleda were older. They both had retired from careers–a nurse and a teacher, as I recall. They wore their waist-length gray hair in buns or braided and coiled up on their heads. Kind, spritely, they became just a bit eccentric as they grew older. Aleda called me a couple times to come over and wash dishes for her–she had fallen behind and couldn’t catch up. Frankly, as I grow older, I don’t identify this so much as “eccentric” anymore–I recognize that feeling of being overwhelmed!

Janet and Alice, however, are the spinster sisters who have been on my mind. They lived next door to Mabel and Aleda, and only two houses away from us. Actually, they lived in Seattle, but their father, when they were children, had bought a five acre piece of property here on Liberty Bay and built a small vacation cabin for his family.

We only saw Janet and Alice during the summers when the weather was warm. They’d arrive in their big blue Volvo station wagon that they’d bought while on a European tour. They were still working jobs, so they took “vacations” over here–sprucing up the cabin, pulling weeds, and mowing the grass around the cabin with a push mower. Sometimes they planted a new little fruit tree. They always had time to visit. They plodded over in their old work shoes on a narrow path that connected our houses. We talked about how much the beans had grown, whether the little fig tree would bear this year, and the Stellar’s Jay that kept them company. Sturdy women! We would see them in their old swimsuits, heading for the cold water of the bay after a warm day of work. As the years passed, however, they came less often. They hired a neighbor boy to mow occasionally.

Mabel died first, and then Aleda. A few years later, Janet was gone, and then Alice. A young family moved into Mabel and Aleda’s house, but the blackberries, ivy, and weeds grew up and took over Janet and Alice’s five acres the next few years. The path that I used to take to get to their cabin grew impassable with blackberry vines.

A birch tree Janet and Alice brought from Europe.

A birch tree Janet and Alice brought from Europe.

Within the last two years, however, their nephew, not a young man, has begun clearing the property–but in no way is he “clear-cutting.”

“I’ve had people tell me I just need to bulldoze it, but I’m not going to do that–I want to see what my ancestors planted,” he told me. He estimates he has about 30 fruit trees there. He’s grubbed out around them, dug out dozens of thorny little Hawthorn trees and piles of blackberry vines. He’s pounded in fertilizer spikes around the old fruit trees and started to prune them. Like his aunts, he seldom comes during the wet winter months, but when the weather turns warm, he shows up–driving that old blue station wagon. He has gradually reclaimed the orchards.

You can see where the brush has been cleared and even some grass planted.

You can see where the brush has been cleared and even some grass planted.

I’m sad to see the wilderness go–it likely was home and protection to a lot of birds and small animals. This spring, however, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I glanced out the window and saw fruit tree blossoms between the bigger fir trees. The spirits of his aunts move among those blossoms.

I'm grateful for a few areas he has left wild.

I’m grateful for a few areas he has left wild.