By Order of the Court

There aren’t many things that strike fear in the hearts of men (and women) quite like being served with a jury summons. Sure, a police car’s flashing blue lights in your rearview mirror is worse; a tsunami warning siren is worse. But still. The sight of that little jury card is enough to make even the bravest soul’s hair stand on end.

Especially when the card reads — usually in Big Bold Letters — SECOND NOTICE, followed by threats of dire circumstances dare you ignore the summons this time. Never mind you hadn’t received a first notice. (Is there ever a first notice?) A descendent of Vito Corleone is on his way to your house right this second with those plastic handcuffs that look like enormous trash bag twist-ties, ready to whisk you away to a secret underground world where all the other jury duty truants who came before you have since morphed into lawless Mole People and chaos reigns.


Or something along those lines.

It’s a testament to the power of that index-card sized notice that even when I realized the one I’d just pulled from our mailbox was addressed to John, my heart still leapt to my throat. Like a gag reflex. Upon examining it more closely, however, I was able to relax. As it turned out, the summons was for jury duty in Travis County, Texas.

We moved from Texas over a year ago, a fact reflected, oddly enough, on the jury summons itself. It hadn’t been mailed to our former home in Texas and consequently forwarded to our new residence here. Oh no. This card was addressed quite correctly to the house number and street where we live now, here in Jefferson County, Washington.

Already it’s creepy the Travis County Courthouse not only has access to our new address, but has automatically changed that address in its records without any type of notification from us. But I know, I know. All sorts of information about everyone everywhere, living or dead, is floating around in the ether ready for the grabbing. Yet wouldn’t you think, knowing this kind of thing happens systematically, that the powers-that-be at the courthouse could have somebody take at least a cursory glance at the jury summons cards before they stick them in the mailbag?

Apparently not. So instead, those of us who have legitimate reason not to serve on a jury in the Travis County Court’s jurisdiction are given the options of (1) calling the courthouse; or (2) going to the website listed on the card. Ever tried calling the courthouse associated with a busy, increasingly populated metropolitan area? Yeah, so have I. Which is why, when I got back to my house, I went immediately online on John’s behalf.

Like most things internet-related, the jury selection page on the site wasn’t at all on point. It was only after answering question after question — then reiterating my answers in reply to interrogatives like “Are you sure this is really, truly your current address?” and then “Are you absolutely sure?” — that John was finally dismissed of that particular civic duty.

Crazy as it sounds, in my fantasy world I’d hoped for a separate website page for those of us who were mistakenly contacted — or maybe a button with the instruction “If no longer residing in Travis County, click here.” Why I thought for one second it could be that simple, I can’t say for sure. It was nutty on my part. Hey, so sue me.

Or wait, no. Please don’t. Because if you do, and if the trial’s jurisdiction is Travis County, Texas, there’s no doubt in my mind the summons to appear — the SECOND NOTICE summons to appear — will wind up here, properly addressed, in my Jefferson County, Washington mailbox.


Join the Club

I wasn’t one of the popular kids in high school. Too tall and lanky, too bashful, and yes I’ll admit it, too dorky. Almost always I was one of the last people chosen on a team in Phys. Ed. class, and the only clubs I belonged to were of the scholastic sort. No fashion club for me; no yearbook club or prom committee. I wasn’t invited to join and honestly, I wasn’t the type anyway.

Fortunately, my social life improved greatly once the horridly awkward days of high school came to a merciful end, and by the time I was settled into college I was able to let loose of most my inhibitions (being introduced to pot my freshman year probably helped). While I wouldn’t exactly say I flowered into a hipster — or more accurately, given the decade, a hippie — I was at least able to shed some of my earlier insecurities and felt more comfortable in group activities.

Still, I never belonged to a social club. The closest I got was when John and I became members of a racquetball club in the mid-‘80s, and that was only because we enjoyed the game and had no other option to play. When that came to an end, the only club laying claim to us as members was Costco. They’re not picky, those Costco folks. Pony up your annual membership fee and you’re set — tall, short, lanky, chubby, dorky, cool, it matters not.

Eventually we and our Costco cards moved up here to semi-retire. John’s a semi, at least, with his part-time job. Thus far I’m full-out retire, with local job creators not terribly interested in inviting me to join the employment club. I suppose that’s part of the reason, in fact, that when a neighbor asked me to be a member of her book club, I went for it. I figured if I’m going to be a retiree, I might as well behave like one.

Who would have imagined the slippery slope. Soon enough, I was approached about another book club — still in this neighborhood, yet with a completely different set of people. And although I made it clear to the woman who queried about my interest in her club that I already belonged to one book club and couldn’t possibly join a second, a week or two later I was handed a piece of paper with that month’s assigned book and the date and place her club was to meet.

I tried to pretend it didn’t happen. Shortly afterward I received an email from Book Club No. 1 and before I could say “I haven’t bought the book yet,” a similar email from Book Club No. 2 popped into my inbox regarding a different tome altogether.

While this was all transpiring, I did indeed read a book of short stories and a collection of essays.


Neither of them were assigned by the book clubs, of course. Those books, I ignored.

I’m starting to question whether I’m really club material.

Regardless, when the manager of the food bank invited me to a girls night out one Thursday evening — a club, of sorts — I kind of hated to say no. Not only do I admire the heck out of her, but she’s also a lot of fun and there would be other food bank volunteers there, people I wanted to get to know better. I decided it wouldn’t hurt to join in just this once. Besides, there would be wine. My resolve holds up only so long when you throw wine into the mix.

During the course of the evening, I found out these women meet for happy hour every other Thursday. It isn’t off the cuff; it’s a commitment. There are no prerequisites like book assignments, yet it screams social club nonetheless. What is it with the people around here? I spent the last portion of our get-together formulating an excuse to miss the next meeting.

A recent invitation to breakfast and a rousing game of Bananas (a mashup of Scrabble, crossword puzzles and elementary school) seemed innocent enough, so I set off that morning to join the four other women who’d be there. We had a great time. Lots of laughs. So much so, at one point the woman sitting to my right suddenly blurted out, “We should do this every month!”

Oh dear.

As a Lash Resort

Prior to a four-year stint as an unadorned, unshaven college art student, I’d worn eye makeup since my early teenage years. I inherited my mother’s hair, you see, which has proven mostly fortuitous — yet while the mane itself is quite thick, the volume gene didn’t translate to the brows and lashes. Like my mother did, I have wimpy, wispy eyebrows, and eyelashes that are barely perceptible without a good shellacking of mascara.

eye with mascara

Even my father noticed the transformation after I slathered on the goo. Although I was the apple of his darkly lashed eye, one day he made the mistake of commenting, to my mother’s unabashed horror, on what a difference it made in my appearance. From that day forward, I vowed to never leave the house without first applying an arsenal of cosmetics.

For a few months before declaring a college major in grooviness, I attended classes in full greasepaint. The night I met John, in fact, I was made up to the hilt, particularly in the eyelash department.

made-up eye

Problem was, our first encounter took place during a freshman co-ed snowball fight and upon my return to the dorm room afterwards, I discovered my heretofore perfectly blackened lashes had not only smudged, but the gloopy mess was smeared halfway down my cheeks.

smudged mascara

Happily for me, John looked past the tar pit on my face and chose to continue to pursue the relationship. Or maybe he was just desperate.

My subsequent artistically-inspired au naturel lash phase ended almost immediately upon my college graduation. After entering the work force, I caved once again to the pressure of the peer and reunited with my former constant companion.

Avon Daring Curves Mascara

Many lash-enhanced years later, when John and I began farming for a living, I swore I’d be the only local farmer to refuse to give up her cache of cosmetics. That lasted maybe three weeks. Upon rediscovering the sense of freedom that comes with choosing substance over appearance (You’ve seen farmers’ fingernails, right? And those goofy tans?), I continued my repudiation of the mascara wand throughout my farming tenure, beyond the eventual sale of the farm, and ultimately into our move to Washington with every intention of never again sullying these otherwise nearly undetectable eyelashes.

Until last week.

The Organic Seed Alliance, headquartered here in Port Townsend, was holding a fundraiser/10-year anniversary dinner and the local foods store where John works sponsored a table at the event.


It was to be my first introduction to the store owner’s wife, and being that the fundraiser was a $75 per plate affair, I was a little nervous about making a good first impression in that kind of setting. People tend to doll up for those things. The morning before the dinner, I broke down and made a special trip to the drug store’s mascara counter.

It probably didn’t boost my confidence level when every time I blinked, I feared my eyelids were going to glom shut — what do they use in that stuff, Elmer’s Glue? — but I couldn’t have felt more socially inept when we arrived at the fundraiser had I tried. The owner’s wife was charming and relaxed. I was suddenly 17 years old, going to my first grown-up party, and my attempts at witty repartee went something like this:

Owner’s wife: “Oh yeah, Phil comes from a big, gregarious family. There was loud laughing and talking all through the house and it always intimidated me, coming from such a small quiet family myself.”

Me: “Same with John’s family! [Blink, panic.] [Blink, panic.] There was loud laughing and talking all through the house and it always intimidated me, coming from such a small quiet family myself.”


Thankfully, at the end of the evening the owner’s wife gave me a hug. Out of pity more than camaraderie, no doubt, but I welcomed it nonetheless. And you know what I noticed, as we pulled away from our cordial embrace?

She wasn’t wearing a stitch of makeup.

The Great Washington ShakeOut

It’s 8:16 on a chilly, wet morning in early spring. You’ve just arrived at work and are pouring a cup of coffee when you become aware of a low rumbling noise. Within seconds, the rumbling becomes a roar, the floor beneath you heaves, and the building begins to pitch and shake so violently that you’re thrown to the floor. The roaring is joined by a cacophony of crashing as windows shatter and every unsecured object in the room—from the desk chair to the coffee pot—is sent flying. Shaken loose by the shuddering and jolting of the building, dust and ceiling particles drift down like snow. Then the lights flicker and go out. Remembering to “drop, cover, and hold,” you crawl under the nearest table, hold on tight, and tell yourself that the shaking should last only a few seconds more . . . but it goes on and on.

This is it: the Big One. The Cascadia subduction zone has just unleashed a magnitude 9.0 earthquake.

This fun-filled scenario begins the latest report from the Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup. Pretty nifty, huh? I mean, who knew the “Big One” was actually brewing along the British Columbia, Washington and Oregon coast, rather than the more commonly recognized earthquake-prone Bay Area of California? Nobody until the 1970s, as it turns out. That’s when some smarty pants discovered there’d been a whopper of a quake here in 1700.

[Which calls for a correction to my prior statement: There were indeed already people who knew about the 1700 earthquake — the Native Americans unfortunate enough to reside along the northwest coastline at that time. They knew it intimately.]

The fun doesn’t stop there, either. Apparently, we’re overdue for another one. And while the most recent findings show the fault zone is farther out in the ocean than they’d initially thought, meaning the shaking won’t be quite so severe (Yay!), the resultant tsunami will likely be more intense and damaging (Aw crap).

As some of you already know, John and I live close to the water. We’re not on the western coast of Washington but our bay — Discovery Bay — is attached to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the waters of which flow in from the Pacific.

Discovery Bay

In the office here at Cape George there’s a map showing which houses might wind up under water in the event of a tsunami. Ours is not one of them. In fact, our house sits 50 feet higher still than the highest tsunami targets, which should be enough to assuage my wall-of-water fears.

Yep, it sure should be.

It isn’t.

See, I’m not good at threats of natural disasters. Man-made ones aren’t a favorite of mine either but wow, those natural ones are real doozies. Hurricanes, floods, avalanches, tornadoes. Especially tornadoes. Growing up in Central Indiana, tornadoes were a part of life. In fact, my favorite aunt and uncle’s house was flattened by one when I was a child. I’ll never forget my cousin’s nightmarish recollections of being buried under the rubble, screaming, each breath sucking in mouthfuls of crushed mortar.

I’d thought we were getting away from that when we relocated to the Texas Hill Country but no, oh no, there are plenty of twisters there too. Every spring I watched terrified as the local weatherman displayed ominous radar images filled with blobs of red, purple and even black, punctuated by multiple swirling, twirling discs indicating tornadic activity moving our way. How nice, then, to move to western Washington where tornadoes are all but unheard of. No more natural disaster worries!

Until I read in further detail about this.

Cascadia Subduction Zone

Then just last week came The Great Washington ShakeOut earthquake preparedness drill. From what I gather, when the Big One hits you’re supposed to dive under a table and hold tight to its legs until the shaking stops. Then, if you’re near the water, you’re to run like hell uphill as fast as your legs can scamper.

Simple as that. Oh, except you should also keep plenty of emergency supplies on hand — non-perishable food, a first aid kit, toiletries, a battery operated radio. Things like that. We’ve started to load up a closet in our basement, one that’s supported by two concrete walls and hopefully fairly shake-proof.

Earthquake closet

It isn’t finished yet. For instance, we have no portable propane cookstove or pots and pans. We do have a wok, a wooden salad bowl and charcoal, however, plenty enough for a festive backyard post-apocalyptic stir-fry. We even have a vase full of fake Gerbera daisies for decoration and a Cuisinart ice cream maker we can stare at wistfully until the electricity [maybe] comes back on.

I learned from a neighbor that shortly after the 2011 tsunami disaster in Japan, an earthquake expert of some sort came to Cape George to sum up what might happen here if the Big One were to occur.

Diamond Point & Protection Island

He said Diamond Point (the piece of land sticking out in the water on the left) and Protection Island (the island in the distance on the right), as well as the Dungeness Spit farther west would help temper any tsunami waves barreling towards us through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. (I’m guessing the electric pole smack in the center of this photo won’t be much help in that regard.) Good news, right? Sure, until we get to his next prediction: Should an earthquake vibrate an enormous hunk of Protection Island into the bay,

Protection Island

the rush of displaced water will rise up and swallow Cape George whole.

After sharing this little factoid with me, my neighbor shrugged and pointed out once more that at least here in western Washington we don’t get major floods, tornadoes and the like. The Big One is really the only natural disaster we have to be concerned with.

Phew. What a relief.

T.P. or Not T.P.

My dear, departed father-in-law Raymond might well have rolled over in his grave had he somehow known what type of toilet paper John brought home yesterday after grocery shopping at the local Food Co-Op.

unbleached tp

Bad enough it’s made primarily from post-consumer recycled materials (“Toilet tissue is one thing that should NOT be made from used paper!”); this new Seventh Generation product is unbleached, to boot, meaning it’s more of a brownish hue. An unfortunate color indeed. Raymond, coming from a generation more in tune with Mr. Whipple’s line of thinking,

Mr. Whipple

would have been dumbfounded by John’s choice.

Thing is, this t.p. was on sale. And if we’ve learned only one thing about being unemployed, it’s if an item you’d want to buy anyway goes on sale, grab as many as your dignity will allow.

Considering we’re talking about toilet paper here, dignity is definitely a concern. I mean, I don’t think the Co-Op puts a limit on how many packages of Seventh Generation t.p. a customer is allowed per shopping trip, yet neither John nor I would feel comfortable trundling a cart overflowing with toilet paper up to the checkout line. We may be sans income, but that doesn’t automatically preclude our innate — at least as we perceive it — sense of decorum. Instead, we simply make multiple trips to the Co-Op during toilet paper sale time.

Why is toilet paper so important, you might ask? Well, apart from the obvious, we discovered early on that recycled toilet paper is mighty expensive here. Say what you will about Whole Foods Market, but we could buy a 12-pack of Seventh Generation t.p. at the Austin store for seven bucks and change. Here in Washington, specifically at the Port Townsend Food Co-Op, the going non-sale cost is just shy of $13.00.

See why we stock up when the price drops to $7.99?

cords of tp

Our first set of visitors from Austin got in on the act too. It so happened the Co-Op was running a toilet paper sale during our friends’ three-night stay in late June. John and I made a point to stop at the store to buy a ream of it every day as we chauffeured them to various sightseeing locales, and being the generous types, on two of those stops our friends picked up the t.p. tab.

A package of Seventh Generation even made it into one of the vacation photos they took of John and me.

tp in car

Some people might view this as an obsession, I suppose, but no need for concern. We don’t think only about reduced price toilet paper. We’ve been known to shell out cold, hard cash for the occasional bauble when something catches our eye, despite its cost. In fact, just recently John used some of the money we saved on toilet paper to buy Pablo a squirrel on a stick.


We understand it’s important to splurge on the finer things in life from time to time.

We do our best to retain some semblance of class around the house, as well. While we discreetly stack our toilet paper reserves in our walk-in closet, out of sight from visitors, I place a perfectly respectable three rolls in a basket tucked underneath the sink in the upstairs guest bath.

guest room tp

Gives the room a certain understated elegance, wouldn’t you say?

Downstairs in the guest suite/slash/daylight basement, I go for practicality over sophistication. To be certain any overnight visitors have a sufficient supply, in that bathroom I place an entire package of t.p. inside the cabinet under the sink, beside the spare bath towel.

downstairs tp

Oh. It appears we’re down to only maybe six or seven rolls in this pack. Um, is it getting warm in here? I’m starting to feel a bit flushed. Oh, huh huh, no pun intended…but gee, maybe I should step outside for some air. Better yet, I’ll grab my car keys and take a drive, do a little grocery shopping to clear my head. Maybe to the Co-Op? I hear they’re having a sale….

The Next Step

When you move across the country from the place you’ve called home for 34 years, you anticipate an adjustment period. Obviously, the surroundings will be different — that much is only to be expected, and in our case was one of the underlying aims of the move — and the newness of it all is a big part of the excitement. There’s business to attend to, however, not the least of which is finding a house that fits your needs. Thanks to the almost dangerously impulsive nature of both John and me, that detail was accomplished within the first month after our arrival.

There was, of course, the rather tortuous interval between our buying this house and ultimately moving into it, but the wait is thankfully over. Two weeks ago we carted all our worldly goods from the rental house to our new home, and have since unpacked almost every box, arranged nearly every piece of furniture and hung almost all the artwork.

Who snuck that glass of white wine in the picture, I wonder?

Who snuck that glass of white wine in the picture, I wonder?

We couldn’t be more thrilled. At least twice a day I exclaim, “I love this house!”

Lest you think I’m not allowing ample time between outbursts, I must point out just how long a day lasts up here. At this time of year, it starts getting light outside around 4:45 a.m. I’ve begun keeping one of those goofy eye masks on my nightstand so I can slip it over my head once the brightness (assisted by Pablo the cat) tries to urge us out of bed so crazy early in the morning.

eye mask

Sunset is as late as sunrise is early. It doesn’t get totally dark until well after 10 p.m.


While we quickly adjusted to just about everything moving to Washington threw at us, we were kind of wary about the one thing that was missing: friends. Thirty-four years is a long time to live in one place and it’s only natural that a lot of friends are made along the way. Leaving them was difficult enough; the prospect of finding new ones sometimes felt out of reach.

It’s not that people in Port Townsend aren’t friendly. They are. But for the first couple months we lived here, we never were able to more than scratch the surface with anyone in particular. Maybe we’re too picky. Or sensitive. Like at a gathering we barged into at the beginning of June, an old-fashioned beefy, porky chili cook-off, of all things (not a likely venue for quasi-vegetarians), one of the other attendees sparked up a conversation with us. When we mentioned we were organic farmers the past 14 years, he replied, “Yeah, well I’ve been gardening since I was a kid.”

Not exactly the same thing. Besides, we didn’t mean it as a competition.

Our failure to hook up with anybody became a running joke between us. After every casual meeting with someone, as we parted ways with them either John or I would whisper to the other, “Will you be our friend?

Then we met Varen and Walter. They bought the house we were renting and the moment we all introduced ourselves, it seemed like we might actually hit it off.

This isn't Varen and Walter.  It's their dogs, Oliver and Ginger.

This is not Varen and Walter. It’s their dogs, Oliver and Ginger.

In fact, the first evening we went out to dinner together, Walter asked me what it was like being a farmer, and wondered if it was difficult.

“I mean, it sounds awfully hard,” he said, “what with the uncertainties of weather and the insects you must have had to deal with.”

He understood. We had found, to my infinite relief, new friend material.

And it continues. The development we moved into is called Cape George, and it’s quite the community. As residents, we were invited to a Summer Solstice party last Friday evening down by the waterfront. (The invitation said to bring “jackets or blankets.” To celebrate summer.) Then yesterday we received an email announcing the first bloom of one of the neighbor’s Giant Lily, asking everyone come view it that evening and bring desserts to share.

“Friendly” doesn’t begin to describe the people who live in Cape George. Everyone waves hello and stops to chat. Several people have come by to introduce themselves. It’s like they’re all Stepford Wives,


except here they’re Stepford Husbands too. Honestly, you can’t take a walk around the neighborhood without two or three people inviting you into their homes.

Should we be nervous?

It’s June

While we await our move to the new house (soon…very soon) we’ve been taking advantage of our access to the community gym and indoor lap pool just down the hill from our future abode. It’s a little weird for us, since we’ve never been gym people. For the past many years, our exercise regimen consisted of walking hither and yon on the farm every day. Treadmills, stationary recumbent bikes, rowing machines and stair steppers are new to both of us and while I wouldn’t say they’re “fun,” we at least feel like we’re doing some good for ourselves by walking, pedaling, rowing and stepping on them.

We do have a bit of an ulterior motive, however, above and beyond bodybuilding our way to becoming the new Mr. and Ms. Charles Atlas: going to the gym is a handy excuse for driving over to the new neighborhood. This past Saturday morning offered even more of a reward for huffing and puffing up mechanically-generated inclines, in that the previous owner (and current renter) of our house was moving a truckload of boxes to her new home in Seattle and was kind enough to allow us to barge in and eat our picnic lunch on the deck while she was gone.


I suspect the adult beverage we each enjoyed afterwards wouldn’t normally be considered part of a balanced workout discipline but hey, it was a beautiful afternoon. One that begged for beer.

That evening, thick clouds rolled in. There’s nothing unusual about this. In the course of one day, we can get clouds, then rain, then sunshine, then clouds, then drizzle, then sunshine again followed by rain. And by “rain” I mean not really rain, at least not in the sense we’re accustomed to.

On a recent schizophrenic weather day, John and I were leaving the local electric company’s office just as another customer came inside exclaiming, “Wow, it’s really coming DOWN!”

Obviously, that person has never lived in Texas. While we did cover our heads with our hoodies on the walk to the car, we drove off with the windshield wipers set at intermittent. I don’t know that we’ve ever needed them ramped up all the way to “On” more than a half hour total — and I’m talking an accumulated 30 minutes, not all at the same time — since we’ve been here.

The clouds do cool it off, though. We decided to walk to a restaurant for dinner Saturday night and I considered wearing my leather jacket. John scoffed. (We’re trying to behave more like hardy Northwesterners who don short sleeves at 55 degrees rather than the thin-skinned Texans we still are, who begin to get a chill when the temperature drops below 68.) I compromised by wearing a cardigan sweater instead.

After dinner we walked out to the pier to watch some sailboats taking off. I was cold, wishing I’d gone with my first instinct and worn the leather coat. Then it hit me.

“It’s June!” I cried, stunned at the sudden realization.

June. And I was pining for my coat. I couldn’t stop saying it — “It’s June!” — all the way back to the house. “It’s June! It’s JUNE!”


I wasn’t pleased.

The following day, we found out from our neighbor who’s lived in Port Townsend for 30-some years that the locals call this month ‘June-uary.’ As further explanation, he said, “You remember how it was last week, when it was in the low 50’s a few days? That’s why we call it June-uary!”

I refrained from pointing out that last week was still May.

We’d already heard from other folks that June in Western Washington does tend to be rather bleak, but I’m beginning to doubt them all now. Today the sky is blue, the sun is shining and the long-term forecast is for more of the same with temperatures hovering around 70 degrees. Personally, I’m still not ready to pull out the sleeveless t-shirts and shorts, but I sure don’t mind the idea of not worrying about leaving our jackets in the closet.


Yet come to think of it, judging from our experience with the weather here so far, I should probably keep in mind that anything could happen. After all, last week has passed. June-uary is just beginning.