Sunday, March 6, 2011

In the course of a day

We took the ferry from Whidbey over to the mainland, to the town of Port Townsend  We had the whole bright, blustery day in front of us, with nothing on our hands but time. Time and pocket change and seagulls sounding. We kept no clock except to notice the tide climbing in and out, and the sun wheeling overhead. That watery, mid winter sunlight warmed our faces for a brief spell around noon, but did little to stave off the stinging chill of the wind. I wore a wool hat and rain coat, and a jacket and a vest, and many other things as well.

A Northern wind blew salty air off the water and down the streets, lined with old factories and ancient hotels built by grandiose-minded architects. I spent most of the day reciting the lines of fishermen's poetry in my head, Peter Kagan was a lonely man in the summer of his years, and then one day he got tired of being lonely so he went on down to the Eastward, lost in an elaborate day dream.  I was dreaming that I lived in Port Townsend in a little house near the beach. I worked on the boats during the day and in the evenings I sang songs about sailors and drank whiskey drinks at the tavern. I wrote, and read Rudyard Kipling, and could repeat The Albatross in its entirety, by heart.  Every Sunday, I'd meet up with my friends and we'd practice the long lost art of lingering.

We were done striving; there was no more hurry.

A good friend is someone who will indulge your daydreams, as long as you've got the mind to have some. Mine were happy to play along on this Sunday. We moved through town as slow as Molasses, lured into candy stores by the primary colors, pulled into side streets because of a sketch on the wall, pausing at a toy store just to run our hands through buckets of glass marbles.

To walk outside in the sun feels like a miracle. To stand on the boardwalk and watch the bright boats bobbing in the dark water! To breathe in and not feel the thick clouds above bearing down on you! The wide open sky made us feel suddenly buoyant, filled with energy, as if we were coming awake after a sound sleep.

Winter inside the city limits is bearable, certainly. I've lived places where I couldn't say the same. I endured a childhood of snow, of standing in the parking lot after school watching ice fall in great sheets on the roads, light dwindling from the sky. Wondering if my parents were ever going to come get me, or whether they were  involved in some awful car accident, which happened frequently in our town, iced over bridges and churning rivers and miles of frozen fields with nobody around.

I whisper words of gratitude every morning that does not begin with scraping thick inches of ice off the windshield, huddled shivering in the car, breathing sharp white clouds into the air as you push through the feathery tunnel of another blizzard.

That said, the ubiquitous clouds and constant rain of Seattle does eventually ruin your walking boots and seep into your grey matter. Day after day, the sky is overcast, the mountains are blotted out, the meteorologist points a stick at cartoon clouds with angry faces.  My friend Sam, who checks the surf report every morning, explains the ten day weather report like this: Saturday: screw you! Tuesday: screw you! Wednesday: screw you! Thursday: why are you even still bothering to check this? 

This is less of a complaint, and more of an observation. There is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when the ceiling of the world is low and heavy with cloud cover, beyond seasonal effective disorder, beyond vitamin D lack. You begin to feel horribly claustrophobic, in ways you can't begin to understand. You  begin to believe that the world ends twelve feet above you. You feel stifled, and poor, life plodding forward in single, small footsteps. Your motivation and empowerment drains away.

When the sun does come out, well, Hallelujah, the world is a big place again! Life expands and seems possible.


This trip to the beach house was the first time I met Scott Everett. Kind, curly haired and self assured, Scott is a professorial photographer with enormous talent. Along with a DSL and a number of lenses, he lugged around this huge, beautiful, film camera.

The images he shot were so beautiful they made my teeth ache.  The rural islands of the Pacific Northwest are an elusive place; the mood changes with the light and with the weather. Scott was able to capture its many temperaments like butterflies in a glass jar.  Luminous. Windswept. Lonely. Safe:
Scott Everett...The way that man plays with depth of field is something I can only hope to someday replicate. 
One of the most inspiring images I've seen. Ever.
Catching light this delicate has always escaped me.

In the evening, we drank beer and hot buttered rum on the balcony of a bar called Sirens, high above the stony beach. The wind died down, and the light took on the filmy quality of twilight. 

What more could we ask from a place?

And at the end of the day, we left port Townsend behind us and headed back to the island.

The cold, damp air of Clinton Port woke us up from our salt water taffy, lulling ferry, hot toddy stupor, and we walked back to the beach house where our friends had gotten dinner started. That night, we slept in tents, on the floor, in four poster beds, curled up on the love seat, wrapped in feathers.

What more could we ask for from a day?


Bethany and Will said...

You made my heart bright with this beautiful post :-) xoxo

elissa said...

i hate this post because it makes me want that hot chocolate sooo bad.

Anonymous said...

That is one of the most accurate descriptions of the impact of constant rain and grey that I have ever read.

It's so hard to believe that the sun will ever, ever shine again--the light in these photos is poignant because of this.