By Kimberly Mayer
My first thought while boating in the San Juan Islands was that if the world goes to hell in a handbasket, I am coming here, to the edge of the continent.
Later I refined it to:
If I were a bird, I would live here.
If I were a deer, I would live here.
If I were a fish, I would live here.
Finally, after numerous sojourns to the islands, it occurred to me,
If I were human, this is where I would live, too.
Today in our home on the bay I am at home with myself.
This land of inland seas and mountains, what Timothy Egan called the “wet and wondrous part of the world” in his foreword to The Curve of Time, had turned me around.
And I had to turn my life around to meet it. I had to re-chart.
As a writer, my criteria with any environment is, “Could I write here?” Funny how we either feel it or not when it comes to place. Few places are neutral.
Well this land spoke to me in volumes. A year later we are settled—it took that long to sell one house and remodel another—and here I will write volumes.
We left a neighborhood we adored, Queen Anne, in a city we are fond of, Seattle, and Friday Harbor on San Juan Island opened its arms to us. We’re in a remodeled rambler in an old-growth forest at the end of a trail on a bay. Did I mention we are immensely happy?
I write at the water’s edge in a hut that looks like a boathouse. It is so quiet I can hear the ingress of the tide, twice a day. The raucous herons, pleading gulls’ call, “chi chi chi” of the violet green swallow, coo of mourning doves, and incessant electric buzz of hummingbirds.
A window looking out to the water runs the length of my writing table. The skull-and-bone look of driftwood on the beach at low tide. Restless boats tied to their moorings. Quails walking the fence, their topknots bopping. Eagles riding the wind, clouds sailing by. The attentive-eared deer on the hill eating my plants while I am down here on the shoreline for hours on end—a little game we play every day.
At this point I think I have to back step to a lake in Connecticut that figured strongly in my childhood memories of summer. Bantam Lake, where my grandmother rented a cabin year after year, and we poured in—refugees from the ‘burbs and refugees from NYC. A lake that contained us, day and night. Jumping off rickety old docks, paddling canoes through mazes of water lily, fishing for sunfish and frying them up in a cast-iron pan. Today in our home on the bay, where the forest meets the saltwater, I am as at home with myself once again as I was upon that lake.
I’m excited to continue to explore in my posts here at Pyragraph the lengths we go to in order to write. The environments we create to work, and the environment we must protect. What we need as writers, and just as importantly, what we can do without.
“My life here is more real because it is most simple,” noted Thomas Merton of his hermitage. What matters to me most here is what flies, what walks on all fours, and what swims. And what I will write.