Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Time I Almost Went Hiking with a Rapist

This truck has nothing to do with the man - though it does play a part in the story.
[Don't know if this needs a trigger warning or not -- after the title of this post, you sort of know the content of this post and if you're easily triggered, I recommend not reading it. I also want to note that I don't use the term "rapist" loosely - this guy drugged and raped a girl.]

I'm nervously laughing as I read the start of a post I wrote yesterday,

"Life currently is going so, so right, that I wonder when things will go wrong.
Today was one of those days that made me think, "Is this really my life?"

Things were so perfect, I was waiting for them to go wrong.

He was so nice and, after jamming all afternoon, this man invited me to go take a hike.
I decided to see how my ankle would do and took him up on it.
I didn't feel a draw or connection to him, but a hike sounded nice and I didn't think anything of it.

He asked me if I'd like to go in his car and I assured him, many times, that I would go in Tobbit.
He asked if I wanted to just go to the beach and relax, I said I didn't.
On the way to Tobbit, he waved at a pair and they completely ignored him - I found that very odd, everyone waves on Lopez. I wondered if there was a reason why.

Once we were on the same page with me driving Tobbit, we decided to meet at Watmough for the short climb.

I had a weird, weird feeling in my stomach (I suspected it was from the cheesecake that someone gave me when busking at the farmer's market) and thought water would help. I tried to ignore it, but finally did a U-turn to fill up my water bottle.

I pulled into Blossom, our little organic market where they had tap water available. I almost didn't because it would take time, but then realized that I really, really needed it. I was so close to driving straight there.

In the parking lot, there was another little green Volkswagen truck - so cute! I pulled up next to it and talked to the owner, grabbing a shot, and then telling them I was going to quickly grab my water and come back. I left my keys, camera, wallet, and everything on the tailgate.

As I left for water, a couple stopped me - the ones the man had waved to and who had ignored him.

"You play the cello?"
"We saw you earlier. We don't really... I don't really know where to start..."

I thought they were going to tell me some cello story...

"You know that guy you were with?"
"Yeah, _________."

And then they proceeded to fill me in on what they new about him.

Words came out of their mouth like, "rape" and "drug" and "15 year old girls" and "innocent" and "police reports." I took it all in. I know how rumors can spread around an island, fast, so I wanted to be discerning - but this wasn't a time to play around or decided to just "see how things go."

We went back to Tobbit where the other folks were waiting with my belongings. I apologized for the time delayed and the talk continued, where the other two women confirmed what these two parents were telling me.

"So this is more than just rumors?" I asked.
"More than rumors."

With four people there in testimony of his ill character, I decided to not show up for the hike.

I decided that if I saw him again, I would tell him that I realized I had to meet up with some friends, which is the truth. I had friends coming that afternoon.

If everything I was told was a lie, if he is truly a "good guy," then I know he would approve of my actions. If any decent guy knew that a horrible lie like that was told about him before he went hiking one-on-one with a young woman, he wouldn't blame her for not showing up. He'd understand that she couldn't take a chance like that.

I drove to H's house where no one was home. When her mom got home, she told me that another woman running a booth at the market had told Martha to warn me about him.

Later, I called J and talked to her about something else. She called me back a minute later and asked if I was with the man. I told her I wasn't and she gave a huge sigh of relief. She had also seen me with him but hadn't yet warned me.

One other woman, tonight, told me her creepy history with him.

I'm new the island, I don't know better and I'm doing my best to keep my self safe.
I'm grateful, really grateful, to an island that is watching out for me. For a community that has my back and will stop me to tell me if I'm in poor company.

Since that encounter, I've had it reconfirmed by at least 14 people that he is a "psychopathic rapist" and/or "violent." It isn't something I bring up in conversation frequently, but it has come up. His kids play with the kids I babysit for.

I still feel a bit shook up.

I doubt anything would've happened, but I'm freaked out to think about what could've happened. If I had gotten in his car and driven out there alone.. I don't know. Not worth knowing. Not worth finding out. But I was on my way there to hike with him alone. What if I hadn't been so thirsty? What if I'd ignored it?

He does know where I live, he knows that I sleep in my truck alone... he knows where I park. I doubt he'll try anything, but it's now going to be on my mind. I mean, I guess if he's low enough to drug and rape a young girl, there's no telling what he would do. Glad to have friends spending the night tonight...

Update: I have since seen him. He was with his kids (yes, I know. If you spend time with them, you can tell they've been around things no kid should ever have to be around) and called out to me.

"Hey! We had some sort of misconnection the other day. What happened?" he said with a smile.
"Sorry, had to meet friends. Bye!" I said and I immediately left the vicinity (I was already on my way out).

Then, I saw him again today at the library where he approached me as I babysat two kids. I later talked to the mom who had alluded to a psychopath, before, but hadn't told me his name. It wasn't till later that I made the connection.

"... I wasn't worried, but I hated it." I told her later.
"You should worry," she said. "Not with the girls, he wouldn't do anything when you're with them and in public, but if you're alone..."
"Yeah, that is something I'm trying to stay aware of."

Here's what I think. I think I've been (or am being) tested as a target. I think he's looking for someone more vulnerable (younger or susceptible to overdrinking). I don't think I'll meet his criteria because I won't ever be seen near him if I can help it. Honestly, when I'm around him, I still can't tell - I honestly can't. Even after all I know about him, when I see him, nothing in me goes "BEEP BAD MAN!" He just seems like a sweet guy.

So, once again, grateful for a community that I'm learning to count on. Now, if only we could get rid of him...

Thursday, May 29, 2014


One of my favourite Lopez traditions I've been introduced to is smelting.

No, not the metal smelting.
It's the term we use to refer to pulling in the net that is used to catch smelt, a rad little fish that tastes delicious.

Randy is the ringleader of the operation. It's his boat and his net and he sort of sets the dates and makes things happen. He conveniently is also a fisherman who's skilled at giving directions and making everyone feel like they've got a part in pulling the nets in. He never makes anyone feel awful and, thus, we all have a fantastic time.

For the process, he takes the net out, we wait for about an hour, and then we all pull the net in, sorting through the many, many fish and finding just the smelt to take out. The nets become full of prickle backs and stickle backs and crabs of all sizes and herring and a bunch of others that I can't name off the top of my head. One of my favourite creatures of the Salish Sea is the Pleurobrachia bachei - the Sea Gooseberry or Gooseberry Jellyfish. They look like little clear balls of gooseberry jelly-ness. So cute!

The first time I went with Davis and Hannah.

The second time, I went on my own.
This time, a woman, named Liz, brought out her wok-y thing and propane stove and cooked the smelt up with capers and dried-tomatoes. One of the finest feasts!

The third time I went was a complete accident.

Joelle and I were about ready to eat dinner so I asked her if she wanted to cook at home or go to the beach to make supper. She chose the beach and I decided to take her to the place where we had been smelting weeks before. I had heard that the last pull of the year had already occurred so I wasn't counting on seeing folks.

But, as we pulled down the small dirt lane, there they all were! This time, it seemed to be just a lot of fishermen. Joelle and I pulled out our dinner-gear, set up, and were pretty delighted. Joelle thrives on animal fat. She loves it and craves it. Now, she got as much as she wanted or could eat, straight out of the sea. Raw fish eggs and guts, if she wanted.

We first cooked up our meal (mushrooms, onions, parsley, and carrots with a side of kale, broccoli, mustard, Swiss chard, and parsley) and then went to help pull in the next. If I had known that we were smelting, this evening, I would've brought my Xtratufs - as it was, my Converse from '08 would have to do.

After the first pull, I gutted and cleaned some fish and we started to cook them up in butter. We didn't make quite as many as Liz, but were still able to share. I wish I had come prepared to feed more folks. I did feel honoured, though, that at least we could make some fish for the folks to enjoy.


So good! Life is so, so good!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Dear Alex :: Tobbit Gets a New Paint Job

Photos by Liz Snell
Dear Alex,

Tobbit is now a new shiny-sort of white. He glows... sort of... ok, he doesn't glow. He's just white again, just like he was before.

Lately, I've been trying to get myself in the habit of tackling projects - thinking up things that need to be done and just doing them. I want to be the sort of person that gets things done. Tobbit gives me a great opportunity as I try to work actively, each day, to maintain him and keep in in top condition. I want to take pride in my truck. I want to take good care of him.

So, it was a Sunday and I had the sun on my side, so I decided it was time to give the caddy-shack a paint job. He had leaked a wee bit and I I thought that a few coats of paint might possibly help with that.

After church, I ran to the Irly (hardware store) and grabbed a bit of paint, sandpaper, a brush, some tape, and a pan and was set to go. Back at home, I sanded him down, wiped him down, and started to paint.

It was that simple.
He looked pretty stellar too, I'd say.

It was quite the process and took up my entire afternoon and evening - some 7-8 hours of solid work as I listened to the Carpenters and Jamie Cullum. I was able to climb on the top of the shack to paint his roof.

Glad I got it done. Tobbit seems quite pleased with his new coat.



Joelle on Lopez :: Visitor #2

One of the finest messages, I think, one can receive is news that a dear friend is visiting.

I met Joelle back in 2008 through the wonders of Flickr. She was searching for photographs of Switzerland (keywords: Rotary Switzerland) and found mine and also spotted that I was living in Seattle, just about an hours drive from her in Olympia. That summer, she drove up to visit me and a went on a 26-mile bike trip together. By the end, we were friends.

Six years later, we still are.
Best friends, at that.

The thing is, I don't see her often. We might, might see each other once a year, if things pan out right.

I have to admit that I get a bit curious about friendships with such large gaps. After all that time, I wonder if our friendship is just words or, if you put us back together for a while, if all that love and connection is still there.

Well, with Joelle, it's still there.

She was coming to Lopez Island for the weekend with her class from Evergreen State College. They were visiting a biodynamic farm and attending a cow slaughtering (that didn't go well, RIP unborn calves that shouldn't have died).

The day the class arrived on Lopez, I wasn't sure where to find them so I started at the farm where I met Adam. He told me they would be at Spencer Spit or Odlin Park. I checked out both and didn't see 'em so I headed home.

Yesterday at 4:30 PM, I went to the farm and there were the group of Olympian in all of their Oly-glory. If you saw 'em on the street, you'd immediately be able to say, "Yep. They go to Evergreen."

They were in the middle of learning so I stood, watched a bit, enjoyed being with Joelle, and then headed back to take a nap in Tobbit where Joelle could find me at the end of the afternoon. 20 minutes later, there she was. A few folks wanted to meet Tobbit and take pictures of him - he is quite a photogenic truck.

I was invited to join them for the evening and took them up on the invitation. Joelle jumped in Tobbit and we set off from the farm to their campsite. It felt so, so good having her in the truck with me.

I sat at the picnic table and serenaded them with the cello as they discussed meal prepped, prepped said meals, made the meals, cooked up nettles, and dreamed of going to the store.

After a meal of vegetables and quinoa, Joelle and I decided to try and catch the sun.

Turns out we have a lot more sun, these days, than I remembered.

I took Joelle out to Shark Reef, one of my favourite corners of the island to enjoy a sunset at - introduced to me by Hannah one of my first times on Lopez. We nestled ourselves into the grass in the rocks and talked about anything that came to mine. We ripped apart the tough questions on our mind and passed back advice and reflections.

After over an hour of enjoying where we were, we decided to move on. We both needed an early night. A few bits of yarrow and rose were picked for later consumption and place into a mug for transport.

I started to drive around the island perimeter to show her the chunk of rock that I now call home. She had only seen a tiny corner of Lopez and I wanted her to get a better sense of it. As the sun set, everything glowed and it was perfect, just perfect. I was giddy down to my ankles and toes to have someone to share that sunset with.

We went down to the other spit where I like to frequently park. The sun was setting right in front of us and we took a couple of seconds to take it in. Then it was to bed for both of us.

I'm grateful for this special time I got with my dear friend Joelle and am eager to see her again tonight and to show her the small piece of land I'm blessed enough to be able to call home.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Folklife 2014

Ahmed, Hannah, Eva, S & J

Folklife is like turning the Seattle center into an island that represents most of my Washington-circle-of-life.

I dunno if you've lived on an island (I've only lived on Bowen and Lopez) or a small town (Haines, Giswil, Sachseln), but when you live in an area like this, everywhere you go, you're bound to run into someone you know. Every time you want to go to the store, you count on someone checking in on you or getting an invitation to come over.

I love Folklife because, for four days, it's like living in a small town where all of the circles of my friends in the Seattle-area are represented.

Square dance, contra dance, blues dancing, circus, that one group, high school, college, church, elementary school, curling, morris dancing, etc... all there in one little space so you can bump into them at frequent intervals.

I started to experiment. I'd walk around the Seattle Center and count how long it took for me to run into someone I knew. The most I'd ever get to is 3.4 minutes.

The first person I ran into was a man I didn't even know but, as it turns out, we had quite the connection.

Hannah and I had just arrived at Folklife Festival (and spotted Michael Karcher, but not talked to him) when we saw a man walking up the stairs. I noticed he had a "Dejon Delights" t-shirt on. Dejon Delights is a smoked-salmon-salmon-pack-sort-of-place up in Haines, Alaska. I had to ask him about his shirt. He told me he had gotten it from his sister, M. M. I know an M. He mentioned her daughter, M. Then I knew exactly which family they were.

"I used to hang out with Ellen all the time in Haines," I told him. "I was one of her care providers."

Turns out that the man I ran into was one of the uncles of one of my favourite clients up in Alaska. With him was her cousin. Oi!

Then I ran into M, S, B, E, S, R, and D...
and then K, A, F, M, K, J, D, P, N, P...
and then H, B, G, S, N, ...
and then Papa Duck
and then M & T
and also M, S, J, S, M, M, S, H, A, A...


A whole lot of people. Lots of them.
And more than I'm listing here. Every few minutes a new person.

It was, altogether, a dandy time to visit Seattle. How convenient to have just about all of my favourite people within the same 74-acres (.11 square miles). Quite pleasent to hear my name be shouted out and be able to reciprocate with excitement.

I guess I didn't even bother to explain Folklife.

First, if you don't know what Northwest Folklife Festival is, I pity you. I am very sorry and I hope we can someday get you to Seattle for Memorial day weekend to attend.

Folklife is a gathering of music, culture, art, dance, and awesome humans for four days. There are constant, ongoing drum circles, folks dancing around, music being made, and delicious food available. They seek to let cultures from around the world, usually living in Seattle, to represent themselves and present parts of their own culture to Seattle.

The entire center floods with people, the place is packed and there's something happening on every corner.

The pathways are lined with buskers and some 14 or so stages and centers have something going on all day for the entirety of the four-day fesitval.

Highlights of the festival included....

- walking around with Hannah
- seeing all of my favourite Morris-dancing friends I used to dance with on Bowen Island, BC
- screaming with Ahmed
- shape-note singing convention
- riding tandem with Brandon
- getting my hat stolen by Scotty
- watching a performance of ancient Russian folk songs
- reconnecting with Morna
- the crankie show
- conversations with Eva and Eva... and everyone else, I should just stop that list before it gets too long
- running into Ani over and over and over again
- dancing with Stephen (first dance in ages - maybe first one since I twisted my ankle)
- watching Rafi perform
- riding the Monorail
- watching all of the dance performances with big, big skirts

Sadly, my weekend was shortened by sickness. I left on Sunday in the middle of the day, wayyy too tired to even just sit and watch. Monday, I didn't even bother. After two hours of being awake, I was ready for my nap.

Even so, I was grateful for the few days I got of colliding into the lovely humans I adore (or love).

I barely documented this weekend. I didn't pull out my camera of the first day and only took a few snaps the second - but it was rainy, so not the best time. Here's the gist of what my Sunday morning looked like...

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Time I Tried to Go to Folklife but Ended up with Grandfather Instead via my Dentist's Receptionist

Grandfather is the man sitting.

These past few weeks have been so sunny, so good that I forgot what lows are....

like when you walked down Lake City Way, crying your eyeballs out into puddles of goo and then sob on the bus and then tear up some more in Bothell.

Welcome to my Friday morning.

I woke up, lacking in restful sleep, in my parent's home, with a headache to a rainy scene and the knowledge that I was to go to Folklife.

I did not, not, not, not want to go.

Not today. Not yet.

And then I had a discussion with mom at about 7:20 AM (on her birthday - Happy Birthday Mom!) about how Grandpa is doing significantly worse. That sort of put me off kilter.


Do you ever mistake your emotions or confuse them or react inappropriately?

Well, my sadness over Grandpa got sort of translated into anger and I turned into Miss Grumpy-pants. It was bad.

It was the sort of bad that find me standing barefoot in our backyard in the pouring rain in my shorts for extended periods of time, afraid to move because, if I do, I don't know exactly what I'll do.

And it was also the sort of thing that drives me to think that I don't deserve to have any friends - that I shouldn't have any friends, because, ultimately, I am a awful, horrible person. I don't say this so folks can say, "No! You're not!" because I am. I'm disgusting. I really don't think I deserve friends at all. I'm a selfish brat that is best off living in the woods by herself and eating oatmeal for eternity - although maybe oatmeal is too good for me because I like oatmeal. Maybe it would be an eternity of sloppy joes.

(this is sort of a warning to folks -- don't be near me or get close to me)

So I've got this inner turmoil going on, but also an obligation to get Hannah to and from Folklife Festival, a rad thing in Seattle. We'd decided to take Tobbit to the mainland so I could get work done - but this meant that we would be busing. If we'd taken Hannah's car, she'd be independent and could drive herself to Seattle, but now it would be public transportation, something she has very little experience in. With little experience comes unknowns and with that comes not-being-comfortable-with-it - so I was going to go with her over and back the first time so she could get the rhythm down. I wanted to make sure she was comfortable.

And then I woke up like this.
And things happened like that.

And I was just being silent. Hannah knew a lot was up and she let me do my thing. I was so grateful to her the next day.I was apologizing and instead of laying on the guilt, she said, "I just wanted you to feel better." Or something on that page. Needless to say, but going to say it anyway, Hannah is an incredible friend. She let me work through it and didn't take it on her shoulders to try and fix me so she would feel better.

It was on the bus that I broke down. I was cold, staring straight ahead, and then I let on that I got news that Grandfather isn't doing so well. I started to tear up. In case you were wondering, biting your lip does little to prevent tears. "Can I give you a hug?" she asked. "I'm ok," I told her. She told me she could figure out how to get there just fine so I got off at the next bus stop in Lake City.

Then I cried some more.
Fred Meyer, then cried.
Got on the bus, cried.
Got off the bus in Bothell and sobbed loudly as I tried to thank the bus driver for the ride.

It sort of came out like this, "Thaannnnkkkbahhhhhhhh *tearshaketear* I'mmm sorrry," and I ran off.

I was now on the streets of Bothell, trying to think of what sort of Mom-figure I could find, or anyone that I could be with as opposed to crying to the construction men working on the streets. A few folks came to mind, but I assumed they wouldn't be home.

Then I remembered Ella.
Ella is the receptionist at my dentist's office. She's Ukrainian. My dentist is Colombian. Everyone there seems to come from another country. I love my that place.

So I walked over to my dentist.
At this point, I'd strolled around a mile and was sort of learning to keep it together.

Walking in felt so comforting and we talked about Grandfather and варе́ники. I told her I had made them and she gave me a new recipe idea to make, involving my favourite Ukrainian dumplings.

Next time you're crying and can't stop, I recommend going to my dentist's receptionist and talk about dumplings, you just might feel better. I did.

Then, I knew it was time to go see Grandfather. I wandered up Bothell with a quick stop at Mill's Music to pick up the sheet music to Erik Satie's Gymnopédies. Up Mainstreet, down across the bridge, here and there and then I was where Grandfather lives.

I grabbed some coffee, hoping it would give me something to think about or distract myself with. Wishful thinking, Margaret, wishful thinking. When I got there, they were in the process of feeding Grandfather. he couldn't really sit up straight on his own and his speech was filled with long stutters. He would twitch every so often and couldn't always get the cottage cheese down.

"Hi Grandfather, I came to visit you," I tried to say before quickly spitting out a, "I have to go the bathroom...." and ran away. In the bathroom, I tried five times to dry my tears and go back, putting on a strong front for Grandfather. He didn't need to see his grandaughter sobbing to let him know how bad he is. I wanted to run away and go home, but I knew it was better to spend time crying with Grandfather than have no time at all. Each time I'd think, "Ok, I got this," the crocodile tears would form and I'd crumble all over again.

Finally, I breathed long and deep and felt ready.

"Hey Grandfather, I'm back."

The staff asked me about Alaska. They asked me more questions. It was a nice distraction.
I watched them feed Grandfather and wished it was me because I knew I could do it with a bit more love.

Last year, I was one of Grandfather's care provider's and we spent a lot of time together.

After his meal, they rolled him to his bed so we could hang out and he could rest.

We spent the next few hours together. We talked a bit and read. I'd lie down next to him in bed and count the spaces between breaths (we got up to 40 seconds) when he slept. Then he'd wake up and we'd talk a bit more. The book I read to him was his father's journal which was quite thorough and exact. Certain posts would make Grandfather cry.

"Grandfather. The other day I went to the 151st annual highland games in Victoria and, as I was locking up my bike, I just started to cry. Then I cried five more times because I thought the music was beautiful. Grandfather, I'm becoming more and more like you as I get older."

My Grandfather cries a lot at pretty things and touching news (like when I won senior division of the Pacific Northwest Teen Square Dance Festival in calling... very touching). I'm not quite as easily triggered as him, but it does happen more frequently. It freaked me out at first but now I'm pretty used to it.

I don't cry when most things upset 'cept when my grandparents aren't doing well. I do cry at music quite frequently and without warning.

Someone brought in some cake for us and I mashed it up and fed it to him, little bite by bite. I made sure he had enough water and saw that he actually was pretty good at eating. That was encouraging.

I feel torn. I'm not ready for him to go, but I am. Seeing how he is now, I wouldn't wish it on him to stick around this earth much longer. I don't see what he's doing as "living." If he were to die tomorrow, I would cry, mourn, and be sad, but I wouldn't wish that he had stuck around for a few more months. I'm going to miss him regardless of when he dies. For all I know that could be in a year or two or it could be next week. I'm do know that I'm grateful for the time I've had with him and that I had the honour of getting to know my grandfather. I was talking to someone two days ago and their reply was, "I never knew my grandfather." Which did make me think, "Dude, I am pretty blessed to have 23 years of getting to know my granddad." It doesn't make it easier, but it adds in more gratitude, which is a good seasoning for many situations.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

It's Wednesday

Yesterday was swell and this will be one of those posts where I just scribble out my day. Scribble scribble.

I currently have a sleeping child strapped to my front. She was yawning a bit and it was a 1.5 minute process to get her to where her head droops onto my chest and her breathing slows down. I know this is the right job for me, right now, as each day I think, "Golly -- they're paying me for this?" The other day I walked her around town (five hours of baby-wearing) till she conked out and then we settled onto the tailgate of Tobbit. I had my coconut water and read as she dreamed away. Life is good.

Ah, but yesterday.

Yesterday was Wednesday, my day "off." Sort of. It's my one day where I attempt to get things done - run all the errands and knock a few things off the to-do list. I don't have many things to get done, but this is my only chance to get them done as I'm working when most things are open all of the other weekdays.

Today my goal was to jump to the post office, return a book to the library, get my brain latched onto All Things Wise and Wonderful by James Herriot (I'm listening to it on CD), find towels at the dump (also known as the "Take It or Leave it" or "Neal's Mall" or "the Mall"), and that was about it.

I gave myself a slow morning, listening to the book and washing down Tobbit with some homemade all-purpose cleaner I whipped up with water, apple cider vinegar, castile soap, essential oils, and just a bit of borax (which I have mixed feelings about -- looking into it). I sorted out all of the things I want to wash this weekend when I go back to Seattle for Folklife. Breakfast was an apple, banana, and spoonful of peanut butter.

I read a bit of the Pacific Northwest Reader and was pretty disappointed that one of the writers they had represent Alaska was someone who worked a season in the tourism industry in Skagway... although I guess that is representative of the experience a lot of folks have in Alaska.

Then it was off to town with a quick stop by Hannah's to see if she was home and wanted to join me.

The dump opens at noon, so that's when I arrived. The same crew was there as least week - J, Z, and J were all there right at the beginning. I searched for towels and found a few along with a small t-shirt (I've got two.. and they smell like sour goats milk or baby spit up) and a vintage REI backpacking pack with an exterior frame.

I then searched town for Hannah.
No Hannah.
I thought I saw a Hannah-car so I flagged it down but an old couple was inside instead.

Lunch was carrots and salsa.
A walk around the village.
Post office.

Then, back home in time to go nanny for two hour for S & R.

My commute to their house is probably one of my favourite commutes I've had (I know I say that each time). I bike down the dirt road I live on and then enter a trail and cycle through the woods, across a field, down another dirt road and I'm there - I never even have to see the main road or any real road at all. No traffic. Just a bunch of trees and some chickens, a saw mill, and guaranteed deer.

S was having a challenging day, but we worked together to have a copacetic time. I strapped little R to my back and we took a packed snack with us for a walk. We were going to go to the beach but walked to Tobbit, instead, to grab a blanket and book for our picnic. We set ourselves up in a small clearing in the trees and were comfortable until we realized that that is where the mosquitos like to be too. We quickly scarfed down graham crackers, raisins, and cheese and went back home for our story.

S was acting pretty sleeping and picked out stories from the little red book of fairy tales that Hannah brought me back from England. He chose Baba Yaga and East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Each time I looked at him, he was sort of glazed over and listening hard. There were no pictures, just words, and he was keyed in. A long time span for a four-year old. His folks came home and we talked for a bit and he dozed off.

S & R have rad parents - the sort of folks I consider it an honour to work with in raising their children. They're the sort of family that built their own home but is redoing the ceiling so it's taller so the dad can juggle inside. Down to earth, level headed, and engaging.

I biked back to Tobbit, tidied up, put on a dress and petticoat, and headed back into town.

In town, the junior high students were putting on a show. It was hilarious.
It was what would happen if you had junior high students write a mystery musical featuring pirates, the Ghostbusters, and Gypsy amulets all set during Mardi Gras and backed with a marimba orchestra.

I'm tempted to describe it more but I know full well that describing a play won't do it justice.

Back home.

One Month on Lopez :: Guide to Settling into a Community

T, S, E, A, A, D and dogs B, M, L, and L around the fire.
It's been exactly one month since I came to Lopez - 4 weeks and two days.
What an unexpected month it's been.

I'm not taking a step back and looking at what's been done and learned on this island.

It seems like there's a new group of people to meet every day and a whole list of names to remember. Yesterday I met P, T, D, S, E, A, A, P, W, B, C... those are all names I'm currently running through in my mind, hoping to hold on to them.

My goal, in coming to Lopez Island, was to wiggle my way into the community - to find a place where I could contribute and find a balance, working towards the acceptance that comes with time.

Becoming part of a community, to me, means learning all of the community drama (yesterday I got my fill, pieces are starting to come together) and connections and histories. It's a long process of learning specialized information that will never be recorded in a book, but is key to know to be able to relate to certain folks. At Bowen I could joke about the turf field (anyone there would know exactly what I was talking about) and in Haines, we talk about how the community seems to come together in the fall when the summer help leaves.

My time in Haines has sort of given me a leg-up on "getting" Lopez. They're quite different, but in a lot of ways, they're still small towns and have a bounty in common. Both are towns where no one likes to lock the doors of their cars or homes or lock up their bikes. They both have a summer population swell. Both are tiny - Haines has 2,500 and Lopez has 2,100.

Connecting in Haines took me longer because I started off by relying on Andrew for my social life which meant that, mainly, I met the river guides (whom I had zero connection with, making me feel socially inept). It wasn't until three months in that I started to meet people on my own terms.

This time, there's more of a rhythm to it all.

Here are some things I have learned on how to settle into a community:

1. Learn everyone's name. If you have a short conversation with them, ask them their name. Remember it. Use it next time and every time you see them. Tobbit has been a great conversation stater.

2. Spend lots of time alone in the community. Wander around town on foot, sit on benches, go to the park. this is where a lot of connections start. If you have access to a cute baby, strap them to your front and walk around.

3. Don't immediately rely on the first connection you make, nor hold it too close. It takes time to figure out who you want to be known by. I know this sounds a bit judge-y (may be), but it makes a difference. When I first came to Haines, I thought everyone knew and loved Andrew and let myself be known as his friend - that was my identity. I didn't really know what the community thought about him and it wasn't till later that I learned and realized I didn't want to be associated with it. On Lopez, I'm cautious of who folks pin me to - they want to do that, they want to have someone to associate me with. I'm slowly learning which folks in the community are well respected and who have a sketchy history with the island.

4. Listen to what people have to say but take it with a grain of salt. I'm not entirely sure what that phrase means, but what I intend to say is that you need to listen, but not believe everything. Folks have different reputations and, for safety sake, I want to know them - but when I want to actually interact with a human with a peculiar reputation, I sort of put that in the back of my mind and treat them based on how I've met them and that specific experience, keeping in my mind that my experiences with folks frequently are different then other folks (goes for each of us).

5. Don't contribute to conversations that are negative about other folks. Just don't. Don't encourage these conversations, however, if it's a safety situation, ask ask ask. If you notice people get a bit weird when you mention someone you're staying with, find out why.

6. Take up every invitation. Even if it was in passing, just go. Show up. Meet more folks. This is where the wealth of the community is that hides from the tourists. Meet folks, make connections, make plans. It'll take a lot longer to develop friendships than connections. Friendship is what it will take for me to be able to stick around for a while and is what I desire.

7. Ask for recommendations and follow through with them and let them know that you did.

8. Listen. Listen a lot.

9. Don't come in the summer. Then you'll be assumed to be a temporary resident.

10. Put in time. It'll take time for a small community to accept that you'll be there for a while. Towns like Haines and Lopez Island host a vast transient populations. For the locals, it's not worth investing time into someone that will just move on in a few months when the weather changes. It's after a few seasons that some folks will realize that you actually mean to stick around and will reach out to connect with you.

11. Be grateful.

That's all that comes to mind.

Truth is, I miss Haines a lot.

But, the other truth is, I'm thoroughly grateful to be here. I'm grateful to the folks who have welcomed me into their homes and the weather and all the nooks and crannies I've been able to explore. I'm looking forward to the next 11 months.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Evening Steamboat Ride

Last night, after an eight-hour work day, I decided to go to the boat launch at Mackaye Harbor to write some letters and postcards (2 letters and 6 postcards are being sent out today). This is one of my favourite corners of Lopez Island as someone in the community has made the beach there very accommodating. There are plastic lawn chairs and a picnic table complete with geraniums growing in an old oil tin.

Just as I had finished a letter to Felicia, in chugged a little steam boat.

It was adorable. It was lovely. It made my mind whirl about.

The captain came on to shore and asked, "Is that your rig up there?"
"Tobbit? Yeah!" I replied, and that's how I met M.

After a brief chat, he asked if I wanted to go for a ride... oh man.. did I? Yes!

Without hesitation I left all of my belongings scattered on the picnic table (it had been a banana-beer dinner, but not mixed together) and climbed aboard. He put some wood in the stove, started the engine with a brush of the foot, and off we went!

He showed me where he checked on the pressure and explained how it all worked. I was completely infatuated with his boat, so sweet, so lovely. Lately I've been day dreaming a bit more than usual about boats. I read about them, look at them, do little bits of research (not much). I'm trying to squelch this dream and say, "You have Tobbit, you have Tobbit." I think it's a long distant dream.

In the midst of all of this dreaming, though, to go for a steam boat ride was absolutely wonderful.

Grateful to M for welcoming me aboard his boat.
After we got back to shore, I couldn't write any more. I was a bit to jubilant to scrawl out words on paper.

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