Sunday, February 16, 2014

Books, Boats, and Gutsy Gals

Nantucket shingle gray. Seagull gray. Pelican gray. I can see them all from where I sit; it’s Seattle in February, and I’m dreaming of the sea. I’m looking over Lake Union. The view is great—even if monochromatic. A few sailboats were out for the Goosebumps Race, but they’ve probably abandoned the damp and dreary for a booth at Ivar’s. The call of chowder, beer, and happy hour was usually plenty to tempt us off the Shady Lady—even at a hint of gray and skies barely sprinkling. 

From this vantage overlooking the lake, I’ve been hibernating. Taken out over the holidays with illness, it’s taken me a while to get excited about emerging. But even as the wind picks up and the spray hits the slider with percussive force, I’m excited. We’re on the upside of the winter solstice; official sunset in Seattle is now 5:34, and by the end of next month, we won’t lose daylight until 7:38. That’s a lot more day, and by then all of Seattle, especially the UW cherry trees, will be in full bloom.

And beyond buds, blossoms, and prolonged daylight hours, I’m excited about something else: a bit of serendipity. Today, I was thrilled to announce that an exciting bit of coincidence has turned into a writing event where Pam Houston, the writer, who back in May, I was somewhat awe-struck to meet at a writing workshop in Port Townsend, will be teaching a class on the Schooner Isaac H. Evans, an 1886 schooner—owned and operated by my friend, Captain Brenda Thomas.

But there’s a story here that Pam hasn’t even heard that makes this connection even sweeter. In 1997, I turned 30. I was living in Camden, ME and was pretty lonely and down—trying to right myself after the end of a three-year romance. To help me out of my funk, I signed up for a writing group, where I met Brenda. Brenda wasn’t Captain yet, but was already working on the Evans. We hit it off. I’d bought myself a guitar, and since Brenda was learning too, she came to my apartment, so we could fumble around and try to teach each other chords and whatever else we’d learned.

After about a year in Camden, I left the state of Maine and went to graduate school—eventually migrating to the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, Brenda and I kept in touch sporadically, and I remember being both proud and awed when she bought the Isaac Evans, got her captain’s license, and started taking passengers out along the coast—in that order! She hadn’t yet sat for her captain’s license when she actually purchased the boat. Talk about gutsy!

About a dozen years after Brenda and I met, I found myself back in Camden. I hadn’t seen Brenda in all those years, but had Pam Houston’s book, Sight Hound with me, and I thought Brenda would like it. So, I stopped off at the schooner one evening when she was boarding passengers to give her the book. She later told me how much she enjoyed it. It’s the only book I ever gave Brenda, and it was long before I ever met Pam Houston. But it seems fitting now that Brenda and I met in a writing group and that Pam’s book made its connection with Brenda long before this exciting event called Writing on a Windjammer was ever conceived.


  1. Love this! Amazing coincidences that connect us all.

  2. Serendipity! I too am a huge Pam Houston fan! Hope to take a workshop with her sometime! Glad I found your blog. You might like mine?! Have a great day!

  3. @lostandlaughinginla Thanks for finding my blog! I will check yours out too. Have a super day!


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