These odd-looking paddles are among the very few artifacts I’ve kept from the ten years I lived on Vashon Island in Puget Sound. It was a formative decade, starting at age 25. I ended a marriage by mutual agreement, discovered my vocation at last, made lifelong friendships, played in a funky bluegrass band, and learned to sail. I should say, I learned to crew on sailboats. The few times people sailed with me at the rudder, they tended to decline a repeat voyage.
In the 1970s, island life was relatively inexpensive. Rents were cheap, and I eventually bought a small house with a million dollar view for ten thousand dollars. The island setting with affordable cost of living attracted a thriving population of artists, philosophers, and hippies. For example: Marshall Sohl Jr., creator of the paddles, which he preferred to call “historical pyrogravures.” Marshall referred to himself as a “fire artist,” specializing in historical anecdotes. Kind of like wood-burned tweets.
This pyrogravure tells us that Dilworth Point, where I lived for a while, was named for a “sea-going circuit rider, Reverend Richard E., Presbyterian minister [who] conducted religious services for isolated communities and logging camps.” Not great art nor in-depth history, but the pyrogravures hang on my bedroom wall because they take me back to a time and place that are no more. Sure, Vashon Island is still there, not as affordable, and most of my friends have moved on. As Thomas Wolfe proclaimed, “you can’t go home again.”
As an Associated Press editor, I’d relished the daily commute via Washington State ferry from my island home to my Seattle office. I passed up several promotions because it meant I’d have to move from the island. Finally I got an offer I couldn’t refuse. My husband-to-be promised me I’d learn to love the Okanogan just as much as any island. Now, instead of living on a salt water sea, I live along a fresh water river. Instead of daily tides, I watch the river ebb and flow on an annual basis. John was right.
(To celebrate my 75th birthday this month, I’m posting daily stories about the stuff I’ve acquired over a lifetime and can’t let go of. I invite you to consider and possibly share the stories that make you treasure your own stuff.)