Its been very lovely in Port Madison this Spring. I’ve been regrouping after putting up the art show, taking stock and redirecting energy toward simpler things like chopping wood. We are talking serious wood chopping.
The building is a workshop built by Ed Monk. I’ve been privileged to Moor Old Hand at this historic site, built by one of the Northwest’s finest boat designers. I feel his presence in the stoutly built out- buildings and docks, and gladdened by the thought that, he too, hauled gear and materials up and down the steep path to the water. His can-do spirit inspires my humble efforts, and I take extra care in the stacking of split maple and cedar. This stacking is itself, an art.
At first, I was unimpressed by Monk’s designs. But as I worked on his boat-houses I came to see his ubiquitous, wooden power cruisers in a new light.
I find rusty, bent shipwright tools near Monk’s shop, and use an old, weathered workbench he made. After the long preparation for the exhibit, this physical connection with common objects that surrounded his life has inspired in me an appreciation for the simple aesthetic of usefulness.
My boat, Old Hand is not a Monk, but was built of such stuff. Her portly hull design is a scaled-down version of the hefty Norwegian lifeboats designed by Colin Archer. After 10 years of owning her I’ve greater appreciation for her ponderous lines and stout workmanship. So I am readying for another season of sailing. I look at tide tables and plot course South toward Old Hand’s first port of call: Gig Harbor.
So stay tuned for posts chronicling these adventures on the Salish Sea told in art, music and videos.
Reflections of brilliant red kayaks fall vertically into the mud off Reah’s dock . The gray water stretches toward steep soundings off Jefferson Head and a fitful northerly brightens the harbor entrance with catspaws . An ancient tug nudges a barge off Meig’s old mill site, while the sqwak of a blue heron echoes from tall cedars veiled in ghostly fog. The fog creates vast space by removing nearby objects beyond this present time to maroon me with only my dark thoughts. A little mystery by way of atmospheric perspective.
Strange to think how the population of this quiet port dwarfed Seattle in the mid 19th Century, when Meig’s mill belched acrid smoke into the northwest gloom and the west shore shipyard built lumber schooners for the coast trade. Then, the steam side wheeler’s whistle sounded along these shores. Venerable tugs like the Politkovsky, brought passengers, mail and logs to the hearty inhabitants of a thriving boomtown built with the lumber milled for distant ports. The long history of this now peaceful anchorage holds some dirty secrets- like when Meigs suddenly fired all Chinese workers or used trickery to monopolize the mosquito fleet, the main form of transport on Bainbridge Island.
I’ve taken a break from painting to work at Thatcher Farm. My art work has long tended toward abstraction (the term is used loosely since my work is figurative) and I needed connection with our ancestral earth to ground my mercurial mind. Speaking of Mercury, it seems significant that Thatcher farm was the main switchboard for Island communications for much of the 20th Century.
So now I’m sending out a communique into an ever expanding cyber network where few have time for an old sailor’s questionable yarn. Among crockery shards I disinter rusty hinges for a gate that opens into another time. How many have turned this soil over the centuries, have pulled crabgrass, hacked blackberry vines into submission and bent hoe blades on this weathered rock? I till midden heaps of kitchen ware and toss rocks into a plastic bucket with a loud, dull thunk!.
Under golden maples that sway over the harbor entrance, a cemetery holds the remains of Port Madison’s founders. Here I came upon a stone bearing this simple elegy:
…Gallieau, 1905-2005, Lost at Sea
What an epic sea romance is encapsulated in this terse inscription! Would that my own humble literary efforts were enlivened by such economy and expressiveness. I see Gallieau as a Conradian swab on a lumber schooner bound for Frisco after the big quake, or an ancient mariner going down for the last time off Foulweather Bluff in a squall. May he rest in peace.
George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).