As many of you know, I’ve just returned from the northwest where I traveled to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday. Twelve of us gathered at our family’s cabin on Vashon Island, land that has been in my family since my great, great grandparents (see previous post Could This Be Why I’m an Artist?). I hadn’t been to the island in over 13 years, this place that was integral to my development as a human being. It is the one place I miss; the land I yearn for. Needless to say, I was excited to go back.
I landed at the Seattle airport and took a cab to the ferry dock in West Seattle. I have to say the cab driver was overcome with my enthusiasm as he drove me through neighborhoods and places I hadn’t seen in a very long time. Then he dropped me at the head of the dock. I picked up my bags and began the long trek down to the ticket office. But I was stopped in my tracks by the very specific and wonderful scent of salt on the air. Ah, the bay! How I’ve missed her. My eyes filled with spontaneous tears.
I kept stopping to gaze out on all that magnificent expanse of sea, and to take pictures, of course. At the landing a young man offered to carry my bags onto the ferry and up the stairs to the upper decks. How dear, and what a relief! I traveled back in time on that ferry ride, to the island of my youth, as mesmerized and captivated as I always had been when I was a child.
My sister and brother-in-law were waiting for me on the other side to drive me down to the beach. Ah, Vashon… the rural landscape, the lush green, the quaint old town and then the descent to our beach. I’ll never forget the excitement I felt as a child, hitting that final stretch of winding road. It was exactly the same on this night.
And then we arrived. We pulled onto Grandma and Grandpa Casson’s beach, their old home, although their house is long gone. I stepped out of the car and there it was: a smell only this, specific, beach offers, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced anywhere else. Home! I was home.
I went up to the cabin, a little structure my dad and the rest of us built in 1967; a place I upgraded in the 70s adding electricity, water, a wood stove, windows and big double doors. A place I lived in back then, trying to claim my artist’s life; grieving when I couldn’t make a go of it.
I said hello to Mom and we all had dinner and then I excused myself because I really had to go out and be in that air, on that land.
I walked in a kind of daze. THIS is it. This is my place of nurture, my grounding place. This is what gave me to life and life to me. I would be different if not for this land. Every cell in my body responded. Every nerve ending let go. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else existed.
This is where I’d found acceptance and belonging all those decades ago. This is where the ugly duckling (me) found her swans (Grandma and Grandpa). This is the footing, the root, the angle of repose that propelled me into the life I have come to know as mine. This is what saved me.
Standing there at the place of my birth, feet on the ground, I was at peace, total and complete. And I realized, in that moment, that it was much like standing on my land in Truchas, in the dark of night, under a bowl of shining stars. It, too, is my root, my place of being. Without Vashon would I have recognized Truchas? I’m thinking perhaps not.
I am home, again, in the mountains, standing beneath Truchas Peaks, reveling in the fact that, in my life, I’ve been given two deeply meaningful places—the one of my youth and the one where I will likely end. I have no idea why I’ve been so blessed, but I accept the gift and know that I don’t need to understand the reasons. I have only to live on this land, to feel it flowing in my veins, to know that Truchas is my Vashon, Vashon my Truchas. To walk with my ancestors; to give my life to this place.
Love to you all,