Tag Archives: Orcas Island

Paths of Desire

photo by Paul Mayer


When Walt Disney designed Disneyland, he looked to see where people walked before committing those paths to concrete. Frank Lloyd Wright followed much the same principle. And today in Finland, land planners visit parks after the first snowfall of the year to best determine their layout of paths.

Otherwise paths will present themselves organically. Wikipedia states that “as few as 15 passages over a site can be enough to create a distinct trail, the existence of which then attracts further use.” Whether it is in pursuit of a short cut or a wandering at whim, ‘paths of desire’ emerge as people make their own way across the meadows, fields, parks, and median strips in parking lots of their lives.

Our feet go where they’d like, so to speak.

But not my mother’s. Given a choice, she did not trample on the grass. She did not question the rules. What my mother always desired, it seemed, were paved walks in life.

What did she think of us, I wonder? Did she think us all anarchists? I never asked her. Now I wish I had.

But I will tell you that only a few years ago I had the pleasure of walking a labyrinth path with her. We were on Orcas Island and the labyrinth garden at Emmanuel Episcopal Parish church in Eastsound presented itself. Labyrinths were originally designed by churches, primarily Episcopal, as a way to get parishioners back into the fold. How clever is that?

Walking the labyrinth appealed to us both and the church yard was all ours for half the afternoon. Over and over we walked the singular path in silence to the center, and out again. I found it calming, hypnotic, —a moving meditation.

I think I began to understand her patience that day.

Perhaps that was it, all those years. My mother had found that in following a path that presented no navigational challenges, like our labyrinth, she could find her own thoughts.

I am going to go with that.









Filed under paths of desire

Walking in the World

White Point sign


There are people in our lives who have an influence they’d never know. My parents instilled a love for Cape Cod that we find in many ways living here on San Juan Island in Washington. The friend in California who suggested a year or so ago that I rein in this blog to a remodeling theme: remodeling a house, remodeling a life—the same thing, in my book. Our daughter, now living in Argentina, who upon visiting before her departure grew my daily walk by a beautiful mile or two. And in sending me a video of the works of sculptor Anthony Howe on neighboring Orcas Island, my cousin in Atlanta reminding me to stay with art every day. And to try not to stray.

They are all part and parcel of who I am, why I’m here, and how I see it.

“Walking the loop” began as a tradition while living on upper Queen Anne in Seattle and continues out here today. That first loop took me around the perimeter of the hill, overlooking the Space Needle and downtown Seattle, Lake Union, and Puget Sound. Today’s loop takes me alongside Westcott Bay, and through the red, white and blue nostalgic quality of Roche Harbor Resort where everyone looks good in the light. Finally, the road meanders through an old growth forest of cedar, fir, and pine where everything grows dark and green, and back to my home on the bay.

Where the road dips down to the shoreline I experience what I call a Cape Cod moment, framed by flatlands, grasses, marshes, and horizon. In the course of this walk I may pass only one or two cars on the road, a few more in summer, on an island where every driver waves.

This is the walk my daughter grew, taking it out on a point to new terrain, the posh end of White Point Road. Here I pass tennis courts where nobody’s playing, a pond with a dock establishing someone’s swimming hole, and a private golf course back in there somewhere, for I’ve seen it from the water. Horse fencing and regally high pampas grasses standing like sentry guide the way. Crushed white shells underfoot line the one-lane road at sea level. It’s as private as private can be, except for me, out on this point.

Here I gape at houses, something that seems to be my lot in life: the desire to see myself in other spaces, other places. On walks I finish unfinished houses in my mind, or tear them down and start again. As anyone in the field knows, design is never done. When the bones are good, I may mentally repaint it, or envision it clad in cedar shingles, dark, red, natural or a weathered gray.

At home, the short video on the kinetic sculpture of Anthony Howe awaits me. It’s mesmerizing. How did my cousin know to send this now? I needed it. Isn’t art what ultimately pulls us through? All the arts, always. And art as balm, particularly in troubling times. Which is where we are today.

“After reading the newspaper on Sunday, I sit quietly and simply look at art books.” Michael Graves


Filed under art, design, remodeling, walking

Sounds of Silence

After seeing the film, “Descendents,” my sister remarked that it made her aware of all the superfluous chatter in life, that much of what we mean can be expressed without words. No doubt it was George Clooney’s eyes that spoke to her, nevertheless we are all capable of so much more in nonverbal communication.

And while this blazingly beautiful Indian Summer of ours just won’t quit, my husband and I slipped off in the boat again for “one more weekend.” Pulling up at Rosario on Orcas Island, we came ashore as tens of people were pouring out of a seminar. They were out on a break and while most sat on the shore facing the sun, some lay down on the grass, or strolled singularly on paths. The notable thing about it was the quietude. None of the participants spoke. Not to each other, not to anyone. And we did not want to disturb it.

Describing quietude is like trying to describe the dark. There is little light on land at night in the San Juan Islands. Soft lights from boats reflect, and diffuse, in the water. It is darker there at night. The sky, however, can be lit up like the Hayden Planetarium on the Upper West Side in NYC. Stargazing did for me a child, and this was again, such a night.

We were taken with it, both the quietude and darkness. While on a walk at midnight, my husband encountered a deer. It was close yet he couldn’t see it. When he came back to the boat his description was of “a low hum, the sound of air moving fast.” We talked like this that weekend.

We learned that we had arrived on the second day of an intensive, three-day, Tibetan Buddhist Tantric Retreat. Tom Kenyon was creating catalytic sounds by channeling a celestial musician, the participants found it transformational, and although we were not in the program, it affected us nonetheless. For the entire weekend we did not play the music we are usually fond of hearing out on the water, and I don’t know that either of us noticed.

I wish I could write this from inside the retreat too, but no, I wouldn’t have wanted to spend all that time indoors. One of the benefits of boating is we can absorb all that good Vitamin D and raise our serotonin and endorphin levels through the roof. And if we go a bit overboard in the summer, it is because we are stocking up for all the gray months ahead.

On the final day of the program–day three for them, day two for us– one by one, participants out on break began to say “hello.” It was as if they were resurfacing, and us as well.

Time had stood still, it seemed, and now it was time to return from whence we all came. Soundlessly, people wandered off with their backpacks, and boats left their slips or moorage, more sailboats than motor. We hoped to bring some of it back with us, the sounds of silence and the lights of darkness.

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Filed under meditation, channeling