the museum of flight
The skipper of this little boat was a serious, strapping sort from Olympia who befriended Oliver Fern and I last month while we were on Orcas Island. It started one morning when Mr. Jim arrived to the end of the dock and found us prone on the float, studying mussels and starfish several inches below the water’s surface. I felt a bit sheepish as I peeled myself off the guano-flecked float because he’d observed Oliver and I admiring his boat a handful of times over the course of several days and while boats are interesting to me I don’t really know anything about them and since his was the fishing sort I felt reflexive anxiety about being drawn into sportsmanlike banter as I’m more of a lay-down-in-the-dirt-and-smell-the-flowers kind of person. I froze for a moment when he asked if we should head out for a ride, he was tired of waiting for his wife to get out of bed (he’s an early riser, she loves horses and sleeping in). They were staying in a campsite on the hill above our cabin. His offer of a ride felt more like an order and while I don’t do things I don’t feel like doing, I’m polite to a fault and besides that I’d argue a boat ride is generally more or less a good thing to have thrust upon one’s self. Hesitation merged seamlessly with eager acceptance and the only other card I might’ve pulled in the intervening moment was eliminated after some rummaging in a storage compartment produced a pair of awkward-fitting flotation vests for Oliver and I (other than smelling vaguely like horsehide and fuel, they did the job).
The Sound was dark and glassy that morning (the picture above was taken in the evening). We passed a solitary seal and the moment seemed epic and strange in its stillness, like the essential part of a vivid dream that gets remembered over the years. We motored further and further out from West Beach but Waldron Island didn’t seem to get any closer and then Jim asked if we wanted to steer. Well, of course we did. I felt like a rube talking about boat motors, fish finders and navigational hazards but I may have sold it. Far more interesting to me were Jim’s various, disconnected childhood recollections of boating on the Sound (this was his first time back in over forty years). Oliver was utterly enchanted with our flight over the Sound and I started to feel like his ventriloquist and had to pry his hands off the steering wheel as he’d gone catatonic with glee. In the days that followed, we rendezvoused with Jim a handful of times by the dock-front store and variously discussed how things were going. Jim and Oliver were chattier than a couple of hens. Jim and his wife spent most of their time on Orcas not actually being on Orcas, with daily relaxed explorations of the Sound to nearby islands, but the day we left the island for good I noticed their truck was gone (but not the small pickup camper Jim somehow folded his 6’5″ frame into) from the campground and the fact of that somehow made me feel a little better.
This week got off to a weird and gross start yesterday when Adam’s backpack was discovered to be harboring a sizable colony of swarming ants that had built up to incredible proportions since Friday afternoon- they were drawn by a gooey, mashed-up mess of chewing gum and half a dozen crab claws (from Camano Island). Never again do I want to experience that peculiar odor of peppermint and seafoodish pee-pee. Big yucko!!! Before bedtime last night, Oliver Fern and I walked to Volunteer Park and then up to the top of the water tower for a good look at the city, which was blanketed by a thick layer of cool clouds. We talked a lot about airplanes and reflected on last weekend’s visit to the Museum of Flight.