Greetings from Bob’s Study and Charlie’s Cottage

A woman in the hallway smiled and asked, “Are you one of the scholars?”

I hesitated. “Scholar” isn’t a word I tend to use to describe myself. But here at the Friday Harbor Labs’ Whiteley Center, that’s how they refer to guests like me (and her). It was the first day of a two-week writing residency, and I was settling into my accommodations. I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity since I visited Friday Harbor Labs (FHL) last spring, submitted an application, and was accepted for this stay.

University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs

It turns out the woman (Diane) I had met in the hall in the Whiteley Study Center shares a study room next to mine with her husband. Each study is named for a friend of the Labs, and I was assigned to “Bob’s Study.” A brief biography under Bob’s photo explains he had a passion for marine invertebrates, developed many advanced courses, and eventually served as the FHL director. “Bob was our leader,” the bio concludes.

My desk in “Bob’s Study” looks across Friday Harbor toward the marina, the ferry landing, and the town. From another window, Madrones on a mossy bluff reach toward the bay.

A gas fireplace warms the room on gray days (all of them so far), and art work adorns most walls.

Fireplace in Bob’s Study

When I arrive to work, I exchange my rubber boots for wool slippers, even though the floor has radiant heat.  My laptop, books, journals, a thermos of tea, a mug, a candle, and a palm-sized ceramic heart fit on the desktop. Notably absent are piles of unfiled papers, stacks of mail, and other distractions.

I plan to be at my desk every morning in plenty of time to watch the MV Tillikum snug into its berth at the dock. In the winter, it leaves Lopez at 9:55 AM, just as I did many days last year as Writer-in-Residence on this interisland ferry. I may not feel the current and the vessel’s motion, but my desk and chair are even more comfortable than the booths I sat in during my tenure. And since I brought my “Salish Sea Stand,” I can write while sitting or standing in Bob’s Study

After a morning of writing, and then again at the end of the day, I return to “Charlie’s Cottage,” the one-bedroom cabin I was assigned to. It’s named after former FHL graduate student, Charles Lambert, known for his “enthusiasm, expertise, persistence, devotion to his science.” 

Charlie’s bio explains that he, and his wife, “came to UW with a passion for tunicates.” You bet I had to look that up to learn they’re invertebrates. Charlie studied the local version, Ascidia callosum.

The cottage, next door to the study, also faces the harbor. It offers everything I need to prepare meals, rest, and roll out my yoga mat. My first two nights, I ate dinner by candlelight and the fireplace glow. I’m headed there now for lunch and a break from writing new essays and revising drafts of others. Watch for updates on my progress. 

And if you see the Naked Hiker, thank him for his steadfast support of my writing efforts.


  1. Thanks so much for this. I love the repeat opportunities to be your vicarious companion on these adventures. The pictures are such lovely accompaniments to your vibrant text to bring me right along with you to each change of venue. Helps me to feel as close to you as I long to be in real space!! Love, love, M.

    Sent from my iPad


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