Will She Ever Return?

Weather forecasters are predicting a cold blast and possible snow the end of this week in the San Juan Islands. Just the thought of a storm reminds me of the icy conditions a couple of years ago at this time when I was in the midst of my term as Writer in Residence on the Interisland Ferry. The weather led to unexpected challenges… well, you can read (or sing) what happened in my parody of the “MTA Song.”

WSF Song

But did he ever return? No, he never returned

And his fate is still unlearned

He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston

He’s the man who never returned.

                                    ~ “MTA Song” by Jacqueline Steiner & Bess Lomax Hawes*

Well, let me tell you a story ‘bout a writer named Iris

Who boarded the ferry one wint’ry morn.

She wrote and she wrote until the third island stop

When she started to feel a bit worn.

Will she ever return? Oh will she ever return?

For her Lopez home she’ll yearn.

She may ride forever ‘round the San Juan Islands,

The writer who never returned.

She didn’t pay a fare, walking on and off is free,

And she could ride and write all day, 

But at San Juan Island she was feeling pretty hungry, 

So she trudged to the Bean Café.

Will she ever return? Oh will she ever return?

For her Lopez home she’ll yearn.

She may ride forever ‘round the San Juan Islands,

The writer who never returned.

While lunching at the Bean, a waiter told the writer,

“Ice has frozen the Lopez dock!”

Then the writer’s heart skipped several beats 

As she felt a wave of shock.

Will she ever return? Oh will she ever return?

For her Lopez home she’ll yearn.

She may ride forever ‘round the San Juan Islands,

The writer who never returned.

The Washington State Ferries sent an email alert

That repairs would likely take all night, 

So Iris called some friends on San Juan Island,

The kind souls prepared a bed and bite.

Will she ever return? Oh will she ever return?

For her Lopez home she’ll yearn.

She may ride forever ‘round the San Juan Islands,

The writer who never returned.

A midnight alert said the Lopez dock was working,

and a ferry would be coming right by,

so her friends drove her to the boat

and she let out a grateful sigh. 

Will she ever return? Oh will she ever return?

For her Lopez home she’ll yearn.

She may ride forever ‘round the San Juan Islands

The writer who never returned.

Now you island dwellers who travel by ferry,

Don’t forget you must come prepared.

Pack a toothbrush and chargers for all your devices 

In case your vessel becomes impaired.

Will she ever return? Oh will she ever return?

For her Lopez home she’ll yearn.

She may ride forever ‘round the San Juan Islands

The writer who never returned.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               One week later, snowfall covered the islands

But the ferries continued to churn.

Iris took another chance as Writer-in-Residence.

She’s the writer who always returns.

Will she ever return? Oh will she ever return?

For her Lopez home she’ll yearn.

She may ride forever ‘round the San Juan Islands

The writer who never returned.

*“The MTA Song” appeared in 1956 as a campaign song for the Progressive Party candidate for mayor of Boston, Walter O’Brien. It was written in protest of the proposed fare increase requiring riders to pay on entering and again on leaving the subway. A version of the song, with the candidate’s name changed, became a 1959 hit when recorded by American folk-singing group, The Kingston Trio.

The song inspired me to salute the WSF (Washington State Ferries) as well as the Lopez and San Juan dock crews, the Bean Café, and friends on San Juan Island. They all kept me from being “the writer who never returned.” I was back a week later, better prepared for delays—that never occurred.

You just might see these lyrics in my forthcoming essay collection, Writer in a Life Vest.

I met up on the late night ferry with three more Lopezians who wondered if they’d ever return.

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