*Afterthought #119: A Return to the Whiteley Center

Ferry headed to the mainland seen from my vessel bound for San Juan Island

Today I again ferried “interisland.” It’s been just over two years since I made this trek to San Juan Island and the Helen Riaboff Whiteley Center (HRWC) at Friday Harbor Labs (FHL). Once again, I’m retreating to this study and research center to focus on essays about the Salish Sea. Then, some of the writing I’d taken along was in rough draft form. Other pieces were being revised (or re-revised) and still others were no more than vague ideas. 

This time, though, the essays are “finished” (if any piece of writing is every really finished) and bound between soft covers (thank you, Homebound Publications). 

I was again assigned to Charlie’s Cottage. During the day, I’ll divide my writing time between the cottage and a desk in the Whiteley Study Center next door. Both spots have views of Friday Harbor, the bay, madrones, and cedars.

So, why this retreat? Just days after my last sojourn here, the first cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in the U.S., two hours away in Seattle. Between shutdowns, a struggling ferry system, and unpredictable variants, I’ve ventured to this neighboring island only twice since that last retreat. And with the essay collection about to be released, I have work to do for the launch on March 24 at Lopez Island Library as well as subsequent events. It’s a good time for some solitude and a break from usual routines to develop promotional materials, create a newsletter and update my website, and plan what I’ll read at events and how I’ll talk about the essays. 

It’s good to be back at this place that has nurtured me and so many others who care for the waters that surround it.

Friday Harbor Labs – San Juan Island, WA

*Afterthoughts are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, previous posts, maybe even bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets.


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