On Sunday: an unplanned, last-minute day trip to Friday Harbor (in the San Juan Islands) for a poetry & science symposium thrown by some former teachers of mine, plus a slew of local literary luminaries. Amid the sound-scape, poets and biological researchers gathered in front of a fire to sing sea shanties and such—it was pretty wonderful. Friday Harbor is an epitomic Pacific Northwest landscape: evergreens and madronas (those voluptuous ladies, as my friend Libby says), deer, docks, rocks, and the periwinkle of the Puget Sound.
It’s the kind of place where you feel the need to weave flowers in your hair or skip rocks—really, any engagement of the maritime-pastoral sort. It’s a place of mare nostrum, our sea—a place, much as Rome is, where kindred spirits commune. Beyond the details—beyond the floats of jellyfish, the startled young bucks, the bright bursts of berries, the statue of the chemical structure of green fluorescent protein—it’s quite similar to Rome. I think that there are certain places in the world where you feel more chimerical, and Rome and Friday Harbor are among them. I’m desperately hoping I will find that in Morocco.
I always keep a notebook and pen on me, which was a habit I cultivated in Rome. This Friday Harbor trip filled up my little book with pages and pages of scribbles, of both the serious and silly sort. My favorite part of the whole thing was when my husband Robert won third prize in the poetry competition for a double dactyl penned in my notebook on the ferry ride over (with the assistance of our friend Tyler and me). Robert, as many of you know, is a scientist who works at a biomechanics lab at a university. He’s always been absolutely supportive of my passions… even if he does make fun of me whenever I recite a poem to myself at home. 🙂 In exchange for my attendance at various science lectures and conferences, he’s always game to tag along to poetry readings—and he’s always indulgent of any nonsensical verse that pops out of me. The theme of this sea-symposium—the meeting of poetry and science—seems more than serendipitous. And Robert’s reading was really a personal high for me. I was so proud and so delighted.
Soon I’ll be standing at another sea, perhaps two. For now, I’ll be saying a prolonged farewell to the waters I know. That sounds metaphorical, I suppose, but I mean it literally! Cheers to you, Pacific & Puget, my old friends. And cheers to the new shores ahead!