My trip to Port Townsend, taken almost a year after we moved to HQX, has come and gone. I enjoyed myself doing what I like to do; taking a leisurely schedule and breaking bread with a handful of dear friends. I was oddly relieved to see that very little felt different; the town was just as it was, warts and loveliness both. Business owners will still doing their thing and restaurant menus and offerings remained the same. The weather competed for Grays Harbor in terms of winter blah (although my logical mind knows this was only a kindness bestowed on me by the weathergods to soften the soaked mossy reality of my new home). My friends’ lives hadn’t suddenly taken wing without me. The children I’d so missed hadn’t changed so much as inserted about 6″ in their middle somewhere. Port Townsend itself did not evoke wistfulness or sadness so much as seemed a comfortable, parallel dimension of home.
There were cosmetic differences. Ladies seem to have traded in their Danskos for Merrells. An acquaintance’s art shop had moved downtown and Swain’s checkout counter had moved up in the store. On Saturday I went to a yoga class and re-connected with that aspect of the community, which I discovered I’d missed very much. In both Friday and Saturday night’s gatherings I was inspired by the community I’d known with their impulsive creativity, a bubble that expects, experiences, and serves itself a high quality of life indeed.
I spent almost no time alone this weekend which was highlighted by a little incident on Sunday afternoon. Two o’clock found me outside the Model T Pub and Eatery in Hoodsport with my vinyl green suitcase and my sock knitting (Nels’ Christmas socks, still unfinished). It’s cold – very cold, but brilliant and sunny. I don’t want to go inside the pub (a pleasant place) because I want to see my family when they arrive. As I knit away, yarn ball tucked in my pocket, a man emerges from the restaurant and into the sunshine to smoke. He looks like Grays Harbor stock – handsome but weathered, black jeans, cowboy hat, and biker jacket. “Knitting!” he drawls, surprised. “You making gloves or socks? Whyn’tcha make me a pair?” I show him my son’s socks and he replies, “Well, I can’t wear wool. And I can’t wear colored clothes, you know, dye. If I wear dye, it soaks into my skin and makes me sick. Of course, I’m sixty-five now, so maybe something’s changed…” He goes on to talk about his truck – a Mazda like mine that’s just had repairs – and his son who happens to be a mechanic in Port Townsend. He talks about himself and his life as if I’d been standing there waiting to hear, which in a way I had.
Our discussion is interrupted by the arrival of my family. By the time I’ve put my suitcase in the car he’s stepped back inside for another beer or coffee. I wish I would have said, “Nice talking to you!” because I like those interactions. I like having a break from thinking about my own life’s plans and experiencing the realities of others, of strangers.
On the drive home my husband queries me about my trip; he asks after our friends, what the surprises were. My kids insist I reach back and hold their hands. They’ve missed me. When we get home Nels, still feverish and strange from his Saturday illness, directs me under the covers of my bed to “cuttle” as he calls it – folds his hot little arms around my neck and kisses, kisses, kisses me. I can wrap my hand almost all the way around his upper arm. The house is messy and tomorrow we have to travel again but for the moment I feel great being home.