Galley Wench Tales

Exploring the world through the people we meet
and the food they eat.

My source of inspiration over an opportunity lost. Port Angeles, Washington.
There’s a sense of irony that in my search for a current chart* a goth young man playing a jaw harp pushed me confront my cowardice. As is all-too-often the case, I admit with some shame, the real reckoning came after.

*In the San Juans and British Columbia, the currents are incredibly strong — so strong passage timing is often dictated by the need to arrive within a half-hour or less window to make it through a narrow passage, to go with the flow when and where the currents get  the strongest. When we rented a sailboat out of San Juan Sailing to cruise the area, the boats always came equipped with a copy of Current Atlas Juan de Fuca Strait to Strait of Georgia, compiled by Canada’s Canadian Hydrographic Service the nautical equivalent the US’s  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Hikers enjoying Port Angeles Laurel Street Square mural and fountain.
At the time, the reason I stopped was to pick up an item at the Country Aire Natural Foods grocer. It was an unscheduled stop on my bicycle-powered errand. Wayne gave me a desired return time based on when we’d push off from our overstay at Port Angeles Boat Haven Marina. We wanted to time our passage to the San Juans with the flood tide. I didn’t want to mess that up. I also wanted to capture a photo of Port Angeles’ sweet courtyard fountain at Laurel Street and its steep stairs.
We scaled the stairs above this charming square the night before to pick up some groceries. Port Angeles, Washington.
I locked up my bike. Instead of heading to the grocer, I backtracked to the young man. The collection can framed by his “Lost” sign was empty except for two beer bottle caps. I wanted to take his picture. I gestured with my camera. He nodded. I stuffed a dollar into his collection can.

He thrummed, only once for a split second focusing his gaze beyond his play. His eyes were dark with flecks of caramel and he flashed a brief smile full or disarming sweetness.

I nodded thanks in my retreat. 

I finished my errands, and returned to our boat. I was early; though too late to catch up with Kurt, a local we met two years prior in Port Angeles, dropping by for a quick hello/goodbye. “You’re early. You could’ve taken more time,” Wayne told me when I arrived. 

It was then I made a mental note at my cowardice, cringing internally.

Instead of making a meaningful connection, I rendered a human presence one-dimensional with click of my shutter.
How was this jaw harpist “Lost” in Port Angeles? I was too cowardly to ask.
I could have asked, “Why are you lost?” “Where are you from?” “What are you hoping to find?””What are your dreams?””Tell me about the ink on your hands and fingers.””What is your name?””Can I buy you a breakfast?”

Much as I wondered, I asked none of those things. 

I was not afraid for my safety, but I was afraid of what emptiness, resentment, loneliness, depression, poverty I might encounter. Would I prefer a masked response? Or the potential uncertainty of how to respond to raw, naked vulnerability?

I also wimped out on seeing Cal again, the crusty-kind Boat Haven sailboat live-aboard gent who graciously boiled the crab Kurt and his wife gave us two years ago. I called his name at his boat, as a neighbor told me he was home. But I didn’t push it when Cal didn’t answer. Was I truly concerned about waking him up? Or more reticent to witness the ravages age wrought upon him over the last two years? Truth be told, it was more the latter.

Even at my own recent high school reunion, I reached out to only a small handful of the hundred plus folks there. Mostly, I stuck around with the small group of friends from my high school days, almost deliberately not pushing much beyond that small zone of comfort and familiarity.

Greater than any other period I can recall in my adult lifetime, we are living in a time where it seems we are suffering a terrible personal divide. I cannot deny that upon meeting others, that I size them up, wondering, “Are you my tribe[ philosophically]?” 

Can we at least find some common ground centered around what brings us joy, concerns us, or shared values or interests outside of politics, race, religion, sexual preference, commerce and consumerism?
Image credit to Drty M!nd.

My Port Angeles apology
I am sorry, young man playing the jaw harp, that I did not take the time and care to see if you wanted a genuine connection or nothing more than your privacy. I offered you neither. Cal, were you sleeping? Or in need of company, and simply didn’t hear my call? Fellow former classmates, what might we have learned from each other?

Alas, I cannot turn the clock back.
Image by j Ha from Pixabay 

My Port Angeles promise
Going forward, I can promise to make a point of being more present, and not letting FOMO or my “schedule” rob me of travel’s most precious gift, leaving myself behind to travel in understanding of another human being. This travel of the heart, soul and spirit is far more important than checking off our bucket list of places.

One person at a time, one interaction at a time, we can heal the torn fabric of our society. For me, it will take a different kind of courage, that I had once upon a time and let it slip away, Now is the time to recapture it.

Won’t you join me?
Serendipity on a beautiful morning in Boat Haven Marina, Port Angeles, Washington.
Location Location
Tonight we’re anchored off Jakles Lagoon, San Juan Island, San Juan Islands (N48 27.958 W122 59.075).
Yesterday’s smooth-as-glass passage across the Straits of San Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles to San Juan Island, San Juans.