Tag Archive | Orcas Island

Island Orcastrations

sucia-island-ewing-cove-view-orcas-island-mt-constitutionTo get to Orcas Island in Northwest Washington, you have to take a ferry. Many of the 4,000 year-round residents come from the fringes of society—hippies, ex-hippies who settled down and had “indigo children,” drug addicts, recovering addicts, organic gurus who live off the grid and prepare for Peak Oil, retirees, healers, felons, millionaires, artists, and other assorted misfits and runaways. In 57 square miles there’s not one record store or regular concert venue, but music on Orcas permeates the atmosphere and is as soft around the edges as its characters.

At solstice parades, local ceremonies and the Farmer’s Market, performers range from saxophonists and a cappella groups to a World Fusion band called Orcatraz. In summer, there’s “Music in the Park” every Sunday night and “Brown Bag Concerts” on the green every Wednesday at noon. Both feature feel-good fare. There’s always reggae at the Oddfellows Hall, where local dances and holiday festivities happen. And now, for the second winter in a row, the island is having its own Orcas Idol contest.

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Writing as Time Travel – Blue Alchemy 1

Writing about your own past is surreal. You’re reliving it. You’re at Fox Cabin at blind camp with the blue vinyl couches in the living room and the orange, white and yellow checked curtains in the bedrooms. You’re eight years old, unable to sleep because you’re terrified of your parents because Mom was getting hysterical again today and maybe this time she’ll really lose it or Dad’s smoldering rage will erupt, so you’re reading Nancy Drew by the night of your night light. You’re riding King County Metro after being rejected from both blood plasma donation for cash (your temperature was too low) and staying at the Green Tortoise Hostel for work-trade, knowing you only have three days until you and your roommates get evicted. You stare out the window watching as the bus passes through the hilly streets of downtown Seattle, thinking dark thoughts like maybe homelessness would suit you because you’ve always felt like an orphan anyway. You’re skulking by a payphone outside 7-11 in the outskirts of Seattle while your roommate is across the parking lot buying pot. You’re swimming in Puget Sound, not long after sunset, and the water is so cold that you’ve never felt more alive, and it suddenly, truly, deeply feels like all you’ve been through was somehow worth it to be here now, in the water, your limbs feeling heavier as you get closer to shore, and you’re unable to stop looking back at the cerulean dusk and the fading pink on the western horizon.

You’re all of these places but you’re also sitting on your bed writing in your little room with your books and notebooks stacked in milk crates, your window slightly open to let in the sounds of the Orcas ocean and the slow creak of cedar trees swaying in the wind, trying not to think about the boy who lives down the hall from you or the girl in his room. Or you’re writing in the fluffy brown chair in your apartment, wondering if you should get rid of it because your ex-boyfriend left it when he went to jail and do you really need any more reminders of him? But on the other hand it really fits the color scheme of your room and is really comfortable to write in.

In the story you are writing it might be fall while in reality when you are writing it, it’s summer solstice. And yet, the more you write, the more you swear that the light coming in through your windows is so distinctly autumnnal. You can almost smell the foliage.

There is something haunting about being in more than one experience at once. It’s like how it felt when I first came home from college after months of being away. Walking into the living room with its dark blue patterned furniture and light blue pleated blinds felt almost like an out-of-body experience. Everything was always slightly off from what I remembered, like all the colors or the feelings I associated with them had all made the slightest of wavelength shifts on the electromagnetic spectrum, just a few angstroms, nothing you could quite articulate or measure but sense nonetheless. Writing memoir is like that, I’m in two places in time, two times at once, memory and present tense, and they are so distinct and yet so muddled that it’s hard to tell which one I’m living in more.

~~~

For more samples, look here.

This is an excerpt from my most recent piece of writing, a personal essay called “Blue Alchemy,” about writing memoir, and the slipperiness of writing and memory.

~Emilia J

I Am Not Your Touch Tank Sea Star

IMG_0335So, for whatever reason, I’ve been feeling like putting some of my writing up, so here is a poem I wrote a few years ago, followed by the story of how it came to be.

I Am Not Your Touch Tank Sea Star

When I’m a sea star
I hold the sea’s mystery in my purple
Yet I live at the tips of my spines
Erected like walls to protect
My soft center from being hurt or feeling
The hurt I’ve already been.
As I scavenge along the bottom
For bull kelp and sea lettuce
I cling to any steady surface
With tube feel like a miser who knows
I don’t deserve the water
And I don’t let anyone touch me

Sometimes I’m a sea cucumber
Spikes only ward my demons off for show
I let them go tender
And as I lay exposed
My past creeps up behind me
Slithering inside my open sores
Carrying their torches of truth
I feel them settle in my gut
So I twist it around them, bunch it up
With a hurl I eviscerate my organs
And scramble to grow new insides

Once I was an octopus
Used eight arms to lift the top of the holding tank
Squeezed out, dropped to the floor and crawled
Through the crack under the door
Famished on the sand, inching forward
Telling myself I will not let them
Make me let myself die
If I can give me a little slack and a lot of love
I might make it
Back to the deeper seas I knew before captivity
Where they can’t coax me back
To put me in the big tank, captive
For their audience
I am free

On a blue moon I’m a blue dolphin
On waves with deeper frequency
Intelligence unfocused on rational thought
Feel no shame for stranding myself
To help a member of my pod in need
Sensed out with echolocation
Weathered harsh, howling storms
By surrendering to their windblown frenzy
I know the patterns of Earth’s turning
I have been to blue depths

Today I just want to be
Myself
Deep down
I am
The sea.

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"All in the Cold Midwinter and at the Midnight Hour"

IMGP7064eFIRST_CABIN_ORKILA_OOr, what I did over my winter vacation.

I’ve actually been dying to blog about this but wanted to get some other things out of the way first. Like revamping it and updating it, for instance.

A few years ago, I wrote this post about my favorite winter memory, the second winter I spent living in the dispensary, a perfect cabin at Camp Orkila and how blissful that winter was, reveling in my connectedness to the natural world. I sometimes feel there aren’t words for how satisfying in a soul way living there was to me. And it wasn’t just the proximity to the ocean, the way I heard the owls and the creaking of cedar trees at night, or the thick woods I could walk through or even the months I lived there while having very little work, or all the great books I read, or the great company I had in my friend Tracy, or the walks by the coast.

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Yes, this is my Final Answer…

166696_10151441891358872_563138313_n…for the million dollar question in the game of What the Fuck Am I Doing with My Life?

Anyone who’s been following my blog this summer knows that I’ve had some back and forth thoughts about whether to start school in the fall or to attend a training center for the visually-impaired in Denver. But what you don’t know unless you’re one of the unfortunate people to have spent a lot of time with me in recent months is how intense and unending this indecision has been. I thought for sure I would go to school no matter what. Then I was unsure. Then I was certain about the center. Then indecision. Then school. Then the center. Then back and forth again and again, ad nauseam. And each time, I was SURE that I had come to a final decision.

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My Love/Hate Relationship with Orcas Island

1532051_399300353545516_7454625721567562924_n(Originally written on September 6th, but I forgot to finish and post)

So, I’m back on the rock. Some might call it Orcatraz and these days, I might be among them.

What I’ve been wondering a lot lately is if there is a danger in staying somewhere that is too small and safe too long? I feel like I’m living out some negative consequences of having done just that. It’s like staying in the womb too long and then not knowing how to breathe in wide open spaces or something.

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After the Ecstacy, the Laundry

LollaA few years ago, I went to this amazing writers retreat weekend put on by The Sun magazine in Big Sur, CA, and during the last morning we were all gathered and talking about what we felt about the end of the workshop, and a lot of people expressed some degree of sorrow at having to go back to their real lives, and someone brought up the quote that is the title of this blog post, which I think was originally said by some spiritual teacher or something. Ever since that workshop, I think of this quote anytime I’m saying goodbye to any kind of supercool experience and going back to my regular life, and that is the case this morning.

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