Port Townsend

What was it Norman Maclean said? I am haunted by waters? Yeah, I’d say I am.

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Ocean waters, rain waters, water that hangs in tall Douglas Firs. I can feel it on my face. I can feel it in my bones.

Seth and I spent the weekend in Port Townsend, Washington a few weeks ago. We’d never intended to go to the Olympic Peninsula but a broken door, an old boss who still likes Seth very much and willing grandparents landed us there late one evening. We left Seattle, hopped a ferry and drove the winding roads to an apartment over a family-run bakery. On the deck of the ferry we watched lights fade away and sailed to a place I’d never been. I don’t think either of us knew what to expect.

Let me say that I have a soft spot for the Pacific Northwest. There’s just something about all that green. When I lived in Oregon, I would sit drinking coffee from small cups on my friend’s porch overlooking a meadow she’s always said waves back at her. The grass in that meadow is a different shade than the fir trees framing it, and a different color still from the moss that grows all over. I’ve never forgotten the 1,000 shades of green but I’m still a little in awe of them every time we make it back there.

We weren’t looking for green, though, in Port Townsend. We were just looking for each other.

As we unlocked the door to an upstairs apartment and walked inside, I wondered what to bring in from the car. Computer? Books? We grabbed everything and I was a little surprised to see how very little two grown ups can travel with. Having left a giant suitcase and a mountain of coats, shoes, notebooks, markers, a plastic pony and a half dressed baby doll with the children who were staying with the grandparents in Portland, we had little to haul up the flight of stairs to the apartment.

We adjusted the heat, unpacked groceries and I think we were both struck a little by the how quiet it was. In a sleepy seaside town with no children to chase, referee or tend, all we could hear was the other.

Sometimes I feel like I go days without hearing Seth’s voice. We live in the same house, yes, but this fall he’s been working three days a week a ways out of town. He leaves early and gets home around dinnertime. By the time he walks in the door, we’ve been up for what seems like days, accomplishing an endless list of tasks and responsibilities. We talk over the kids but that conversation is cut short, interrupted by sisterly taunts, evening meltdowns and the occasional “excuse me mommy.”

In Port Townsend, there was none of that. There were morning runs with rich sea air, afternoon naps, walks at 4 p.m. in search of dessert and coffee. We went to a movie in an almost-creepy, old wooden theatre on a hill, we ate mussels and salmon in a restaurant so small you had to let the server pass before squeezing by to get to the bathroom. It had the affect of someone’s warm living room on a winter night. Orange light with rain on the windows.

As I write this, my hands are cracked dry from cold Montana air. Winter has found us and all that green is two states away but when I close my eyes I can see the pier that was just across the street from the apartment we stayed in. I can smell the homemade scones from the bakery below and I can feel the weight of my husband’s arm across the middle of me as we lay together, napping on a Saturday afternoon.