Friday, October 21, 2016

A Park Called Nature

                          It is Friday and I'm joining my FMF friends, but I'm also continuing with 31 Days of Writing- Island Stories. Today my granddaughter Maggie is writing as a guest blogger.                          

This Is Home
By Maggie

 When a place is your home, then your heart is completely given to it. Doesn’t matter if the people there are on your side. Doesn’t matter if there are no people at all. You love the place. You love the land and the sky and the scents and even the bad things, like pounding rains and cloudy days.
 This is my home. I remember how fully my heart belongs. It is not a single event or a single place or a single memory to make a home. It takes years. Years of hope and joy and sadness and care.


I remember times I did fun things as a child. I remember hunting through a strawberry patch for sticks to use as swords in our mock fight. I remember changing behind a towel wall at the beach, and thinking that I was in a desert. It was hot that year. I remember building forts and being in wolf packs and howling just for the joy of it. We played a lot in the woods. We played tag and hide-and-seek and baseball, and when we went to the playground we played mouse-on-ground and pretended to be dragons and vampires and witches and animals. At the park we went on “expoditions” through the “horrible swamps,” and played pretend as fairies and dryads. There was a big Maple tree in one of our backyards. We would climb it and laugh and pretend we could fly. We made blanket houses from the bunk beds when the power went out and we’d pretend we were deep underground, exploring the tunnels of earth. We had flashlights and a glass tea set and dolls and wooden guns. We were adventurers.  

 I remember sad things, too. The time the swing broke and my brother hit his head. When it rained so much the roof leaked. When we played “Rat” in the dark and someone got hurt every time. When my two-year old brother wandered away and was picked up by the police. We spent all afternoon and evening looking for him. When I saw a mouse for the first time and realized I was terrified of them. When I had nightmares of spiders that wouldn’t go away, and I’d wake up night after night in the dark, unable to move, unable to cry, still feeling the creepy scrape of long arachnid legs all over my skin. When I was sick for a week with the flu. When strep throat got me two summers in a row. When Mom almost bled to death. When she was sick, horribly sick for years and I couldn’t do anything.

 But it doesn’t matter. Because this place is home. Where I can go outside and feel rain and cold air in the winter, and melt in the summer. Even when life gets hard, because, let’s face it, it was designed that way, I can connect with this place. Because it’s home.

Maggie is a high school student and gifted in writing, music, and theater, and she is my beloved granddaughter.

I am writing for 31 days this October about Island Life. Click here to see the other days of writing.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

October 20- Guest Post Jenni From The Chronicles Of Farnia

My guest blogger today is Jenni from 
She loves the island as much as I do and can write about it with adjectives and adverbs galore.

    I felt the pull of our island long before we ever “landed” here. The island called to me across the water to where we lived on the mainland, almost haunting me until we made the decision to actually move there. We were thwarted by a bad economy the first time we thought of moving and we stayed landlubbers for seven years. An even worse situation forced our hands…as if the island was saying to me, “It’s time”… And here we are. 

On one of the first Sundays we came to the island, we drove past the harbor on a foggy day, the mists beginning to lift…but not quite. The entire surface of the water and surrounding land was covered in low, white clouds and above that, a playful sun grinned down at us from a cloudless blue sky. I told my husband, “This is heaven.” 

“No, it’s the island,” he reminded me. “Yeah…that’s what I said.” 

      We’ve had people tell us that we won’t be at all surprised when we die and find ourselves in heaven, because heaven will look exactly like this…our island. We have the best of all worlds here: pastoral farm and grazing lands, the water and beaches surrounding us (we even have our very own lighthouse!), mysterious forests and a lovely little lake (the locals call it a pond). It is the most beautiful place I have ever called home. My roots have sunk deep in the island soil. 

      Apparently there are about 10,000 people on this island, but you would be hard-pressed to find them all. Quaint cottages, quirky houses, log cabins, million dollar mansions and manufactured homes live together nicely, tucked here and there among all the trees and along the beaches, lining the main street of our town and spreading outward. Our first cottage was a 1927 summer house overlooking the harbor. We loved it there. We were literally led to that house when our lives fell apart and we needed a place of peace, comfort, a sense of security and yes, love. 

I read somewhere that if you sleep overnight on the island, it romances you with its siren song, captures your heart and you will never want to leave it. We never want to leave. Ever. The thing is…all the people on this island smile. They smile at you from across the grocery store aisle, at the perfect movie theatre while you wait in line for organic buttered popcorn and a cherry root beer, as you meet people on the street or in the ferry line. They all smile because they are happy to live here. This is where they want to be and it makes them extraordinarily happy. People strike up conversations as you peruse the card aisle at the pharmacy, or ask you a question at the grocery store, or simply sit next to you on a bench on the main street of town and ask you how you’ve been. 

People here give. They are generous and want to give things they no longer need. Streets and highways often have cast-offs that are eagerly grabbed up by those who can find a use for something no longer needed. I scored a wheelbarrow. We left out a file cabinet. Everywhere you look there is something for someone. When one of the local businesswomen became seriously ill and racked up thousands in medical expenses, a group of people pooled their money and paid her medical bills. The churches have dinners weekly for the homeless. There is always this or that fundraiser and amazingly, they always surpass their goals. People take care of each other on this island. We are all neighbors, family and friends. 


  We watch the Strawberry Festival parade where the highlights are the synchronized shopping cart drill team and the trail of vintage tractors that wander one after another down the parade route. We delight to Mr. and Mrs. Santa who parade down main street behind the high school band for the annual tree lighting. Jack-o-lanterns, carved by the high school football team, grin eerily along the porch of the local coffee company and enviable fireworks light up the sky from the harbor on the Fourth of July. We are all about tradition here. You will even find the annual sheepdog trials here where artisans actually spin yarn from dog hair and weave it into some pretty amazing mufflers and scarves. 


Photo by Kevin Scott


We are also heavy supporters of the arts, having just built a beautiful new performing arts center. We boast an opera company, a chamber group, local artists and authors (some very famous), craftspeople and artisans of every kind and everyone on the island happy in their own sphere of creativity. There is a garden club and every year, it is the sponsor of a garden tour…we went before we ever moved here and I was amazed by the beautiful gardens and landscaped yards of people who love living here.
      Yes, we have to take a ferry to get off and on the island. But that is part of the magic. When we get on the ferry to go home, the cares and stresses and chaos of the world we leave behind stay on the dock, right where we leave them, as we glide across the waters homeward.


     Our island has small-town quaintness and charm. We are diverse here. Keep Our Island Weird, boast bumper stickers. What I feel on this island is an incredible sense of belonging…as though I always did. It took me a lot of years to “come home”…Wanderlust ever prodding me until I actually arrived. Now I never want to leave. Despite all that has happened in our past…the heartache, the chaos, the tragedy and sadness…it didn’t follow us here. The island accepts everything about us and offers that peace, serenity, comfort, deep contentment and joy that we so need.

   Jennifer Clawson Farnes lives on a island in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and an itinerant peahen maned Edith. A mother of six, grandmother of eight, she loves old stuff, finds beauty everywhere, and still without a clothesline. She writes and has been published in Bella Grace Magazine many times. Follow along with her at

I am writing for 31 days this October about Island Life. Click here to see the other days of writing.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

October 19- Subscription Bread

The next few posts will be about people on my island who have influenced me and changed my thinking. 

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” 
Mahatma Gandhi

Down the road a bit we have a friend who bakes bread in the back of his house in a brick oven. His name is Bill and bread is his passion.

His specialty is artisan sourdough. You would find bread like this in a restaurant in France, along with goat cheese and wine. The aroma drifts through the trees on baking days begging for soup to be produced immediately. There were days in the past when his bread could be purchased by invitation. If you got on Bill's list you could expect a call on Saturday or Sunday and await the cheery words, "Bread's done."


This was an art form for Bill. He had been to France many times to learn. From Bill I have learned the value of  simple ingredients. Just flour, water, salt, and yeast make a culinary miracle.


The brick oven is heated with firewood to just the right temperature. As the fire slowly dies out, Bill begins to scoop out the ash. Then the loaves go in for about 35 minutes. We love the crisp crust and chewy insides.


A hot job, but so appreciated by everyone who benefits. Family members and guests visiting our house were often invited to walk down the street to pick up "our" loaf of bread, with a tour of the oven as a special treat. The bread waited in a crate on Bill's front porch, each loaf keeping his neighbor loaf warm. We would nudge the bags aside until we found the one with our name on it. Nowadays Bill bakes and sells his bread at the neighborhood grocery store for anyone to buy. We still buy it now and then but it isn't quite as fun.

I am writing for 31 days this October about Island Life. Click here to see the other days of writing.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

October 18- The Piano Guy

Without a piano I don't know how to stand, don't know what to do with my hands. Norah Jones

Well Nora Jones, if you love the piano that much you will likely know a good piano tuner. I have an in-house tuner and I can be pretty picky about the wibbles and wobbles of sound. After some years of teaching piano, my husband investigated tuning as a part-time job. He is one of those people who can figure out anything and who has the detailed oriented mind to stay on task until the job is done. My teaching and his tuning came together like chips and dip. I referred my students to him and he recommended me. 

A good tuner has tenacity and skill. Personally, I can't abide the pounding on one note that he must do to hear the pitch gradations.  

  With access to a truck from his day job, Mark started moving pianos with the help of our three boys. They have some funny stories to tell, like when they went off island to move a piano and on the way home the back door came open and they ramp slid out on the freeway. Yikes, I guess that is more dangerous than funny. Or the time a grand piano keyboard, which was taken apart in the back of the truck, lost all the keys onto the floor and my son worked like mad to put them all back in before they arrived. Here is another piano moving tale.
   "Our client wanted us to move her neighbor's piano, across four backyards, into her home. The homes were water-front  and the terrain was flat and it seemed feasible to "walk" the piano. It was raining that morning and I asked if she had informed her neighbors. She excused herself to find a camera. As we laid our plywood sheets across the second neighbor's yard the angry owner came at us. 
   Putting myself in his shoes, if two complete strangers came into my yard dressed in military camo rain gear pushing along a tarp covered box on three sheets of plywood I would object, too. I tried to mitigate his anger by extending my hand. He stood and listened to my explanation. It wasn't until our client, his neighbor, came running up with a camera that he relaxed. We sent her ahead of us and slowly continued the parade of three people trudging through the rain with a piano."
   Although my husband is no longer moving pianos he is still perfectly in tune with bringing my piano and others into alignment.

Piano Tuner: I’ve come to tune the piano.
Music Teacher: But we didn’t send for you.
Piano Tuner: No, but the people who live across the street did.

I am writing for 31 days this October about Island Life. Click here to see the other days of writing.


Monday, October 17, 2016

October 17- Watching The Sunrise

What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives? E. M. Forster

  There is a beach, five minutes from my home. If the sunrise calls to me I go, to witness. I sit on my car hood and wait. Our earth is rotating around this star made of energy light. Once a day we turn into this light which we call rising but it's more a going toward. We turn away during the night and re-turn at dawn. As I sit expectantly, I see light on the horizon. It accentuates the shadows and makes the deepest contrast. The darkness is darker,dark because of the light.

Then ever so slowly the fire orb appears. I can't look into the brightness. My eyes look more at the expanse of heaven and notice how the clouds receive light. Pockets of brightness peek out of the thinest layers. 

    Water seems to swallow the light, reflecting and embracing at the same time. My heart aches at the beauty. Surely I should want to re-turn to this light. Why would I ever choose darkness over shadow. But I do sometimes. If the sunrise teaches me anything it is to trust in the break of day. There has been a sunrise 22, 995 times during my life. I should trust something with such a track record. Most of the sunrises of my life have come without notice. I wish to be more mindful of those I have left. 

Mary Oliver

You can
die for it-
an idea, 
or the world. People 
have done so, 
their small bodies be bound 
to the stake, 
an unforgettable
fury of light. But 
this morning, 
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought 
of China, 
and India
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun 
for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises 
under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many! 
What is my name? 
What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it 
whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter

I am writing for 31 days this October about Island Life. Click here to see the other days of writing.


This month I am being more mindful of the moment. It is part of my year long exploration of mindfulness. You can read more about my Year of Mindfulness here.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

October 16-Island Church Service

There is nothing to playing the organ. You only have to hit the right notes at the right time and the instrument plays itself.

- Johann Sebastian Bach

Oh, Mr. Bach, you do simplify things too much. Unlike the piano, there are no ways to sustain the sound, so finger pedaling, in sometimes awkward ways, must be used. And, the keyboard under your feet can be the source of great mental confusion. Is middle C under my right foot or my left foot? I have the upmost respect for organists.  

I know five or six organs well. Those would be in the chapels of my youth until now. When I was twelve, after taking piano lessons for four years, my Bishop asked me to be the organist in my church. I looked at him with horror. 
  "Well, it can't be that hard. can it?" he said without any knowledge whatsoever. "I predict you will be in music service the rest of your life."  
   He was right. Worshipping on the island put me front and center, at the organ. When my kids were little I enjoyed that my husband had to settle the unruly flock while I sat serenely "at the bench". Later, I found worshipping to be heightened by the spirit that moves in and through music. 

   I owe Sister Verena Hatch a great debt. An accomplished organist, she offered free organ lessons to those of us playing in church service. We came to her unique home and learned the techniques of excellent playing. I can still see the vaulted ceiling of her front room, with organ pipes from the floor up to the ceiling. Yes, she had a small pipe organ in her home. I think of her often when I feel I've improved at a certain skill. I use her example as I invite younger piano students to learn in my congregation. Live organ music may be dying in churches all over the world. If you are lucky enough to have musicians in your church who freely offers their abilities, don't let them go unnoticed. They will be uncomfortable at your appreciation but it may be just what they need that day to keep going on. And if your church pays their musicians, they need the appreciation still.

The organ is the grandest, the most daring, the most magnificent of all instruments invented by human genius.
- Honore de Balza

I am writing for 31 days this October about Island Life. Click here to see the other days of writing.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

October 15-Island Swingset Music and Movement

"What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it's all about."

As my children got older and my piano studio was secure I wanted to extend my efforts toward music for toddlers. Perhaps I am a two-year old at heart. I still like to get on the floor with them. Kindermusik offered a training program so I studied and watched other instructors. I worked one semester alone and then my on island competition called to meet me. She was not after my clientele; she wanted to work with me. Could we support both of us? The best professional decision I ever made was joining with Kim. 

For a decade we set up for two classes a week. The toddlers who played and sang with us are now our music students. They don't always remember the songs but they stare at me sideways and I imagine them thinking about a funny lady who twirled and skipped aroiund the room.  

The music part of the "schtick" seemed native to me but the movement thing was vulnerable. My first venue had mirrors and I would catch a glimpse of myself crawling on the floor. Not a pretty sight! The toddlers would bring me back to what was important, which was engaging fully on all levels.

The island supported our program, which we wrote ourselves. The Playspace, a family resource center for children ages 0-6 years, provided us a space for free as long as we offered two scholarships each semester. They recommended us to families looking for activities for young children.

A two year old child, finding her voice, and singing along with me was a holy experience. That may sound extreme but, trust me, I was moved many times as these precious children would abandon their shyness and let their voice be heard.

Music is more powerful than words because it eludes the filter of the right side of the brain and is felt before the words are understood. So, put your right foot in, and put your left foot out. Just do the hokey-pokey and turn yourself around, that's what it's all about."

I am writing for 31 days this October about Island Life. Click here to see the other days of writing.