Today, I am in Oak Harbor, Washington, on Whidbey Island. The Captain and I are on our 2017 Holiday Circuit “down south” (as they say where we live in Alaska), getting ready for our first SIP Holiday Authors Retreat. SIP stands for Summers Island Press, which the Lord directed us to start about two and a half years, ago. It has been quite an intense experience, so far. But at this point we have some lovely “mysteriously different books for children,” as well as an adult imprint known as Lightsmith Publishers (we kept running into wonderful adult stories we thought should be published, too), and another called Wilderness School Press, which deals mostly with the subjects of nature and survival skills for young people.
Meanwhile, I've been gone so long from my own writing a lot of people think I must have been lost at sea. Well, we were lost a couple of times on our own great adventure—which started out to be a summer book tour and turned into something else altogether—but we always ended up in some civilized place sooner or later where we could get oriented again. We also learned we could endure quite a few catastrophes without being killed. Something that went a long way toward giving us the courage to start such a big project so late in our lives. It is also reassuring to know that if it was God's project to begin with, He would certainly bring plenty of capable people alongside to handle things when we are gone. To tell you the truth, we're gone quite a bit.
There are always new adventures calling. Which is why my thoughts have turned back to all the wonderful “Armchair Travelers” who enjoyed that first mysterious book tour with us which started everything off. So, whether you are one of my dear readers who joined me last time or someone new who just stopped by...welcome aboard.
Here we go, again!
What I am working on now: Presently working in close collaboration with the mysterious Cousin Summers, an author who writes books for children of all ages. Next release is Book 2 of the Young Heroics series, titled Spies For Life.
It has been a long time since I've been here, and I can see it needs some dusting and sweeping up. Much like myself. But all looks delightfully familiar and I think we will be able to get back into the swing of things in no time. A lot has happened since we last talked, as I'm sure it has with all of you, so it might take us a few posts to catch up. Meanwhile, I'll just putter around putting things in order while we chat.
First of all, I should probably give an update on my Mystery Tour, which is still ongoing. Oh, yes, indeed. There have been many setbacks (which happens in all adventures) but we are still moving ahead into what just might be the greatest adventure of all. Nothing to compare to flying to the moon, or sailing around the world non-stop (Heavens, I like to stop everywhere), but one's own travels usually turn out to be everything they have--or haven't--been able to cope with. It's all in how you look at it.
More on that, later.
At the moment, I'm making myself a little nest onshore in Thorne Bay, Alaska, while the Captain tackles the huge project of restoring the Glory B. That beautiful 32' ketch we sailed up here on. The one that sank at the docks while we were "down south" visiting all our homes for the holidays, last winter. Not being here to stop it was a terrible shock. So terrible, in fact, that I still have not been able to look down inside.
|The Captain on his way back from the Glory B.|
One quick visit to see the broken and bruised outside, and then I had to leave. Better I busy myself with the sort of work I know best how to do. Which is writing stories. So, if any of you are interested in the details and technicalities of the restoration, you will have to get those from the Captain over at his blog. Because the only thing I can tell you is that--at this point--he is still coming home all covered over with oil.
Meanwhile, I will be putting the finishing touches on a book, or two, that have been gathering dust for want of an ending. Hopefully so I can make launch deadlines in time for some of the lazy days of summer we are all moving into. I'll tell you more about those next time.
Settling back down into serious writing after Stella Madison and friends reeked havoc with my psyche during our great adventure, has been harder than I thought it would be. Not to mention working while adventuring was also harder than I planned. Not being in my own cozy little office I left nearly three years, ago, hasn't helped, either. But I think I'm onto something.
I only hope I can survive the impact of such a discovery. A great element of which depends on making some big changes in...um...me. More about that, later. Today, I am sitting in my “virtual office,” while I'm really in the middle of a rainforest. Not a hardship, since I also discovered that I absolutely love rainforests. The sound of rain on the roof always stirs my creativity. The remote aspect has been something of a problem, but I think I've got that covered, too (Thank you, God).
The only trick is going to be to find some way to balance my wonderfully exciting new story with the real-life adventures that have no regard for the “do not disturb—writer at work” sign I usually hang out. But if I do that, I might miss an adventure. Or an insight. Or a new article idea. Or the Captain reminding me how much we like to walk in the rain.
But for now, I'm off to spend some time with my new characters. Who were here a few minutes ago, but seem to have disappeared somewhere. Hmm...that reminds me how much more difficult it can be working with the younger ones. Easily distracted, always interjecting their own ideas, and too quick to take off in the middle of something important.
Now, that I think about it, I recall spending a good deal of my time on that last project we worked on together, just trying to round everybody up. Shouldn't be as hard in this environment, though. Because I'm pretty sure I can guess right where they are. Out walking in the rain with the Captain.
The hardest thing about working is getting there.
I have not been home in over two years. Lately, I've been thinking I might never go back, except maybe to get the things I left there. However, I seem to be drawn to the idea of homes, in general. Especially during this wonderful Christmas season, as we make our “friends and family” circuit for the third time since we set out on our great adventure.
Each time we come back into civilization, I notice more changes. In ourselves, mostly, as many of the places we visit seem to be clipping along at the same pace as when we left, with the same activities. Getting caught up in it all is much like slipping into an empty space of freeway: one must either keep up, or get run over. I don't like that part. But I don't see how one can visit those places without getting involved. I would seriously contemplate going virtual, except half the people I need to see can't operate a computer.
This year, we have had to speed up our normal routine and widen our loop, in order to accommodate family members facing some medical issues. Which led to bouncing in and out of the other homes at the rate of watching a movie on fast forward. Still, I have not missed out on the fun things of the season. With Christmas shopping in one city, tree-decorating in another, the Captain and I are now off to Texas, to enjoy the delight children take in all the little things (my absolute favorite, too). Like gingerbread creations, neighborhood lights, and holiday programs. And while each house is different, I can still feel the heartbeat of each home, as well as the love and warmth of family and friends.
God is so good to have brought us such a long way without having to miss out on any of these special family things. Hmm...
I wonder if maybe all of life isn't supposed to be something like that, too. Being on this long journey and out of touch most of that time has changed my perspective a bit. Having to leave so many things I was responsible for completely to heaven, has led me to discover how much better God can orchestrate my life than I can. Without all the worry and anxiety attached. Not to mention I suddenly have more time on my hands to do those things only I can do. More time to think and write the stories that are truly on my heart. Oh, yes, and I'm thinking a lot about home, these days, too. But not the one I left behind...
It's the one I can see just up ahead.
GLORY REPORT: The Lord has delightfully restored the computer and phone that fell into the ocean with me in Canada, and I am well on my way to being “back in business,” again. So, in the next few weeks, I'll be sharing about the many divine appointments, footsteps, and out-and-out interventions we have encountered since the last time I posted. As well as what's coming up next for the Captain and I... something that might turn into our biggest adventure of all!
There are a lot of definitions for being lost. You can be terribly lost in a strange city if you can't find the particular place you're looking for. You can be frightfully lost in a dessert if you step off the road without a compass and pass the point at which you can still see that road (people have died in similar ways). Lost also pertains to something of value that has gone missing and might never show up, again. On this trip, we have been in all three of those situations, and... guess what?
We are not dead.
Even though we could have been. Many times over.
We have also been in situations where good intentions (even REALLY good intentions) did not count. It has something to do with being relevant, which so many of our reasons for even setting out on such a voyage, were definitely not. Things like not knowing our propeller was in a state of decay even before we left, because we never looked underwater. Of course, we had every intention to. Just as soon as enough money came in to do that thing. Which didn't make one bit of difference when two blades eventually fell off in all those forceful tides and currents we kept plowing through.
At other times, we skimmed over dangerous reefs, bumped over rocks, and flew past places we were sure we couldn't possibly have reached, yet... only to end up somewhere else, instead. In short, we were lost. Really lost, when you consider we were out of radio range, and no longer had any electronics to double check, against. We did have a “red button,” however. Some satellite thing that would alert emergency services anywhere on the globe. It also kept a running account (via little dots) as to where we had been. It was a system we held in reserve for life-and-death situations.
So, why didn't we use it during life-and-death situations? To tell you the truth, we didn't even realize we were in one of those until we got ourselves out of it. As for the dots? We always knew where we were, after we got someplace. What was ahead of us, is what we couldn't always figure out.
Sort of like life.
At one point, we even thought our compass had busted (what next?), because how else could one explain getting so confused all the time? Later, we learned there were areas of “extreme magnetic disturbances” we had to pass through, but we didn't know about that then. Something that didn't make any difference, either (it was irrelevant), because our compass was still effected as we slipped by, whether we knew about those, or not.
Sort of like life.
Now, it has been a long time since I posted a blog. I could tell you it is because I have no computer, no phone, no Internet, no car, and the nearest city is seventy miles away. But that would be irrelevant. I could tell you—for all practical purposes—I am lost without all those things, except that, too, would be irrelevant. I know exactly where I am. On a remote island, in the middle of a rainforest, in a place so expensive it will take months to save up enough money to even fly out of here. Because—like Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz—we can't get back the way we came. At least, not until next summer, after some major repairs to the Glory B. And more electronics.
I might even go so far as to say my path DID actually converge with my fiction in Stella Madison's plot-line, considering I have personally experienced SeaTrials, a Pushover Plot, being Lost in the Wilderness, and having to use my very Last Resort to even get out of here. All of which could easily be pronounced “irrelevant,” too, because it's all in how you look at it. Almost like faith. There's always some logical explanation for how you could have survived something, even though it only happened after you prayed for help.
The facts are, we made it to our destination, we are not dead (thank you, God), and my Stella Madison Capers are finished (a miracle!). And even though I have sworn never to get myself into these kinds of situations ever, EVER, again, and to forget about trying to “live out” my character's scenarios before offering them up to my readers (whose idea was that?)...
I have heard of an incredible place I could call home (just a rumor, really), that bears looking into before we leave. The only way to get there is by boat, but it isn't too far from here. And considering it might possibly be the next piece in this puzzle of why we ever set off on such a crazy journey in the first place, just to maybe prove (to ourselves) that not only do our dreams actually exist “out there” somewhere, but they have been created especially for us by a loving God... One who might really have that wonderful plan for our life He promised to give us, if only we will trust Him to get us there... Now, I'm thinking, what could it hurt just to look?
We came a long way to look, so we might as well. It's only logical.
Sort of like life.
We came to this town because it seemed a perfect fit for us (according to the guidebooks). When you come in from the water, across a space of wilderness that takes at least two days to get to the nearest place that would commonly be recognized as civilization, you have to make sure of these things. Because nothing is more disappointing than facing cantankerous seas, scouting out anchorages at some wild half-way spot (that aren't harboring dangerous rocks just beneath the surface), then finally pulling into a destination that absolutely couldn't be the one you were looking for. But it is.
By the time we finally got here, I had a mountain of deadlines looming, and some that had already toppled over. A few people even thought I might be dead. Internet at the docks? Well, it was in the works, but the committee voted the cell tower down, again, because of the expense. However there was a library “just up the hill,” where—even if they weren't open—you could still get reception outside the building. Grocery store? Other than a sort of mini-mart, the closest was about eighty miles away.
Considering it would take a two-week camping trip to hike that far—and the return trip with groceries would be as good as a sign on our backs in bear language that read, “VICTIM HERE”... walking it was not an option. Neither was hitch-hiking (although it was tempting), since when we finally did make that trip, we did not meet a single other vehicle on the way, and only a couple returning. So, we reluctantly decided we would have to spend the extra hundred and fifty dollars to rent a car for the day (only suburbans, vans, or trucks available because most roads were only gravel logging roads), and buy an entire winter's worth of food all at once. But, alas... none of them were available. Even though there were five agencies listed in those guidebooks.
The local company was run by a man who also worked for the ferries (everyone does two, or three, jobs to make ends meet around here), so he was gone every other week. We called several times to make a reservation, until someone informed us that his wife was visiting family off-island for a couple of weeks, so there would be no one to answer the phone. And while the other businesses were scattered around the island, our best bet was probably in that town we were trying so hard to get to. But what about that “Rainforest Ferry,” the guidebooks (Who wrote that thing?) said left from here, and ran between Ketchikan, Wrangell, and Petersburg? A new dock was ready and waiting, but they hadn't found the right kind of ferry boat, yet.
All of which was getting frustrating, since we were planning on making a few repairs (something about a leaky shaft seal and a busted motor-mount), before setting out over the big water, again. And why hadn't we been able to find that town fifty miles before this one, that was bigger? We searched over an hour for it, before we had to give up and catch a tide that was favorable, or stay another night “out of touch” after so many. What's up with that? Not only could we not find the town, we couldn't find any “divine footsteps” around there, either. Not then.
Because they were in this town.
So it was, that as the Captain and I were in the middle of our morning prayers (telling the good Lord how much we needed a car, that day), a pastor from Forks, Washington (who had brought a work team up for a week to do Vacation Bible School, or anything else they could help the churches around here with) came down to the boat. He said he needed to go to town, and did we want to ride along? Did we ever! And while it brought us dangerously close to our “choking point” to have to buy so many groceries all at one time, there happened to be an extra ten percent off your whole bill at the grocery store—that day only (What? Whoever heard of such a thing?)—which saved us a considerable heap.
Wonderful fellowship and beautiful scenery, all the way (thank you, Pastor Bob!), and a comforting peace that comes from knowing God is still in control of this “expedition of the Glory B,” even when we doubt it. Somewhere along the line I got the sense I should quit fussing about who wrote the guidebooks, too. Because we were brought here to see something. Not the fact that places might be closed, even though posted hours said they weren't. Shh... be still. Watch, and listen. They are on “island time,” here.
And maybe there's something I need to know about that.
We have been traveling through wilderness places for about two weeks, now. Until somewhere in the middle of our last dangerous stretch of big water (known as the Dixon Entrance), we crossed over the boundary line of the U.S. border, again, and were finally in Alaska! Our long-time dream turned to reality. But there was no time for celebrations, just then, other than a very heart-felt, “Praise the Lord!”
Because we were on a time schedule relegated by the tide and winds, moving over a sea that could change from beauty to beast within minutes. We also had a gauntlet to run at the end, which we had no idea about. But it was better that way, since the added stress would have probably been too much at that point. Something about the Lord protecting us from more than we could handle at any given time. At any rate, he had us covered (thank you, God).
It was day two of the commercial salmon season. And while we were picking our way along the coast of many islands, moving in and out of fog patches, and praying the “chop” didn't get any higher than two-to-three feet before we could scurry back into another piece of the Inside Passage, again...there suddenly seemed to be fishing boats spread out from one end of the horizon to the other.
Trying to decide the least crowded place to slip past, we finally got close enough to see that those “blank spaces” were not blank—they were nearly two thousand feet of net spread out behind the back of each boat. So, there really were no blank spaces. Only narrow paths signified by bright orange balls (that disappeared into the chop if it was much over a foot) that one could only pass on the right. Should you fail to notice where that was, there were smaller runner boats that would zoom up in front of you, manned by one, or two crew-members hollering for you to turn back, or go around. And should you come close to actually crossing over the net, the air would turn blue as they clarified themselves more distinctly. We didn't run over any nets (thank heavens!) but we were turned away more than once, in no uncertain terms.
Coming into Ketchikan—our first Alaskan city—was only slightly less mortifying. It was situated on a long narrow channel crowded with cruise ships coming and going, sea planes landing and taking off from every direction, a few tugboats hauling huge barges, and more fishing boats. Oh, yes, and the ferry. Our only consolation was that these northwest people could drive and park boats, no matter what size, with about the same ease as we ordinary folk slip into a parking place at our local shopping centers. But it was still nerve-wracking because we didn't know where to go.
The guidebooks said to call ahead and customs would tell you where (there were at least four different docking areas in view, all full-to-bursting with commerce). But we didn't have a phone. Because I, um... dropped it into the harbor back in Canada. We did have a VHF radio turned to the appropriate channel, but the officials on the other end weren't answering theirs.
In the end, we tied up at the first empty place we could fit in, and the customs agent came to us. Everyone was friendly, more than helpful, and incredibly laid-back. It took two days to catch our breath and figure out the next step. Because a phone call to the Wrangell harbor (which had been our goal), placed from the local grocery store, revealed there was no place for us there (for at least two years), and no place to anchor out, either. So, back to the guidebooks, to devise a “plan B.”
Which is how we came to discover a little (very little, only 165 people here) town on a very huge Prince of Wales Island (fourth largest in the U.S.), where they not only had room for us, but it was even affordable. It was only about seventy-five miles away, across the notorious Clarence Strait, where a good day means anything under three feet of chop, less than twenty knots of wind, and visibility at least half a mile (due to the persistent “patchy” fog that lives there). A good day just happened to be coming up for us, the very next morning.
So it was that we scurried into Coffman Cove, two days later, mere minutes ahead of yet another patch of fog and changing currents, to finally tie up at a lovely little marina for some much-needed rest, relaxation, and repairs, after our very long voyage over hundreds of miles. Which I will tell you more about during the next couple of weeks, as we start to explore this island. But considering I just heard there are old gold mines here (one of which is under speculation to be commercially reactivated)...
Good heavens, I'm feeling better, already.
So, let the adventures begin.