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Port Town Zen

I left Bellingham for Port Townsend knowing I’d be writing something for my blog while there. As I was waiting for my ferry, I posted on Facebook that “my soul is happy.” And it was, as it always is, when I spend time in that coastal town.

I knew what I was most likely to write, for an idea had been bubbling in my mind for days. But, once I was checked into my room at the Swan Hotel and was heading out into “my” town, I knew I could only write about my love affair with this place.

My favorite spot

A voice in my head, the cautious, rule-following voice, said, “That’s not what your blog is about. You’re supposed to create something biblically based, something semi-political, and so forth.” A smarter interior voice countered, “It’s your blog—write whatever you damn well please.”

So, my love affair with Port Townsend it is.

I can’t recall the exact date I, saw this area on the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, but I know I’ve been visiting here since the mid-80’s. At times, it’s been for a day-visit, most often it’s been for two, three, or four nights. I’ve traveled here with family: my mother several times, my brother and sister-in-law and their two little girls once. A favorite memory is of my three-year-old niece noticing the mountains we were passing as we drove up the Hood Canal area. When she mentioned she’d like to climb one, her grandmother replied that they are very, very high. Roz’s confident voice replied, “I could try!”

My “kit” while wandering

I’ve spent time here with a number of friends over the years. Linda and I have shared wonderful days in the village, wandering the shops, especially the bookstores.

The best, though, is always when I come here alone. I remember one time, when sharing with a friend that I’d be alone in Port Townsend for the weekend, she responded, with a tragic tone, that she was “so sorry I’d be alone.” I feared she’d invite herself along. Being by myself is my great joy.

The town, located on Admiralty Inlet, suits me. It’s close enough to be accessible, far enough away to feel as if I’ve traveled to a different world. And, a big plus, the journey here is a beautiful one. From Olympia, where I lived for over twenty years, it’s a grand drive up Hood Canal. My journey now is down Whidbey Island to the ferry at Coupeville, then a postcard-worthy jaunt across the Sound.

Lazing on the beach

My stays here are affordable—at first it was possible to find really inexpensive lodging, now it’s predictably more costly. But it’s still do-able.

I’ve always enjoyed the mix of people here. The permanent residents are the casual, dog-loving, left-leaning, glad-to-be-out-of-the-city sort. The tourists are, well, tourists and their presence ensures a variety of restaurants and a plethora of galleries and shops to explore. I’m especially grateful for local officials who have created multiple mini-parks alone the waterfront. So many benches and picnic tables—so many spots to settle myself.

And, settle myself, I do. I spend the majority of my time here, when the weather is cooperative, by the water’s edge. Sometimes I’m people-watching, mostly I’m gazing out at the water. At times I’m without-thought, most times I’m deep in interior thinking, which can be prayer-like.

My wandering-through-town kit contains a journal and plenty of pencils, a couple of back copies of “Christian Century,” and a book of poetry. Not until very recently have I tried writing poetry, but this setting has always drawn me to read verse. I’d estimate that 80% of the poetry reading I’ve done in my life time has been done waterside.

My sort of restaurant

My introverted self relishes the set-apart time. I do connect with others. I have fond memories of very short connections with shop owners, dog walkers and the buskers. But the majority of my time is spent gliding quietly through the hours here.

This atmosphere is healing for me. Sometimes I’ve come to this space needing comfort: job frustrations, medical conditions, relationship challenges. Mostly, though, being here has been about re-centering myself, re-introducing myself, affirming who I am.

The sight and sound of the ferries coming in and out, the light on the water, the abundance of places to sit myself down are spiritual to me. The beauty of the quiet time spent in Port Townsend reminds me that I am bountifully blessed. Paul explains it this way: “I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” (Philippians 4:11)

Sometimes a tavern is just the place to be

That’s it! I have named, and claimed, Port Townsend as my best place for re-centering myself. Could it happen elsewhere? Of course, and it has. But here, where bookshops and brewhouses meet the water’s edge, I know it always will.

Dear Reader, let me know where you have found your place. Let me know where you find your affirmation of wholeness.

Time here reassures me that I am fine, complete, and deeply blessed. That is such a gift to receive from a bit of geography.

Mr. Busker!

PS  The sun finally shone on my last full day in Port Townsend, and I was able to  reclaim my favorite tradition, morning coffee and a cookie in “my” park. As I approached my table, my favorite busker was strumming his guitar, playing his 70’s and 80’s songs, ones where I know all the words. Just another of the serendipitous things that happen to me in my village. To cap off the moment, just as I had placed $10.00 in his guitar case, Mr. Busker said to me, “I have something for you,” as he handed me a 5 by 5-inch decal that said, “Port Town Zen.” Oh, the joy of it all.

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