Hello From Sequim, WA
So many artists I know travel great distances for art shows and fairs. I tend to stay closer to home. Money, time and effort inform that decision. Plus there is so much opportunity to be in art markets close by.
Still, I wanted to go somewhere this summer to set up my booth. Somewhere new.
Someone encouraged me to check out the annual Sequim Lavender Festival [pronounced SQUIM].
Sequim is a 3.5 hour hour drive from my home. It is located in a region known as the Olympic Peninsula which is renowned for its beauty and access to the Olympic National Park and Olympic mountains as well as it's close proximity to some of the most lush rain forests in the Pacific Northwest.
The Sequim Lavender Festival was the perfect choice for me to apply for an away art show. I was THRILLED when I was accepted as it is a juried art market.
My drive in today was gorgeous up scenic Hwy 101. There was a two hour delay due to a fallen semi-truck across the highway just 30 miles outside of Sequim. I took it in stride.
I was pleased with my spot when I got to the festival location to check in and unload. Two spots down from me is an 80 something year old artist named Betty who was setting up her booth by herself.
"I've been selling for 60 years, before canopies were even invented," she told me.
She seemed insulted when I asked if she was doing it on her own.
"With one arm tied behind my back," she said with sparks flying from her twinkly eyes.
After I set up I checked into my hotel, a homey inn on the main drag at the other end of town that has a very 70s kind of vibe going on. I absolutely adore old vintagesque motels with their outdated decor. It's clean enough and the door locks. I am all good.
I got an email after I settled in from some folks I reached out to in these parts. They are an Airbnb couple who hosted me in this area a year ago. I hit it off in a big way with Linda and Mark and even shared an evening or two with them with red wine and story swaps flowing for hours late into the night.
He is a writer and she is an artist. I am both so there was deep resonance in all the things with each of them. I bought a copy of his book. He signed it for me.
On the day I left as I was heading to a rain forest on the other side of the Olympic range, Mark gave me detailed printed directions to a secret backroads way to go through a side route of the Olympics that only locals know. A quieter, less traveled way he thought I'd enjoy.
That was an epic and truly memorable half day of travel that afforded me sights I'd otherwise had never known. Mark swore me to secrecy about the route.
He and I really connected about writing. We talked about process and form and how to write a book. I wrote a book a long while ago so I had some reference points to compare with him.
"I feel I have more books in me, but I feel stuck and just don't know what to write," I told him.
"Write and keep writing," he said, "and what you're meant to write will make itself known as you write."
I remember that advice clear as rain.
I also shared with Mark and Linda a story about my outing that day to find a small lake for kayaking and how a wrong turn nearly got me on the wrong side of a local whose property I had inadvertently trespassed.
Instead of being put off by the grumpy man confronting me about, "Where the hell are you going!" I instead humbly owned my lack of a sense of direction and apologized before asking if he could kindly help me find my way along to where I wanted to go...and how beautiful his property was and what a blessing it must be to live here...these simple and gracious heartfelt words I spoke was all that was needed for the Grumpy Man to tell me his life story of how he ended up Here in God's Paradise. It became like church hearing his testimony of how the beauty of this forest changed his life for the better.
He then happily told me which way to go and instead of cussing me out, he wished me a good day out on the lake kayaking.
Mark marveled at my encounter and story for Mark knows how the lure of living in the forest brings many people with hermit like leanings who do not like happenstance encounters with mini-van driving redheads wandering onto their property looking for a lake.
"I can see you traveling and writing a book about your random encounters with people," said Mark. "You have a way of engaging people and getting them to talk even if they don't want to," he said. "You pull the best out of others. Write about that."
I liked his idea, and who wouldn't revel in a road trip and writing about the people along the way?
So of course I had to reach out and let Mark and Linda know I'm in their neck of the woods. Their home that I stayed in is about 90 minutes away which isn't too bad for this area with its vast remote areas amidst mountainous coastal geography.
I got an email reply after I checked in at the 70s vibe hotel.
Mark had died, wrote Linda.
He had a heart attack one month after my visit last year.
This news stopped my breath.
Linda also wrote that she JUST HAPPENS to be in Sequim for an art workshop right now that she is teaching for the next couple of days.
We have made plans and will have dinner together Saturday night to catch up on how much her world has changed from his sudden passing.
I cried with this news though I barely had met Mark. There are some people who just get in your heart quick.
"You should come back with your daughter and grandson and I'll take you all on a waterfall tour," he had offered.
As a writer, Mark was a columnist for the local paper and also a published author of a waterfall and trail guide for the Olympic Peninsula. I used his book for adventuring when I stayed here last year.
And so, this being my first night in Sequim and getting this sad news... I am reflective of all of it, how the timing that Linda is here too... that Mark passed a month after I met him.... I just pulled his book off my shelf earlier this week. I reread the inscription he scrawled inside, "Write Pam, and keep writing."
I read it the same day my newly hired public speaking coach said the same thing to me : write, write and write.
And so, I will.
I will write and storytell the random encounters I have in all the rythyms of life.
And somehow books will emerge from all the writing for that is what Mark advised me and I believe him.
He did guide me after all, not to Waterfalls, but toward the cascade of words that is flowing in me to flow out.
RIP Mark. I am so grateful our lives intersected when they did.
You can view and buy Mark's book on Amazon:Where Waterfalls and Wild Things Are: Exploring Waterfalls, Swimming Holes and Wild Scenic Places in the Southeastern Olympics https://a.co/d/hIcmjWC