Summer of 2001 I moved to PT. I didn't know anyone in the town, just my son's future in-laws who live about 20 minutes out. The job of unpacking, moving too much stuff into a smaller house, figuring out how to make home alone in a new place, was exciting and daunting. One evening as I stood in the garage breaking down boxes, the blush of sunset in the sky got my attention. I threw down the box-cutter, closed the door and started walking the mile and a half to North Beach.
I was just in time to walk down to the water and watch the sun set over Vancouver Island. There I stood, shivering, since I hadn't yet learned how chilly it is at the beach in the evening. Soon as the sun set, I turned to start the walk home, chanting silently "sweater, sweater, sweater. Next time: sweater sweater sweater" and hugging my goose-fleshed arms.
There was an enigmatic-looking man standing at the edge of the beach and as I passed he said "Don't you think it's a little declasse to leave 15 seconds after the sun sets?" Smiling, I shook his hand and we introduced ourselves. Small town. He knew I was new. I acknowledged that I was. Then he said this: Well, you're going to have to decide what kind of artist you are, since you live in Port Townsend now. I thought for a second and said "I'm a writer. Nice to meet you." Then I refused his offer of a ride and set off walking home.
As I walked, I thought about what I'd said. I'm a writer. I thought of how Dr. Emmel had encouraged her writing students to do that. "Do you write every day? Then own it." I am a singer, a photographer, an actor, too. But the thing I can't not do is write. The fact that I haven't sent anything out to publishers feels delegitimizing, but I keep at it. I think of Mary Oliver writing for 25 years, seriously, before trying to get published. Patience. I keep at it, working at a daily practice.
Variety of experience certainly gives a person more to write about. It's fine to have other interests. But now, nine years after that evening on the beach, I'm still not sending stuff out and I feel more than a little foolish. The business of making myself the best I can be is unfinished at a time when the life I have ahead of me is scarily shorter. I am feeling the pinch of time.
But I do remember, that one day when a stranger on the beach asked me to choose, I did. What I have to do now is get up every day, choose again, and do what needs to be done.