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–   C H A P T E R    I I   –

Sam’s chair sat on a large wooden veranda about 100 feet above the ferry dock and overlooked the waterfront street on the hillside of Friday Harbor, San Juan Island in the state of Washington. It was November, the Sunday after Thanksgiving. A cloud slid in front of the sun, turning the water more green than blue. In every direction beyond the small village the abundance of trees and rough granite, of deep, current-frothed waters, the land and sea presented a ruggedness that nourished Sam’s soul. When the sun re-emerged from behind the small cloud the water as if by magic took on a bluer hue, the whites of the boat hulls looked bleached, the sea gulls contoured and gleaming like ornaments aloft.

It was a place of eagles and whales.

In the summer the harbor was like a carnival; in the winter it was more like a town of cousins going about their business. Those who thought of themselves as die-hard island people from way back tended to live inland, like their ancestors, the original settlers who saw beaches as weather-blown, joyless places where you couldn’t grow a turnip.

The harbor, which was shaped somewhat like a bowl cut in half, with the hillside making the rim and the water making the bottom, bristled with houses and small business establishments, a haphazard road grid connecting it all.

To Sam’s right stood a large old home converted to a coffee shop, ironically named the Doctor’s Office, selling its wares to every caffeine-craving, nature-loving, ferry-riding, hippie dude on the island. And some of the moderate republicans as well. To his left was a covered outdoor oyster bar that had dried up for the winter, leaving no oysters and no oyster girls to cook them. Some winter afternoons he missed the college girls as much as the oysters.

These days Sam made it a point to keep his life in time with the rhythms of the land. On San Juan, like the other islands, it was easy to be close to the land because they hadn’t put concrete everywhere and the ocean kept things scrubbed of heavy civilization. Four-story buildings were rare to nonexistent. They had no malls, supermarkets of consequence, freeways, youth gangs, chain stores, doctors who specialized in something, multiplex movie theaters, or anything that amounted to much more than a village shop. There were no traffic lights but there was a great farmers’ market once a week in the more temperate months. And that was enough.

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