|Kevin and me in our yellow dinghy.|
“We’re ten minutes early,” Windy said.I’d hurried them all morning to be sure we weren’t late and now she and the girls sat calmly on the park bench while I paced back and forth, killing time.
I didn’t know Kevin Patterson from Adam when he sent me an email almost two years ago. He wrote that he enjoyed my blog and that we were absolutely doing the right thing by our kids. He added that he’d done some sailing and written a book about it.“Hey, thanks for the email, I’ll look up your book.” I clicked Send.
The Water In Between is among best travel writing I’ve read. I’ve studied it since, rereading and marking it up, wondering whether somehow, if I keep working at it, I’ll someday put my thoughts into words with the same mastery.I emailed him last month; we agreed to meet for breakfast at the Tree House Café near his home on Saltspring Island.
I grew anxious during my ten minutes of pacing. I fear small talk and awkward silences. I’m not good at thinking on my feet, coming up with interesting questions to spur conversation. I often say the wrong thing. I’m much worse if the person’s books are reviewed by the New York Times.I hoped we wouldn’t see Kevin that morning. In the perfect world I was constructing in my head, we’d get a table at the restaurant and wait 30 minutes before declaring him a no-show and ordering. Our food would come and we’d eat, pay, and leave. Later I’d get an email. “My God, I overslept. Please accept my apology.”
|Frances showing off her caterpillar|
rings on Galiano Island.
“Really? She seems so sensible and together.”“Nah, that’s magic in the editing room. She has a team that feeds her interview questions. Terry’s simply a reader with the gift of a soothing voice that sounds sincerely curious.”
And so our email conversation would go. Before long, we’d form a tight writers’ friendship via correspondence, spared the expense of that awkward first meet and small talk.But it didn’t go down that way. He was there at the café when we arrived, drinking coffee and reading the paper at a table for two. We shook hands and made introductions while the server cobbled together a couple more tables.
Kevin’s a medical doctor who spends part of each year in the Canadian north, serving an Inuit population. He’s also opened up the bodies of Afghan fighters and South Pacific Islanders. He’s known for his insight regarding the effects of the encroaching Western diet and lifestyle on the health of previously isolated cultures.
|This is what we do every|
time we weigh anchor: hose
the mud and shells off the
chain. It can take quite a
Kevin asked a question about our lives. I nodded blankly and blurted out the first of a dozen writing questions that boiled over in my head. I would turn our conversation into an interrogation.Listening to him answer, I began focusing on the key words that were the difference between us. What word would I have used there? I grew more self-conscious, editing my own vocabulary and sentences in real time, as the air rushed past my vocal cords and my words were made and released. The result was a jumbled, stilted reproduction of my own thoughts.
At some point I told him I was working on a book; he asked about my progress. Something I read in a magazine interview the night before started to spill out, and it sounded good. “Oh, it comes and goes, Kevin, long periods of procrastination and slow going, and then bursts of unanticipated productivity.” He nodded and it dawned on me that I’d just paraphrased his answer to the same question.Finally, the meal was over and I was eager to separate, eager to return to the boat and be free of my social anxiety, to process the writing perspectives I’d gained.
“Do you want to come out and see Del Viento?” Windy asked. For a split second, I thought it was possible, hoped it was possible, she was talking to me.“I’d love to,” Kevin answered.
|Eleanor doing her Houdini imitation in this strange, hollow boulder|
she found on Wallace Island.
|Found object on a hike. Wallace Island is too small for cars,|
a mystery why this is here.