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August 1, 1998
a year ago

Harstene Heaven

The morning was overcast, cloudy and cool. After the previous week, which had been really hot, it was quite the relief. I slept very well, and finally woke up feeling refreshed for the first time that week. I looked at the clock and it was past 11 in the morning. Oops.

I had thought that we were going to get up early and get an early start for Harstene Island. But John was a sweetie and decided that sleeping in would be better than hurrying, as we both needed to sleep. So, by the time we got packed up and on the road, it was past noon. John had a surprise breakfast spot, and just drove in silence until we got close to Black Diamond.

Black Diamond is an old coal mining town, developed back when coal was extremely marketable and valuable. It's now a tiny place, with a single strip of town, and in that strip is a bakery named prosaically the Black Diamond Bakery. They serve a very good breakfast there, in the hearty American style, cholesterol and all. I had their Hearty Breakfast, which consisted of sausage, two eggs, hash potatoes, and a split biscuit with savory sausage gravy. It was excellent, but way too big for me to finish. John had the standard breakfast, and finished up just fine. Afterwards, we went to the bakery and bought cinnamon rolls, biscuits, and a strawberry-rhubarb pie for the potluck that evening.

Fezzik got to stay in the Stoat, and was petted by all the passer-bys.

We then drove out to Harstene Island. It's out in Puget Sound, west of most of the water, but East of the peninsula, and the way out there is scenic, almost to an extreme. There are mountains, water, the astonishing sky of blue studded with sailing clouds and a horizon, on all sides, jagged with outlying mountains. All the waterways had shining water, are lined with trees on cliffs with colorful rock falls and quaint houses of entirely individual make. Each of these vistas only led to another, each as brilliant, colorful, and unique as the last. We hopscotched across bridges over to the Island, and finished with a long drive through trees, along dirt roads before reaching the Austin site.

The Austins have kept the property in their family for a few generations, and it is a good number of acres with a wide shoreline facing Mt. Rainer to the East. The woods are thick, and they have a winding path down to the water. It's a track the car should be able to get down, if the driver didn't worry about the paint. John didn't worry about the Stoat's paint job at all.

The Landy took the gentle slope with no problem, and we ended up right above the really tricky bits down to the beach. There were a few bridges over washed out gulleys, and a set of very steep stairs. I had to take those piece slowly, as my knee wasn't up to doing too much after sitting in the car for so long.

Their beach is magnificent. It's a long straight, flat stretch of beach that faces Mt. Rainier and sections of the Puget Sound that contain green islands. So, far off in the distance, there are mountains, nearby are the green Hills of the nearby islands, and, like a smooth silver carpet stretching from the stands, is the water of the Sound. It was an excellent place to just sit, and do nothing but watch the water, breathe the air, and relax in the sunshine. Fezzik headed immediately for the water, and started swimming along gracefully. John took a little while longer to get to the water, but not much, and for him it was much colder, raising goose-bumps all over his body. With the sun out, we couldn't get Fezzik out of the water, he just meandered here and there, back and forth from one end of the beach to the other without pause or worry. Just gliding through the water like some big black lagoon beast, occassionally coming out to check on people or on food, but enjoying the cold so much that he rarely shook the water off when he did come out. It was funny to watch him so at home in his element, as the salt water buoyed him up far better than the fresh did.

We went for a walk near the end of the day. The beach was laid out before us, long and empty of all other people. There were shells and the remains of jelly fish and crabs. Since it was off the Puget Sound, there were no waves, only the soft lap of water from when boats would come by and their wakes would reach the shore. By the time we got there the sun had already moved to the West, so the shadows of the trees were slowly eating the shore, covering it in shadow that cooled the skin. We moved to another sunny spot, and soaked up what warmth we could.

Eventually, the entire shore was covered the shadow and the whole group of us moved up the path to the house. Jack started the charcoal burning in the grill, and gradually the picnic table filled with food. The majority of the dishes were salads of various types, from a cold rice and curry chicken salad to pale, pink shells with crab and celery. John then I had taken no time for our own main courses, so had stopped by a marina and bought cold sandwiches from the refrigerated section. They were actually really good, and didn't fill us up too much, leaving plenty of room for all the good stuff. There were a good half a dozen desserts as well, and I tasted three along with a piece of the strawberry-rhubarb pie. A most excellent dinner, of the very different characteristic and style from the one of the night before, but no less good.

After dinner, as the sky started to darken, we started on our way back home.

At that point I had a few misgivings, as it would have been nice to be able to camp out on the beach, next to the water and under the moon. But I also knew that I would sleep much more soundly in my own bed, without all the small annoyances and differences that sleeping away from home can inflict. And the next day promised to be a very full day, and it would be good to have the rest.

We drove across the peninsula, and we lucked out at the ferry. There were five cars put into Lane 6, by the time we arrived, and we were told that the ferry was likely full, but the next boat wouldn't have any problems taking us and would be a straight shot back to the mainland. The boat that we were in line for would be stopping at another of the islands, so would take a little bit longer. When the ferry was completely loaded, it turned out there was plenty of room for us and all the people behind us as well. So, it worked out well.

As we pulled away from the ferry dock, I climbed out of the Stoat and followed John to the stern of the boat. It turned out that it became the bow, as the ship turned around in order to present what had been the back to the island dock. The water was like a blue mirror, rippled by the wind, and the sky was a deep indigo above shading to dark purple and then to black with silver stars sprinkled thickly above like gems on velvet. And under us, around us, and playing through us was the vibration and the rhythm of the engines, beating out their steady rhythm with fluctuations and variations moving them as the ocean moved through them. I always think of dancing when I hear that beat.

After cars left and cars came on that the island, we turned toward the city. Seattle was a blaze of lights on the horizon, separating the dark of the water from the dark of the sky. The streams of cars running like veins throughout the highway system leading in and out of the city. We join the streams, just another drop of life rolling through the darkness home

Brought to you by Dragon System's NaturallySpeaking.

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