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  • Writer's picturePenny Harter

Memories of My Week in the Pacific Northwest, October 15th – 22nd, 2009


On Thursday, October 15th, I got up at 3:15 a.m. Eastern Daylight Savings time and was picked up for the ride to the Philadelphia Airport at 5:00 a.m. I’d packed mostly the night before, but I wanted to take my time getting ready. There’s always something else to think about. My getting through security and the flight, itself, went fine. I flew US Air, and since the flight was lightly booked—perhaps because it left at 7:30 a.m.—I had the three seats in my row to myself. That allowed me to stretch out, though I couldn’t sleep. Too excited!

When I landed Ruth Yarrow, who had kindly volunteered to pick me up, and I found each other after a bit of wandering around SeaTac, and Ruth drove me to her home where Michael Dylan Welch was to join us and take me to that evening’s reading at Soulfood Books in Redmond, WA (please see link in earlier post anticipating this trip), followed by Tanya McDonald’s home where I would stay for the night. Ruth had made a wonderful barley soup / stew and homemade bread, and it was a joy to see her again, as well as to meet her husband and son. The food was manna after the flight, and shortly Michael joined us.

After an all too brief visit with Ruth, Michael drove me around the Seattle area, and we visited Open Books, a great poetry-only bookstore, had dinner in a restaurant in the mall in Redmond where Soulfood Books was, and then I participated in the reading Michael had set up with Bob Redmond and Arthur Tulee. I enjoyed hearing their work and having a chance to share some of mine. There I also met Lana Ayers whom I really enjoyed talking with. (She came to Seabeck, too.) After the reading, Michael drove me to Tanya’s. How kind of Tanya and her husband to volunteer to house me Thursday night. It was a pleasure to meet Tanya and spend time with them both—as well as their cat :). By the time I went to bed that night, given Pacific time, I’d been up 22 straight hours.

The next morning at 8 a.m., Michael picked up Tanya and me for the journey to Seabeck. Michael was kind enough to have helped set up a meeting between me and June Cotner, an editor of many anthologies who had used my poems a number of times, but whom I’d never met. Since she lived in Poulsbo, we arranged to meet for brunch /early lunch at a restaurant on the way to Seabeck. It was lovely to finally meet her, and after a good visit, we were once again on the road—and ferry, which ride I loved! (And Michael, Tanya, and I wrote a rengay together, my first attempt.)


Since Debbie Kolodji has already given a thorough and detailed account of each day’s Seabeck presentations and activities on her blog—

along with all her great photographs, I’ll concentrate more on my personal memories:

The Seabeck Haiku Getaway was among the most enjoyable haiku events I’ve attended, and I’m so grateful to Michael Dylan Welch for inviting me. The facility is in a beautiful setting, and the poets attending were all so welcoming that I hope to not only go back next year, but also every year that I’m able to do so. I loved every minute of it—even the first two days  of rain :), though a little sun peeked through the clouds now and then.

During the course of the retreat, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to give a reading of some of Bill’s haiku and then my own work—both haiku and haibun, and a handful of my longer poems. I also appreciated sharing my process of turning longer narrative poems and/or prose into haibun—and soliciting input for the group about what to do with a particular haibun when comparing it to the original poem. And I especially loved sharing a number of the Hubble telescope photos with the group, inspiring them to write some amazing haiku. I also helped—a little bit—Christopher Herold and Karma Tenzing Wangchuk with the renku session—which became a tan-renga session because there were no tables in the room.

Here is a photo link from Michael Dylan Welch’s wonderful Seabeck photo gallery that show folks participating in the Hubble photo haiku workshop:

But even more than the professional parts of the Getaway, I enjoyed the personal: Michael Dylan Welch’s opening the retreat by playing “Bread and Roses”, sung by Judy Collins. Seeing again old friends from the Northwest like Tenzing and Christopher; getting to know better some friends that Bill and I had only met in passing before—at Port Townsend, WA, for HNA four years ago, or at even longer ago haiku-related conferences in the West; and meeting some wonderful new folks who are already becoming good friends. And I’m so grateful for the internet and e-mail which allow all of us to continue to be in touch—our friendships growing in the process.

Some beautiful memories: Tall cedars touched with “rust” in autumn. A blue heron whose cry sounded like that of a raven to me—my memories of raven calls from having lived eleven years in Santa Fe. I’d never heard a heron’s cry before, and it was startling and haunting. Walking by the water with Debbie Kolodji, Ce Rosenow, Michael Dylan Welch, and Michael Evans—and his teaching me to skip stones on the Sound—or was it the Canal—doesn’t matter. Talking with friends both old and new in front of the huge fireplace in the main building, or at a round table in the dining hall.

This photo by  Michael Dylan Welch shows how happy I was to be there:

And the next several are down by the Canal where Michael Evans taught me to skip stones :), which I’m about to try in the following three photos:

And while down by the Canal, I found and picked a California poppy. Here are two photos Michael Dylan Welch snapped of that poppy in my hair.

Sunday midday, after my “Reach for the Stars” Hubble workshop, the results of the silent auction,  and some closing business, Michael again played “Bread and Roses,” and we all stood in a circle and held hands. Such a loving feeling among us—tears in some of our eyes, including mine, at not wanting to let go of such a wonderful sharing time. Then there was the final lunch together, many farewell hugs, and time to go. I was blessed when Billie Dee, who had outbid me on two vibrant knit scarves, gifted me with one of them in deep hues of purple, plum, and magenta.

I received several other gifts, too, from various books to an orange Copper Canyon poetry button, and they all mean much to me.

Here I am with that scarf around my neck and the poetry button on my jacket, looking at the loving thank-you card Michael Dylan Welch had everyone sign for me:

Well, sad though I felt about leaving, after lunch it was time to accept Ce Rosenow’s gracious offer to drive me down to Portland where I would be spending four days with Maggie Chula and her husband in their new house, so off I went.


Ce and I talked non-stop—well, I talked more than she since she wanted me to read through my new and recently completed manuscript of poems to her as we drove down. The ride was through beautiful country, and we so much enjoyed learning more about one another. Before we knew it, we were pulling up to Maggie’s new house which overlooked the city of Portland. What a lovely house! And what a view. Ce and I went in and had a tour—Maggie and John had just moved in two weeks ago—and we both said we felt like we were at a spa. I continued to feel like I was at a lovely Bed & Breakfast. They were both generous and loving hosts during my four nights and three days there.

I was still pretty tired on Monday, so we mostly relaxed. My throat felt a bit sore so I went with Maggie to a local shopping center and bought some echinacea and cough drops. That and more rest chased away whatever was nibbling at me, and I was fine by Tuesday. Monday night, Maggie took me to her local poetry critique group, a fine group of women poets who shared and critiqued one another’s work. I was honored to be welcomed into the group by the Paulann Petersen, at whose home it was, and by the other poets participating that night— including Penelope Scambly Schott, an old friend from New Jersey years ago. She and Eric, her husband, had come through Santa Fe when Bill and I lived there and shared a long meal with us. It was a joy to see her again, and to hear some of her fine work. I offered for the group’s critique a poem I was not satisfied with, and they helped me edit it. I hope my suggestions for their work helped them, too.

Tuesday night, October 20th, Maggie, Penelope and I read reading at Looking Glass Books (again, see earlier post for a link). The audience was very appreciative and each of us sold a few books. It was a pleasure to read with them, and among us there was quite a spread of different kinds of work.

Penelope read from her book  A is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Commonwealth—a narrative poem in the voice of Anne Marbury Hutchinson, 1591-1643, an influential woman in Puritan Boston who was convicted of heresy and banished from the colony of Massachusetts. (Turning Point, 2007), and from her new book,  Aretha’s Hat: Inauguration Day, 2009 (Kathryn Stripling Byer and Penelope Scambly Schott. In collaboration with Ash Creek Press, Portland Oregon, 2009), a collection of powerful personal poems of, among other things, childhood memories and about her mother and grandmother.

Maggie read from her new book What Remains: Japanese Americans in Interment Camps (Katsura Press, 2009. Poems by Margaret Chula and Quilts by Cathy Erickson.) This is a stunning book of persona poems in the voices of Japanese speaking from the internment camps during WW II, along with beautiful photographs of quilts that beautifully complement them. The poems represent experiences and memories of all ages and both genders, and are very moving.

I read from several of my books, but mostly from my newest collection The Night Marsh (WordTech Editions, 2008). One nice thing for me was that the Portland-based daughter of one of my NJ neighbors came with a friend. It was good to have someone I’d met before in our audience.

After the reading, Penelope had invited us back to her beautiful home—not that far at all from Maggie’s—for dessert and more visiting. She’d gone to the trouble of getting a delicious cheesecake and even writing on it “Welcome Penny.” So very kind of her! I enjoyed more visiting, including getting to know Eric a bit more than I had previously.

My last day in Portland, Maggie treated me to a tour of the Japanese Gardens. They are extraordinary. All the leaves were turning and every new corner turned revealed gorgeous new vistas, new places to meditate. I could not resist buying a beautiful scarf in the gift shop to remember the place by. Then we went to the local Goodwill and both found some wonderful surprises. That night, Maggie and John treated me to a Kabuki lecture and performance downtown in the Winningstad Theatre: Kabuki: Backstage to Hanamichi. A Behind the Scenes Look at the Color, Magic and Drama of Kabuki was fascinating, and the dance mesmerizing. I learned a great deal from the lecture parts, and thoroughly enjoyed the dance.

All too soon, at 3:45 a.m. on Thursday morning, it was time to begin the journey home. I was picked up by the Portland to Seattle shuttle for the three-hour drive back up to Seatac airport, and then the 5-hour flight home, plus the hour-long ride back to Mays Landing from Philadelphia. It was a thoroughly wonderful trip. As I said above, I hope to go back to the Seabeck Getaway next year and subsequent years.

I felt so welcome in the Pacific Northwest, and found the landscape both at Seabeck and near Portland breathtaking.  I know that if I were to move out there, I’d find a warm and friendly community. But then I’d miss my children and grandchildren here in NJ. I also love living near the ocean now. As I said to Terry Ann Carter, my Ottawa dear friend, I wish I could clone and live several places at once, but since I can’t, I’ll just have to travel more. Much more. I need to see friends out across the country, Canada—even the world (dream on) more often. Or, perhaps, they can come visit me. I hope that my just released children’s alphabestiary, The Beastie Book—the very first copy of which I received on Monday—will become a classic and fund my travel. (Dream on :)).

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