We went to the beach to escape the heat, and Weston found a new friend. These prehistoric creatures leave the deep ocean on odd numbered years, migrating into the Sound to feast on their preferred food, pink salmon. Young ones, like this yearling, are quite friendly. Adults, which reach lengths of 100 feet or more, are fiercely protective of their environment, and have been known to attack open-water salmon farms and arctic drilling rigs.
For the past several years, I’ve had the good fortune to work with Patagonia Provisions, the food division of Patagonia. It’s been an education, to say the least, with deep research into food and how it impacts our planet. Specifically, I get to dig into topics like free-range buffalo and the Great Plains, sustainable salmon-harvesting techniques, Tibetan food customs, organic agriculture, perennial wheat, etc.
From time to time, I leave my little island writing-and-research cave, and visit the Provisions office in person.
Last week was an extra special treat, as my meetings coincided with Chef Tracy On’s visit. Tracy is the magical chef at Patagonia Headquarters in Ventura (Provisions is in Sausalito) who turns out spectacular, healthy and sustainably sourced meals every work day at the main office. But this day, she was cooking just for us. That’s Chef Tracy on the right, and temporary Sous Chef Jenny Garcia (taking time off from her usual Provisions duties) serving lunch. What a meal. I always thought this was the right work for me. Now I’m sure.
I would like to say that we returned home from our camping trip with coolers full of king salmon, but it just wasn’t meant to be. There were some fish caught around us, but we just couldn’t close the deal. And it was the first time ever that we couldn’t at least scratch out a fish or two on the opener.
In years past, this would have bummed me out to no end. Strangely, though, it mattered very little. I think it’s because I can see how fast the kids are growing up, and I really just wanted to soak up the time with them. We hung out with good friends, cooked, read, played on the beach–that’s Skyla hauling a little extra weight around on the SUP–slept in the tent, whittled sticks and generally messed around. My usual fish-crazed mania was absent. And it was awesome.
Camping often seems like a strange concept: You pack up half of everything you own, stuff it all into a car and boat, leave a perfectly good house, and set it up somewhere else. But the kids love it, and actually I do, too. Those quiet chats in a dark tent don’t seem to happen at home. And we never make s’mores over our kitchen stove. And when I’m at home, the to-do list always precludes just sitting around reading and talking in the middle of the afternoon.
Sure, I would like to have had an ice chest stacked with kings. But I think we got all the really important stuff. And when we got home, we thawed a big chunk of Columbia River spring Chinook and had the best salmon in the world for dinner anyway.
To celebrate the 2015 crab season and the fact that Smarty was back in town for the week, we had a little gathering with a lot of crab. Big, meaty, hard-shelled Dungeness. Some teriyaki steak, rice and salad on the side, but it was really about the crab. Three of us sat at the table and cracked shells for several hours, resulting in more pure crab meat than I’ve ever seen in one place, and plenty of time to drink beer and chew the fat.
Mostly, it was just good to have Smarty on the Island and some time to hang out with him, Neal, Alex and Helene. Not to mention the yellow lab contingent of Honey and Johnny. It reminded me how much I miss our regular Tuesday dinners and all that goes with them. Smarty, you gotta move back home so we can keep it rolling. In the mean time, I think I’m crabbed out for the year.
I’ve spent the better part of the last few weeks in a frantic search of old photos for the upcoming second edition of Closer to the Ground. Since I never envisioned doing something like this, I haven’t cross-referenced my photos, so…hours and hours of searching through what feels like a million random photo files.
The upside is that it’s been quite a walk down memory lane, as they say. I know it’s another cliche, but I can hardly believe how fast time goes by and how much the kids have grown. I guess when you’re with them every day, you lose track of the little changes. Then you look at pictures from five years ago, and wow.
Anyway, in the process of it all, I found this little gem. The kids grew carrots in pots out back a few years ago, and what a surprise when we pulled them up. I’m not sure what exactly it means, but it seems important. Or at least funny. Have a great weekend!