I hope you’re staying above water and enjoying this wonderful fall weather. I’m so happy to be out of the smoke. I was sad to think I was missing this seasonal transition in the marina—the beautiful, subtle shift as summer gives way to fall—but that second forced hermitage of 2020 really threw into relief the gratitude I feel for my lovely little boat. So that’s the story I want to share with you now: the poignant, sweaty, dirty, stunning, hopeful, stressful, sad, and wonderful experience of creating my unique home.

I bought my boat, Walela, in the early spring of 2019 after years of searching, months of agonizing, a fair amount of stress crying, and one timely intervention by the universe. Officially choosing Walela was terrifying; By handing Eddie-the-salty-boat-guy a check finalizing the purchase, I was committing to moving out of my apartment of 14 years and into a home that was still only a vague impression in my mind, but that I myself would have to physically construct. I was actively turning the page to the next chapter of my life.

Walela was moored on the Skagit River close to La Conner, and that spring my partner and I made that long drive up to work on her every weekend for about two months. These months were an experience as beautiful and scary as jumping into the ice melt of the Skagit (something we did routinely after days of gutting questionable building materials, fighting with engine equipment, and making endless dump runs that left us gritty in the subcutaneous pores of our skin). As your feet leave the earth, and the gemstone water rushes up to meet you, you think for the split second you have before you hit, “what the hell have I done?” Then, there is exhilaration and terror as the rushing water closes over your head, your ears fill, and every inch of you is forced into the immediate present. Next, awe and strength as you feel the world sharpen around you and the reality of your own aliveness comes into full focus. And, finally, when you’re wrapped in clean clothes and inhaling burgers and beer from the local joint nearby, a sense of kinship, love, and ownership blooms for the people and places sharing this concentrated dose of growth with you, in all its beauty and pain.

There are so many stories I could tell you about these months—about crazy, extemporaneous problem solving adventures, about blowing up batteries, about watching snow geese glint and swirl and settle in the sunset orange of the Skagit Valley, about dodging driftwood on the Skagit River and churning through the Puget Sound to La Conner, about the hauling out process when I watched Walela hoisted from the water for her drive to Seattle and was momentarily convinced I was going to see her crack in half, and about so many moments since—but those I’ll save in the hopes of future in-person reunions! Happy hour, anyone?

Walela brought a magical combination of adventure, movement, and, somewhat to my surprise, stability into my life. Through this messy, wonderful process I found that I had both the support and the ability to complete this massive project, even though I went into it not knowing what a Phillips head screwdriver looked like. In creating my home I went from being someone who said, “I don’t know how to do this, so I probably shouldn’t try,” to someone who says, “I don’t know how to do this, but I bet I can figure it out.” That shift has been incredible for me, and I’m working on applying this new courage to my art and my business. Of course, it’s still a work in progress—marketing still seems like a black hole of doom, and my photography, my art, still feels like a direct measure of my creativity and capability (and is therefore sometimes a scary thing to share)—but now I’m able to approach with confidence the wilder and more fanciful projects of which I’ve always dreamed.

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’