How Your Diet Affects Your Body

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Last Boat to the San Juan Islands

Life | Pandemic | Travel

How a Dying Woman Became a Lasting Reminder of the Importance of Human Connection

It is one of those nights when the commute between Seattle and my so-called home in the San Juan Islands feels more like punishment than reward. Long day, long drive, long boat ride. I’m working harder than I want at a job I dislike to maintain a bourgeois veneer I don’t even believe in. It is already dark when I reach the ferry landing feeling not so much dead inside as…neutral, on hold.

To get here this evening, I drove north on Interstate 5 from the University of Washington, left the freeway in Mount Vernon, and headed west on Highway 20 till I reached the ferry terminal.

Every now and then, the sky, though overcast, turned blue. A soft light spread from the peek-a-boo sun, its rays fanning out, redefining bridges, barns, and the tall green trees of this mostly rural landscape. I rolled down the window and stuck out my arm, turning my hand this way and that, trying to catch the light.

Sun breaks. That’s what TV weather reporters call them. But I think of them as a passing state of grace. The sudden bursts of light lifted me as they fell upon the long hulls of deep-keeled sailboats gleaming in roadside boatyards on either side of the highway.

Opaque rivers became translucent, sluicing the countryside, threading gold-and-silver light through the northwest blue and green. I pronounced their names aloud — Skykomish, Stillaguamish, Snohomish — a chanted mantra to the Native American past. And a reminder that something of consequence had been lost.

The ferry I must board here tonight holds more than two thousand people and their cars. A white rectangle necklaced with windows, it floats on a black sea under a black sky. Black disappearing into black, and this single white envelope in between.

On Sunday afternoons, there’s still daylight when I head to Seattle for the week. Rested and prepared for what lies ahead, I gaze from the ferry into a fjord — the North Puget Sound ringed with glacial mountains, its surface a mirror pocked with islands. I look upon lazy sailboats and cedar homes whose long wooden docks splay…

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