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Archives: Centrum

Port Townsend Polarity, Point Wilson

DSCN0490On one side of the road, this;

DSCN0488On the other side of the road, this.   Until next time, Port Townsend.


The Mountains Are Out


My parents were loyal, if distracted, watchers of the ten-o’clock news, but you could make as much noise as you wanted until the weather came on.  At which point, a cone of silence descended on the house, with execution the preferred method of dispatching  those who dared obscured Diane White’s gentle prognostications.

For the record, my parents were not farmers, over-the-road truckers or employed in the vacation industry.  i.e., our fortunes didn’t rise or fall on whether or not it rained on how much fresh powder to expect on the weekend.

Yes, we did live in tornado alley, but like windfalls of cash, violent storms happened rarely; most days the weather was…ordinary, seasonal.  Hot in the summer, cold in the winter, temperate in between.  (This was the Midwest—Birthplace of the Four Seasons.)

And, yes, Diane White was part of the draw.  A pretty black face on television every night, long before this was anywhere nearly remotely routine, Diane was confident, poised and did a really world-class job of pointing at those temperatures and cold fronts.  But, Edna and Paul Haynes proved fickle when it came to their weather hosts.  Clowns, ham actors, painfully shy meteorologists: they watched them all.  It’s the weather that obsessed them.

Consequently, I know a lot more about climatology than a person reasonably ought to.  I know what those high wispy clouds tend to indicate, and I can offer you a credible explanation of why tornadoes have a bead on North Texas and Oklahoma.

It might also explain why I’m a big fan of microclimates—those odd little places that for a variety of reasons defy the regional expectations of what the weather is like ‘round there.   Which brings us to Port Townsend, which sits in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, and therefore tends to be somewhat drier and somewhat warmer than Seattle and Vancouver.  Which also has something to do with the mystery of the mountains that flank the town on two sides, and that are sometimes visible and sometimes just… gone.

Weather-wise, when the mountains are out, the weather is glorious.  Today’s photo: the Cascades, across the Admiralty Inlet.


The Centrum Offices

The Centrum Offices

I discovered retreat centers as a solution to the problem of how to get my writing done. I was teaching middle school, and while I sometimes had the energy to revise, I found it nearly impossible to generate new work after the long school day. So I got in the habit of disappearing to an art colony during breaks from teaching. I got a lot of work done this way, and continue to do so.

My first visit here to Centrum was in March of 1996. As a colony, it fits the “no program” mode, meaning that you’re given a place to live, but there’s no one around to make your meals or clean up after you. My little bungalow has a decently equipped kitchen, and there’s a Safeway over in town. You might meet your fellow artists—if they happen to emerge at the same time you do. Otherwise you’re on your own.

Fort Worden State Park, home of Centrum (and also of the wonderful Copper Canyon Press) is a decommissioned military base. If you’ve seen “An Officer and a Gentleman,” this is where it was filmed.

Below is the little bungalow where I am working this month. They’re called S.U.D.S cabins—because when the base was active, this is where the laundry workers lived. Yep, they can use a coat of paint, but they are quite comfortable inside.



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