Living History: Tips from hand to mouth

Grandparents were everywhere when I was born. Two lived with us. A "great" one lived out by the barn. Another pair lived down the road. They held me, told me stories, helped my young parents learn to parent and me to talk, walk and launch into life surrounded by people whose physical presence and style embodied community. Took a few decades to appreciate, let alone understand.

Decades later, when they were dead and thousands of miles separated me from the places we shared, their voices, their stories, their humor, work ethic and values still feel close, ooze from my resume, sing through my careers, writing and conversations. 

Writing a book about a boat built in 1936 is one way to be sure to dig deep into history of our elders, to spend time with people whose decades of knowledge dwarf my own.  Half a world away, in Denmark, their stories lay down in emails day after day.  Today on break, going through boxes retrieved from the old ranch house attic, the synchronicity of life confronts me again in a dusty stack of newspapers.  Why did Grandpa save these in his box marked "JBC Personal"?  Dusty and brittle, the pages lay there unmarked and dated May 22, 1936. Oklahoma Cattleman, stockyard reports in another stack. No idea, yet. Placing them back in tupperware, still not able to throw them away, possibilities stored for a later, a second review, a muse.

Working on the Wooden Boat Festival was like living with grandparents, too. Decades of work and heart poured into a place and a dream that created an energy everyone could feel, still feels through generations.  Reflecting back, one of those times stands out today.  A panel of 1970s shipwrights, pioneers in their day and still passing skills to whomever will take the time to listen.

Listen.  Take the time to listen.

March 10, 2010

"Reeling Them In" a panel, featuring notable shipwrights Ernie Baird, Mike Aubin, Jim Peacock, Charlie Moore, Leif Knutsen and Dave Thompson, talking about the evolution of wooden boats and commercial fishing in 1970s Port Townsend will air on PTTV Channel 98 daily at 11:30 AM and 9:00 PM all week, March 22-27, 2010.

Kaci Cronkhite, Wooden Boat Festival director and Ernie Baird (founder of Baird Boatworks aka Haven Boatworks) organized this gathering for PT Library Community Read in the NWMC conference room March 16.