Everybody has a story: Art adventure exposes beauty of San Juan Islands



In late October, my daughter and I went to Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands, for an “Art Adventure.” The talented instructors, Lee Baughman and Susan Cowan, spent eight hours a day for five days helping a group of artists complete projects of our choice.

I was not prepared for the character of an island and what happens to everyone who travels there. It takes away free choice and commands your attention. Breathtaking views of the friendly town, the marina and the waterways are pleasing and distracting, wherever you look. Shops and stores welcomed us to peruse at leisure. Sidelines like lighthouses and whale watching were available.

The artists who gathered were students from Clark College’s Advanced Watercolor Art class. Their talent challenged me from the start. At 9 a.m. each day, we gathered at the Grange Hall to critique each other’s work. My favorite artwork involved a train crossing where a caboose had cleared the tracks and the illusion of a biker waited patiently. Another artist was doing a picture of an owl with its wings spread wide. One artist chose a picture of her granddaughter with a laughing horse. The joy of the two was inspirational. Another chose a picture of Mayans in Guatemala with active volcanoes in the background. Two artists had done chickens, one a flock of hens, and the other a Chanticleer rooster. The stories of when, where and why were equally interesting and totally brought the group together.

Homemade breakfast was served each morning at the Lakedale Resort at Three Lakes. The Resort provided my daughter and me one room, bath and queen beds. (My daughter was amazed that “Mom snores.”) The stonework in the rooms, fireplaces and throughout the Resort was striking. The nearby Lakedale cabins were a photo op in themselves. There was a general store and hiking trails nearby, and a lake offered early morning viewing of waterfowl and birds. Binoculars and bird books were provided in each room. There were rumors about ghosts.

Twenty-seven of us were divided into “pods.” Each pod was assigned to cook an evening meal, and this grew competitive as the week went on. Our pod was last, and the challenge of serving at 6 p.m. was overwhelming when a key figure went for a walk — leaving the main ingredient locked in her car. An all-points bulletin went out, and she dashed in, producing gallons of washed, sliced mushrooms. In the end we managed a pasta main dish with two delicious salads.

Benches are all along Friday Harbor streets. A sign on one informed us that an art “pod” had purchased the bench and dedicated it to one pod member who had died. There was no story, so we hoped it wasn’t from food poisoning or the division of labor expected of the pod. Suspicions about that death were endless.

The ferry ride back to Anacortes was worth three times its price — the islands are like a dreamscape. My daughter and I drove home listening to opera and appreciating the greenery. Country singer Ray Stevens said it best: “Everything is beautiful in its own way. Under God’s heaven the world’s going to find a way.”

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