Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Landscape, Language, Teaching, Wildness, Beauty, Imagination

Gift from the Sea—The San Juan Islands


Sunrise over sea, San Juan Islands

Sunrise over sea, San Juan Islands

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.” —Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

Kids on ferry in harbor.

Kids on ferry in harbor.

I read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea years ago. I read the book and inhaled the essence of Lindbergh’s writing, yet it all remained quite distant. I admired the book and her ideas about the sea as one might admire a piece of art in a gallery, beautiful, yes, but untouchable and apart. The beauty of the sea remained for me abstract. The sea has never been a part of my life. I am a woman of the desert, the prairie, the West, the borderlands, the world—but never the sea. 

Until last week.

Last week our family drove from Santa Fe to the archipelago of the  San Juan Islands in the Pacific Ocean, off the northern coast of Washington state. This was a trip years in the making. Our family has had the gift of going to the ranch every summer and so we did. There wasn’t time or resources for any other family travel. With Wyatt soon to leave for college, I was determined to take at least one family trip to someplace new. With Wyatt’s love of Washington state, our dear friends in the San Juan Islands, and my cousin and friend from forever in Seattle, we decided months ago to take this trip.

With Noé on the ferry.

With Noé on the ferry.

As the time of our trip approached and life loomed large, there were so very many reasons not to take this trip. I ignored them, “We’re going. Whatever it takes, we’re going. We are taking at least one family vacation someplace new before Wyatt leaves.” Denial can be a wonderful thing when channeled properly. 

So, we went.

 Two days and 2,000+ miles later, we drove onto the ferry heading to the peninsula where our cousin, Janet, and her family live. There is something about cousins that spans time and distance. Our first gift from the sea. 

The sea came alive. The abstract and untouchable painting in a gallery gained texture, scent, color, and connection. 

The sea came alive for Wyatt, Luke, and Wynn—who were in the water as soon as we arrived.

Kids on water upon arrival.

Kids on water upon arrival.

View from the ferry. Mt. Baker looms over all.

View from the ferry. Mt. Baker presides over all.

Driftwood on South Beach

Driftwood on South Beach

We went to South Beach—the driftwood and stones created a palette of textures. I found myself again and again running my hands through the stones. Gift from the sea.

Stones of South Beach, San Juan Islands.

Stones of South Beach, San Juan Islands.

Collected stones of South Beach.

Collected stones of South Beach.

Stones skipped across the sea.

Skipping rocks across the sea.

Skipping rocks across the sea.

Starfish found.

Starfish found.

Purple starfish in tide pool.

Purple starfish in tide pool.

This area is known for the orcas who live in these waters. We watched and watched the seas. In a lighthouse on a point overlooking the waters of the whales, people from around the world shared their names.

"Killer whale" around the world.

“Killer whale” around the world.

What made this all possible were our forever friends and their invitation to visit them in their home on San Juan Island. Threads of roots, friendship, and love bound the new with the known. We met in 1973 when Mom got lost in Tucson one Sunday morning and met our forever friends. Our family photo albums of our growing up years are interchangeable. Names evolved and we soon developed our own language of, “the Moms, the Dads, the Big Birds (two oldest), and the Little Birds (three youngest).” The Big Birds share the same name of Dawn Elizabeth. From our last names, we soon became Winkie and Dobie and have remained so ever since.

The moms, big birds, and little birds Cascabel, AZ 1977

The Moms, Little Birds, and Big Birds. Cascabel, AZ 1977

In an alignment of the stars that we could not have planned had we tried, four of our five Big and Little Birds were on the island together, coming from Argentina, California, and New Mexico. We  basked in watching the next generation, the Littlest Birds, play together. They tumbled, played, the swam, hiked, and laughed. The faces in photos on our refrigerators sprang to life and the lace of roots deepened into the future. 

Gift from the sea.

Amy, Dobie, Wendy, Winkie

Amy, Dobie, Wendy, Winkie

From South Beach, we brought home stones and driftwood to create an altar in our home.

Altar of stones and driftwood.

Altar of stones and driftwood.

On the drive home, memories of our time in the San Juans swirled. Warmth of the stones under my hands on the beach, sounds of water as it lapped against shell of the kayak, Luke stumbling through the living room early one morning to kayak out in hopes of seeing a baby seal and his face light up upon his return (Mom, they are the most adorable things ever.), clusters of bodies of the Littlest Birds as they played, scent of lavender, sparkles of sunlight as they shimmered on the sea, friendship…

“Don’t wish me happiness. I don’t expect to be happy all the time… It’s gotten beyond that somehow, “Anne Morrow Lindbergh goes on to write. “Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor. I will need them all.”

Courage, stones, strength, driftwood, a sense of humor, roots, moon over water.

Gift of the sea.

Pelindaba Lavender farm, San Juan Island

Pelindaba Lavender farm, San Juan Island


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Author: Dawn Wink

Dawn Wink is a writer and educator whose work explores language, landscape, wildness, beauty, and imagination.

52 thoughts on “Gift from the Sea—The San Juan Islands

  1. Pingback: Three Things Learned About International Travel | Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

  2. What a beautiful location, gorgeous pictures too!

  3. Looks like a beautiful place was this a family vacation? I spent last year with my family in Costa Rica it looks very similar. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • Troy,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to connect! Yes, we took our first family vacation away from the ranch in years. A very special time. I lived and taught in Costa Rica for a summer. Where were you? Thanks again!

  4. Very inspirational. Loved the way you described the sea. Awesome way to take a family vacation. I love it makes me want to go and visit. I would love to see an Orka in person.

    • Loretta, I’m so glad to share the experience of the sea with you. It really was something and such a gift to experience, at last. Wouldn’t that just be amazing to see an orca? Let’s lift this up to experience one day! Thanks so much for taking the time to write.

  5. Pingback: Dewdrops Birthday | Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

  6. What a neat trip for all of you ! Love the picture of you, mom and Bo and the twins whom I met at weddings. Love you, Cathy

    • Dear Cathy, oh, yes, the twins at the wedding! Of course you met them, and all now with Littlest Birds. I love that old photo, too. Even though my fly was down… 🙂 Love you!

  7. Charlie and I have good friends from Arlington, VA, Ed and Marita Dillery, who have a condo in Friday Harbor. We have visited them and toured the San Juans, which are absolutely, gloriously beautiful. I’m so glad you, Noe and the kids got to make that trip.

    • Dear Jane,
      You and Charlie have been so in our thoughts! Noé and I send prayers and healing wishes to you both. And you visited the San Juans, as well? I love knowing that we share this. Yes, absolutely, gloriously beautiful. Our love to you and Charlie!

  8. Awesome read wahine! your story relates to us in many ways. Whale (Kohol`a) in Hawaiian. Aloha!

  9. I’m so glad to see and hear how you made this trip happen with all the kids! I want to travel with my kids too, before they fly the nest. So this is inspiring and wonderful to read. Gotta grab the moment!

  10. Welcome to our state! I, however, live on the other side. Glad you were able to take this family trip. What a blessing!

    • Carmen, and what a beautiful state! We drove the length of Washington on our trip and got such a sense of the landscape. Beautiful. Yes, such a blessing to take this trip as a family.

  11. Magical, Winkie. Just plain magical! 🙂

  12. Thank you Dawn, for sharing your wonderful trip!! Charlotte

  13. Wonderful! I too have liked Anne Morrow Lindbergh ‘s Gift from the Sea, and upon re reading her book, I understand her ideas a bit more, viewing them at different times in the story of my life.

    • Judy, I am so glad to know this. I was thinking of re-reading Gift from the Sea now that I am in an entirely different chapter in my life. I can see how her ideas resonate differently when experiences through the different stages of life. Thanks so much for this inspiration to read again!

  14. Amiga hermoso!! que bien que pudiste hacer este viaje con tu familia, o y sin olvidar tus piedras me encantan eres una inspiracion. como dice Noe una MUJEROTA!!

    • Sí, amiga, te enseño las piedras cuando vengas a la casa. Son tan hermosas. Te van a encantar! Cuando estabamos allá, yo estaba pensando en tí, amiga, y tu amor por las playas y la mar. Mujerotas unidas! 🙂

  15. so happy you were able to finagle this trip, Dawn. You’re a powerhouse!

  16. Oh yes, yummmmmmm – stones, sea, breezes, smells, light-filled days and the driftwood, the stones and sparkling water – you described it all bringing back the memory of how it was for me there a couple of years ago!!!!!

    Thank you! Marta

    • Marta, I am so grateful this brought back all of those memories. Isn’t it an amazing place? You added breezes and light-filled days- yes and yes. Thank you for lifting up these memories!

  17. Great story and beautiful pictures.
    How is Dean doing?

    Dennis Hobbs

  18. How wonderful that you got to take this forever remembered trip. I, too, collect rocks and stones on my travels, everywhere I go. And, you got to stand in a lavender field! How beautiful! I’m glad you insisted on this trip happening. It looks like it was worth it. I have had a few of those trips where nothing was going to get in the way of Steve and I going, or me and my children going when they were younger and I was a single mom. Those kind of trips are always worth whatever we have to overcome to take them. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your family and trip with us, Dawn.

    • Kenna, Oh, was I ever thinking of you in that lavender field! It looked just like the places that we share so often. There is something about those stones from travels that carries the energy of the moment and memories into our home, isn’t there? I simply love. And I love that we share this. I’m so glad you made that trip that nothing was going to stop when your kids were younger. So very worth all. xox

  19. Lovely!!!

    Sent from my iPhone


  20. Lovely! New experiences are so illuminating!


    Sent from my little device to yours


  21. Fantastic, dear Dawn! So glad you got to spend time in one of my favorite locations. And while you were there, my Seattle granddaughter was here — just put her on the plane last night to return home. I love that fantastic city and the beautiful islands. Thanks for sharing your terrific photos. XO

    • Liz, I was thinking of you and your love of this area when we were there! No wonder you love this place so. And I loved thinking of you and your granddaughter together. xox

  22. You certainly picked one of our country’s greatest treasurers for your big family trip. We have yet to get our kids up there, but Jeff and I took a memorable camping trip thru the San Juans in the late 80s. There is something not so special about packing up a wet tent day after day, however …. I have never forgotten the beach stones and the huge purple starfish and the Olympic Peninsula lakes and rain forests! There is a sort of mystical quality to all things natural there. Thanks for sharing as always with your roots and family woven in – so beautiful! Miss seeing you – but like family, never feel distant. Am super busy getting a yoga/healing arts studio open in Eldorado – come see us in the Agora in September!

    • Sandy, I loved this! “…something not so special about picking up a wet tent day after day.” I cracked up. I can just see you and Jeff. I love knowing that we share these experiences of the beach stones, huge purple starfish, and all. And I love knowing that you’re getting a yoga/healing arts studio open in Eldorado! Sandy, this is wonderful – September, yes! Can’t wait. Love and miss you, too.

  23. Susan T., this time really was such a gift for so very many reasons that you understand. Thank you so much for reaching out to connect. Yes, as our own littlest bird flies from the nest… And your own healing rain! I’ve loved the photos and the experiences. Such a gift. I so look forward to sharing a cup of tea in your new home one day. Much love.

  24. Beautiful, Dawn! And so necessary right now. Much healing love to you and Noé and your littlest birds as Wyatt flies from the nest….

  25. I LOVED this!!!

  26. Dawn aka “Winkie,”
    It is amazing to me that we can be a half a world away and be enjoying the same sensory experiences–fragrant lavender, sun-baked stones, and wet wood. For me, gifts from Provence, France; for you, gifts from the Pacific Northwest. The universe must reward hard work and gratitude. Loved your acknowledgement of “gifts from the sea” and really love your new altar with its sea stones and driftwood. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Brenda, I thought of you when we were on the islands. You shared such detail and sense of place in your writing and photos of your trip and I knew we were sharing similar experiences. I loved that. Hard work and gratitude…it is a blessing when the universe comes together on this. 🙂 I love our new altar, too. It is on the mantle in our living room, so I can always see and all of those memories and those experiences come alive. Thanks so much for taking the time to connect. Especially as we both now dive into the semester!

  27. Lovely words, Dawn, to describe your travels to the San Juan Islands, to come together with your refrigerator photo friends you hadn’t seen in a long while. What a treasured memory for you and your family.

    • Alice, yes, treasured memories for a lifetime. And the sea, the sea! What an experience. I’m so glad that you enjoyed and grateful that you took the time to write and connect.

  28. A wonderful, celebratory post, Dawn! Sounds like a beautiful journey

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