1984 may not have been the end of the world, but it was around the time my mother may have decided to move to Orcas Island. During the 80’s Orcas Island was a metropolis for wayward souls, looking for an escape from society . . . At least, that’s what I’m told. Several people became friends’ over-time, creating this illustrious group of characters. Most of them having children at some time or another, all of them with their own unique story . . . This is my story!
My name is Jasper R. Gillespie – I was born December 24th, 1994 in Mt. Vernon, WA – My mother lived here on Orcas Island from the early 80’s – the late 90’s – due to the lack of medical providers on the island, Mt. Vernon was the closest option for a conventional hospital birth . . . I’ve heard some horror stories of how that all came to be, but no need to get into these details at the moment. I spent the better part of my youth here on this island, a short-lived youth none-the-less.
There was a terrible accident when I was only three years old. It was the winter of 1997, one of the worst winters the island has seen in years… We were snowed in on top of Pickets Ln. My mother was boiling water on top of the wood-fire stove (she had built the 2-story fireplace herself, using river rocks, crystals & a collection of broken pottery & precious stones) – A canning kettel sat on top of the wood stove, the storm had taken out the power for our side of the mountain & it was probably dark inside the house at the time. As my mother was preparing the bath I must of decided it was time, as I had crawled into the boiling hot water without any pre-thought.
Only three years old, this may seem like a lifetime away, yet somehow I can remember it vividly. It’s a painful memory, to say the least, but one I shall wear with me my entire life. There’s no harm in memory, at least, that’s what I’d like to believe. Which is why I’ve decided to share a collection of my memories with whomever they may be shared with.
Apprentice of the Orcas – This isn’t the story of entitlement, nor some prologue to the future, this is just the story of a local kid who grew up to become an apprentice of the Orcas ~
PART 1 – OFF-BOARDING
Some amount of “time” has passed since I last stepped foot on this island. Coming home is a unique experience on it’s own – I boarded the Samish ferry in Anacortes with a 50+ pound backpack strapped to my shoulders with a few smaller bags in tow. Not an expectation within sight of my mind, I was sure this was going to be quite the unique adventure. Little did I know what was about to happen once I stepped foot back on the island.
Once aboard the ferry I made my way to one of the seats on the dockside of the vessel. The bags were heavy & I asked an attendant if I could leave them at my seat while wandering around to photograph the ship & surrounding views. For security purposes I had to have my bags on me at all times, a pain temporarily, understandable regardless. I skated my bags to the front lower deck of the ship & set my bags down, claiming stake to my lookout point for the journey. I stood proud & true, guiding my Canon camera around the islands as I pursued the elements of the light in a fleeting chase.
After an hour aboard the vessel we arrived at the docks of Lopez Island, this wasn’t our final destination, at least not for me. Several vehicles & walk-on passengers departed here, most of them tourists visiting for the 4th of July holiday.
Chapter 1 – Welcome Home
After departing Lopez we made our way around a few smaller islands. I could sense that we were getting close to Orcas Island; visions were flooding back of the dozens of times I had made this trip during my childhood. It didn’t take long before the ripples of the island were splashing against the sides of the ferry & the docks were within the frame of my camera.
It’s quite the spectacle, especially when it’s in full-color right in front of your face, approaching at a rapid pace. Finding words for my emotion at the time is a little challenging, so I’m just going to leave it at that. Overwhelming, to say the least. – THUD – We hit the side of the docks & came to a sudden stop. This was my final destination. I grabbed my bags & skateboard, balancing & wobbling my way to the bottom deck where I would off-board the vessel.
The people in front of me just didn’t seem to be as excited as I was; at least they seemed to be walking awfully slowly. The walk up the ramp to get on the island seemed to be an eternity of it’s own accord. My shoulders felt as if they were sinking into the island, straps of the backpack burning into my flesh. Relief was such a satisfaction, dropping my bag at the top of the hill after reminding myself I had forgotten to arrange a ride from the ferry terminal.
Standing on the side of the only road that went into the main part of the island with my thumb extended, hoping for a ride from one of the passerby’s. It took at least half-an-hour before a kind soul pulled over & offered me a ride into town. Half-attempting to skate my bags to the car was a balancing act on it’s own. A beautiful women in her 30’s had pulled over to offer me a ride, her name’s elusive at the moment, maybe she’ll show up again in the future. We talked about how much the island had changed in the last few years; she had moved to the island in recent years & wasn’t aware of all of the changes that I had to endure.
It seemed as if the island was much larger than I had previously remembered. It took a while to get from the ferry landing into Eastsound; eventually we made our way into town. This is where perspective really started to shift. I got dropped off on the main strip of road in front of Indian Island. Half of my mind wanted to explore the modern amenities of the Eastsound village, explore & see who had set up shop since 1999. The better part of me decided to avoid the confusion and excitement of going into town, so I made my way out towards Doe Bay.
I was on my way to see an old family friend, whom I had planned to stay with during part of my duration here on the island. Instead of just showing up, like I had originally planned, I borrowed a cellphone from my next ride & gave her a call… She had found out moments before I had called that her daughter had just passed away… Trying to be as respectful of the situation as possible I thought I’d find other accommodations for my time on the island. The resort at Doe bay wanted to charge $45 for a campsite for the evening, which I thought was a ridiculous expectation for a local to pay.
I had some other family friends on the island that I could potentially stay with, yet no point of contact with any of them. I hiked up Pickets Ln. with Applegate’s property in mind as my next destination. When I got up to the property with the 100 foot sailing vessel on the side of the mountain I quickly realized that nobody was home. This was a bit disappointing, as I was hoping I would find sanctuary here. I turned & headed back down the hill, with a portion of thought to leave the island & just give up…
It didn’t take long for me to get a ride back into Eastsound, the main part of the island. I made my way up to the library with the last bit of daylight to figure out my situation for the evening. I had remembered that my first ride had mentioned a place called Mt. Baker Farms that had just opened up in town. They offered family campsites at a pretty affordable price. I looked them up online & gave them a ring to see if their was any availability. It was the calm before the 4th of July, the storm of tourists were bombarding the islands for the holiday, which made me skeptical if I’d be able to even find an available place to stay at an affordable price. It seems luck may have been in my favor, as they had an available campground for the evening, they even offered me a discounted rate…
Chapter 2 – Setting Up Camp
This wasn’t the ideal situation; I was setting up camp on some strange property surrounded by strangers. This didn’t feel like the home I remembered any longer. Change is inevitable, with time, comes change. I wasn’t expecting my home to be the same by any stretch. In-fact it was the rumors of the different changes taking place on the island that had attracted me home in the first place.
When I called we set up a time to meet, since I don’t carry a working cellphone on me while traveling, unless it’s an emergency. I had arranged to arrive at 7 pm, which they said was perfect, as they would be touring the property on the private train that operates on a rail spanning across the 80-acre estate. This sounding pretty intriguing, I made sure I arrived early to ensure my spot on-board this trip.
Walking up the street from the library, I came across my old elementary school. Continuing on around back past the high school & through the skate-park I found myself across the street from the estate.
The driveway extended quite a ways up a roughly paved road, farm vehicles parked alongside after a long days work in the field. It had also been a long day for me & the driveway seemed to stretch on forever. I found a few ounces of energy that I must have had saved somewhere for later use & hiked myself up the driveway. There was a split in the driveway where I dropped my bags temporarily, making my way to find where I was supposed to check-in. I still haven’t seen a single soul on the property, it seemed like a ghost town. It took a few minutes before I heard a call from one of the barns, where some people were gathered around a BBQ.
I found myself standing on top of a set of train tracks that stretched off into the forest on the edge of the farm. This seemed like quite the mysterious estate, the possibilities & history seemed endless. I could write wonders into the winter about the property on it’s own, yet it was only going to be my home for the evening.
An older respectful lady walked up to me, I think her name was Ruth; we had spoken on the phone about an hour ago. The train was getting pulled out of the garage & gearing up for the ride around the tracks. I got to speak briefly with her about the history of the property, before too long another family had arrived for the train ride.
Clunk-clunk-clunk-clunk the old train burst into life & the conductor shouted “all aboard”. Children from the family that had arrived seemed to be the most excited in the group. The kids got to play with the train whistles as the conductor and rest of the crew prepared the tracks / train. We still had about 15 minutes before the planned 7pm departure. An old train house / studio was at the boarding platform; they opened it up & allowed us to explore the interior. Once the doors opened I could instantly tell the memorabilia in the building could tell me some amazing stories. This was a mesmerizing sneak-peak into the past, a great way to pass the time.
Since I was the only person with an accurate time-teller I got dubbed the “time machine” – I found this to be quite the appropriate title. Some of the family & crew stayed on the train while I got to explore the mini museum with a few of the others. The old building was filled with antiquities from old train stations around the globe, quite the site to see. Numbers on my watch were creeping up on the 7PM timeline we had, taking one last gander around the building before making my way back onboard the train. Chugga-chugga-choo-choo & we were off into the horizon.
A woman named Captain Barb was in charge of switching the tracks after we took off. We took off through the farm fields, heading towards the forest. Before we arrived at the forest edge, the campsites on the left-hand side were pointed out to the passengers. “And over here we have our premium campsites with custom tents imported from Australia” – Artistic & colorful tents poked out of the nearby trees. The train puttered along the tracks, slowly creeping into the approaching forest. Now trees surrounded us, ahead you could see a platform with a meadow in front. This is where we had the chance to off board, stretch our legs & explore the surrounding area. After 10 minutes or so we re-boarded the train to finish the lap around the estate.
We pulled around to the platform with the train museum, going into reverse to push the train back into place. The puttering of the engine eventually came to a stop & we got to off-board from that adventure.
I joined Ruth in a golf cart to grab my bags & bring them up to my campground for the evening. After dropping my bags off we rode over to the main building to check-in. This was the main-house on the property. The main room was boasting with pride, a library stretched across one of the walls while other antiquities were sprawled out in professional décor. We approached the main office area where I was told I got an upgraded campground & also got offered a discount! The hospitality of this place was beyond comforting, which helped me feel at home.
After taking care of the financial aspect I took a quick glance at the titles in the library. One of the books peaked my interested, it was titled “1971” – I pulled this book off the shelf, without realizing it was a personal journal, which was discovered shortly after. Flipping the book open to a random page I discovered some of the most intricate English scripture, almost impossible to decipher if you were not the hand that wrote it. It turns out, this was the personal journal of the women that had purchased the property with her daughter to start up a new family business.
After exchanging a few more words we headed back to where my campsite was. I still had to set up my camp for the night & the sun had already begun to dissipate. Time was of the essence, so I quickly threw together the cheap tent I had purchased from Walmart for $25 the other day . . . The tent I had purchased barely made it through the first night . . . Once I got my campsite set up I unpacked my bags & made sure I still had everything that I thought I brought . . . Upon realization that I had no food I decided to walk into town again to find something to eat. It was getting late, Island market was my first choice, and so I stopped & grabbed some snacks to hold me over until tomorrow.
Once I got back to my campsite I made a small campfire in the pit. Inspiration had been brewing within me all day, I just haven’t had the time to put it to use, until this moment. I pulled out my camera, set it on the table & hit record . . . The video couldn’t be inserted into this novel like the rest of my photography, but basically it was a short speech I made for myself about the independent freedom I had found again. Being back on the island for the first time in a long-while gave me a little bit of anxiety, as I was still unsure of what it had all become.
That night I didn’t sleep so well, constant tossing & turning prevented me from entering any of the etheric realms. When I speak of “etheric realms” this is in context to astral projection through the dream world, a trick I taught myself many years ago. These type of lucid dreams will come once in a life-time for most people, if they’re lucky enough to experience it at all . . . For me, they are a constant reminder of who I am & what I’m capable of. A blessing, yet a curse of it’s own disguise, none-the-less something I’ve learned to live with.
After several hours of some miserable half-attempt to get some rest the sun started poking through the trees. Since it was starting to warm up I pulled my sleeping bag out of my tent & actually got some sleep for a few hours in my hammock. Eventually waking up around 8-9 in the morning, I walked into town & grabbed a cup of coffee. Still unsure in the moment if I would be hanging out around the island, or if I’d disband my mission & head “home” – it didn’t take me long to remember that this was my home.
With that reminder fresh in my consciousness I went back to the library again & this time gave my mother a call. A youthful sounding women older than the majority of the readers answered on the other line – this was my mother; Lyn Gillespie, a colorful illustration of her own imagination. She may seem a little “not all there” sometimes, but let’s face it, are any of us? I love this woman with everything I have, as she’s the only family that was around for me during the majority of my lifetime. Sure, there are other family members & they all played their role in my lifeline at some point or another. I’m still unsure if they’re deserving of the entitlement that comes with being family though. Enough of the trifling family drama, that’s not for this part of the story. I still need to figure out a way to stay on the island.
The previous day I had sent my mother a text, letting her know my situation. Gratitude took over when I read her text in reply saying that she had a few different friends I could possibly stay with. I spent the greater part of the morning arranging the details for my next campsite, trying to save on the expenses of a commercial campground. It didn’t take long before arrangements had been made for me to get picked up around noon. I still had one thing left to do, pack-down my campsite . . . With less than an hour left on the clock until I was supposed to get a ride to my next destination I hurried back to my campsite.
It’s always a lot harder to pack up a camp than it is to set up; everything seems to fit together perfectly, yet it’s impossible to pack it back. I did my best to get the campsite cleaned up & packed out before noon. It was slightly after noon, but I was making progress. I grabbed the bags I had packed up & skated down the dirt road until it turned to pavement, than I continued, trying to hold my balance without falling over. About a quarter – half mile is how far this driveway stretches & heading downhill is a lot easier than going up.
I could see an old gold car on the other side of the red fence; this must have been my ride. It had been over 18 years since I last saw the man that was supposed to pick me up. Unsure if this was a total stranger or an old friend I approached the vehicle to investigate. Upon closer inspection I was pleased to discover it was good ol’ Uncle Rob, the father of a close childhood friend. I threw my bags in the trunk of the car, an awkward fit, but we made it work. We exchanged some words than I hopped in the car & we made our way to my next campsite.
We drove through Moran state park & headed towards Olga. The lake seemed to be different, so did the park, everything had a more modern look & feel to it. This place was slowly becoming a victim to the modern amenities of the “mainland society” that some of us had once tried to escape. Not so far past the park was where we were staying, so it didn’t take long for us to get there, maybe a 15-minute drive from town. I set up the cheap tent I had purchased, even though Rob had offered a larger tent. It took me until my tent completely fell apart for me to give up on it & finally set up the bigger tent.
A few days into camping on the island, somewhat restless nights had passed me by. Followed by some very interesting first few days on the island . . .
Chapter 3 – Watering The Roots
Family roots are important, probably the most important part of our personal legacies. From the house you grow up in, to where you go to school, it all adds up to something in the end. The end is not in reference to some eventual dark ending, it’s just the concept of evolution on it’s own, how things add up to make us who we are today.
I am honestly somewhat disgusted by what society has done to this island & how it has evolved. This is inevitable, as I have that opinion on the majority of the modern day . . . Now is time for me to let go of whatever hatred of modern day influence I have, for I have yet to focus on the present. There isn’t much that I can do to change the present state of the island, yet there’s plenty I can do to learn from it.
I spent the better part of my first two days stirring up the pot. Now we get to see where the smoke blows . . . I didn’t really take any actions at all against anyone on the island, it’s the concept I set seed to though. Quickly realizing taking action would be the wrong resolution to the issues at hand. What seemed to be more important at the moment was finding a job, as my cash surplus was dwindling to the border of non-existent & extinct. Now I have to “work” – give into the modern concepts of society that I had grown so against. Well, where in the world will I work?
I’ve spent the better part of the week trying to figure out where I’m going to submit an application & who had job openings. There’s plenty of people that come to work on the island during the luxurious summer, yet run away during the winter, which meant most of the summer jobs had already filled up. There seemed to be plenty of promise for work after the summer season, so now it’s just a matter of keeping alive until than. Which means I’ll still need to find a job.
A portion of the reason these memoirs are being written is to hopefully succumb some type of sustenance from it. Whether it’s through poor sales on a donation basis, or for nation-wide profiteering sales, I could honestly care less at this point. I don’t have anything better to do so I’m creating my own story, in addition to that I’m also working on a fiction piece titled “The Third Raven of Odin” – which I might add is quite an interesting topic to write about. I’ve not the slightest of what these writings shall ever become, or if they’ll even end up published . . .
Actually, I do know this will eventually end up published, even if I have to press the plates myself. Which could be made possible as one of my friends on the island owns & operates a printing press. Even if I have to take on an apprenticeship in the shop to save up enough to cover the costs of production. There’s still the fact that food costs money & on this island it’s pretty damn expensive. I’ve been making Origami charms, selling those on a donation basis & trading for coffee change.
So, this is what rock bottom feels like? Probably not, but it’s as close as I want to get. I’ve already managed to lose my cellphone & professional camera in my first two weeks on the island . . . Luckily I got my camera back, still not sure whatever happened to that cellphone . . . Maybe it’ll turn back up in the future, maybe not? Either way I hope it ended up in good hands, not in the hands of the ocean as additional pollution to our mother Earth. How will a cellphone decompose into minerals after a million years or so?
Without a phone finding a job may prove to be difficult, luckily for me we live in a modern age & e-mail is more common than a phone call for a job applicant. My name was known around the island, it had just been a few years since I was last around & this was the first time I’ve been able bodied for work. I won’t be looking for a job much longer, so I’ll be bringing this first short story to an end, for now . . .
Let’s end this on an interesting note “Well fear not ol’ Evergreen, for your stories are safe now upon the frequencies of the wind & they shall only whisper them to those that listen . . .” ~ Culinn ~