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Dig Deep

Island Life

Somewhere in my archives, at least mentally if it has indeed been lost to the physical world, there is an image of a baseball viewed through scrub and small trees. For as long as I have been driving I have also been stopping in odd places to record images to various media. In this case, I don’t remember whether I came to a screeching halt or looked for a convenient turnaround spot and doubled back, but I did stop and explore and commit at least one image to 35mm Tri-X Kodak safety film. What caught my eye was the vague outline of a baseball on the side of an abandoned building somewhere in upstate New York back in the 1970’s. I actually traded a print of this shot for a signed copy of Dan Okrent’s Ultimate Baseball Book for a gift for my Dad, but that’s another story. Our focus here will remain on things found on a barn at Young’s Corner here on the Island.

Five years ago a barn appeared here courtesy of the efforts of Islanders Duane Dietz and Pat Kane. It was their intent to create a structure that had basic barn-like utilitarian functions, while at the same time remaining in the character of vintage Vashon. It seems that, in form, they achieved that goal, as they have been asked recently by an historical preservationist just why the barn hasn’t made the historical buildings register. To augment the illusion of the patina of time, they have been slowly adding a variety of farm and garden related signs to its exterior. Along with these bits of memorabilia, two paintings of mural-like scope and an appearance of advertising have been commissioned to add color and character to the view from the road. Both times, Islander Annie Brulé was tapped to produce both an enlarged reproduction of a Vashon chicken farmers’ co-op sign, and just recently an "apocryphal advertisement" to grace the north end of the barn. For subject matter, Brulé, Dietz and Kane brainstormed for a fictional product and came up with the concept of Cap’n Vashon’s Maritime Geoduck Elixir.

For me, the notion of an elixir evokes images of snake oil salesmen, so I checked with Wikipedia which defines elixir as: "…a clear, sweet-flavored liquid used for medicinal purposes, to be taken orally and intended to cure one’s ills…" There is also reference made in this definition to alchemy and eternal life. While the whole giant mollusk-sourced, clear and sweet thing doesn’t really work for me, the geoduck’s reputation as one of the longest living species around, with one such individual known to have survived for 168 years, speaks to the concept of waters of life and potions for eternal youth. It was also stated that elixirs were known to have been stored in clocks to "…amplify the effects of immortality on the users." I like the time reference here, in conjunction with the fact that, while a contemporary construct, the giant blue bottle with period type-face and graphic symbols mimics something from the 1920’s or ‘30’s. One could perhaps go another step with the Waters of Life thing being a significant religious reference, and suggest that maybe we have our next generation of a Jesus Barn in the making. One could dispense with the religious undertones and anticipate that it is the strength of the exterior graphics that allow this barn to pose as a significant, Island-based terrestrial marker buoy, lighthouse, or a 3D, GPS recalculation alternative. As a native of Northwest waters, the geoduck was named by the Nisqually tribe, and it might be suggested that while the translation of its name- dig deep- suggests its physical, residential strata in some of the shoreline communities of this area, it could also infer that all this digging for symbolism should maybe give way to the basic concept that a bit of humor is always a welcome elixir in these times.

To see the Cap’n Vashon bivalve extravaganza in real life, head to the intersection of Vashon Highway and Cemetery Rd. and head east until you can’t anymore. At that point, which is Young’s Corner, your only alternative is to take a 90 degree right to the south and the barn will be on your right. As an alternative, and one that will hopefully continue to be a part of this column, you can journey cybernetically to the land of the YouTube and search out either Cap’n Vashon’s Maritime Geoduck Elixir, or type in the enigmatic gibberish that is the address of this video: , where you will find some experimentation in black and white that soon gives over to more conventional living color, video story-telling fare. Comments are always welcome-