Hanging Out with Characters at the Fort
by C.K. Thomas
Fort Worden sits two miles from the Victorian downtown buildings of Port Townsend, Wash. Commissioned in 1902 as an army installation intended to protect Puget Sound, today it’s one of Washington’s most amazing state parks.
Camping here in the upper forested campground above the beaches of Puget Sound sets my imagination on fire. Plots and characters emerge around every turn as I hike around one tiny corner of this 434-acre expanse of 100 bright white buildings with dark green trim.
One morning in my wanderings, I happened upon a secluded military cemetery. Who were these children buried beneath white marble stones all in one long row, these cherubs among soldiers, all of whom died too soon? What a story the families of the departed, who lived and worked among these towering trees and buildings, above the salt waters of the sound, have to tell! I ask myself what if someone were to stop long enough to record the tale?
What if the Scotsman who built the strange castle-like home here for his sweetheart across the sea were to visit my dreams and talk with me? I’d ask if his heartbreak was irreparable when he returned to Scotland to fetch his bride, only to find her already married.
What if the barracks and base housing standing empty today and in need of repair house the spirits of former occupants? Restoration work continually in progress here might one day uncover fragments of forgotten scenes behind empty windows and bring to some preservationist’s ear faint echoes of memories drifting on the wind, longing to be heard.
The seeds of novels blow continuously along these saltwater shores, and my notebook brims with possibilities. The “what if’s” continue to pile up in my imagination, and one day the seeds planted now will emerge in the pages of some unexpected work of fiction I’ll be writing.
Enjoy your summer wanderings and remember to cultivate the visions that emerge in unfamiliar places. Go ahead; let the fresh scent of uncharted territory breathe new life into your fiction.
C.K. Thomas lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.