Throwing a Wake

Throwing a Wake

Stephen Davis texted this recent photo with the message, “Emmett is on the left.”

Stephen’s son, Emerson, and Porter Hammer’s son, Ulysses; Emmett and Uli at some beach in Oregon. “Ulysses,” Steve said, isn’t that the best name?”

“As is your son’s name.”


IMG_2260Here is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

When each of us pass through the water, or, through extension, through life, we leave a path, we throw a wake. Outward. Outward and behind us; molecules disturbed and pushed into motion; people we pass by, interact with; there is a reaction to our actions, there is a difference because of our existence.

A wake (different definition) is an ancient tradition; honoring those who died; telling tales about them; celebrating their existence, the difference their passing by us made. Emmett Davis died, tragically, just a few nights ago; and the word spread quickly.

Seattle TV news, social media, cell phone memorials, a story shared with people who didn’t know Emmett by people who did. There was cell phone footage, fire, that couldn’t be unseen, there was disbelief and grief that couldn’t be held by only one person.

A path and its wake.

Twenty-two years old, Emmett was part of many communities. There is an admittedly-loose surfing community of those who live and surf on the Olympic Peninsula and Washington coast. Rather than cell phone conversations and texts with the topic usually centered on waves scored and waves missed, on skunkings and forecasts; the unfathomable loss became the topic. Dealing with the impact.

Impossible. Incomprehensible.

Though we have all experienced the loss of those we love, we do not understand tragedy. We don’t have the whole story, can’t see even a corner of any sort of supposed bigger picture, can’t rationalize grief away, can’t untangle one story from the many. So many stories, pushed forward, bumping and twisting and knotted; it becomes so difficult to believe they all meet on some horizon beyond that which we can see, difficult to believe there even is some sort of reason or order to the universe.

We grieve, and we have stories.

Stories of Emmett; Emmett at the Port Townsend Skate Park, Emmett playing with the children of his parent’s friends, stories of Emmett at school, at work, stories we haven’t yet heard, haven’t bumped into the person who can tell them.


Here’s mine: “Eager,” I told Steve; “that’s how I would describe Emmett.” I saw him with a friend, out on a point where, sometimes, west winds funnel into and blow the entire fetch of the Strait of Juan de Fuca; long period ocean swells mix with chop; tops of waves are blown forward; slower waves are overtaken and become part of larger waves. The water is the easy road for the wind. The waves become just a little more organized. While most of the energy takes that deep and easy forward route, driving down the deeper channels, some turns into explosions against the rocks, protective jetties, rocks moved and piled to absorb that thrust; jetties there to protect that harbor, that bay. Us.

I hadn’t yet made it out the path when Emmett and his friend came, running the other way. So excited, so eager. “Out of control,” Emmett said; “Crazy!” They stopped just long enough for Emmett to tell me they were going somewhere else; just to see. Somewhere else.

There are stories of surf spots around the corners, around the points, out of the wind, protected; where out of control energy becomes organized, where it all makes sense; fine lines wrapping, wrapping, wrapping; wrapping toward some farther horizon.





Numbness Isn’t…

…insulation.  It is a sort of temporary relief, at best, but the pain returns. Stinging, tingling, nerve endings shooting messages across revived synapses.

Paralysis. Blindness, self-induced or the reaction to tragedy one’s mind cannot process; not all at once.  Temporary. Some images won’t be erased.  They won’t remain, locked in some file, some separate place.  No. This file must be filled with better images.

Happier images.

Time. There is the split second before any loud, harsh sound hits, before our mind can identify what it is and what to do. There is the wave, softer, a cushion perhaps, just ahead of the wave that no one can stand against, the one that will push you back, knock you down, roll you, hold you down. Energy, greater forces. Irresistible.

“I… I have some really bad news…”

Dot dot dot.

Not enough time, not enough of a cushion.  Impact.

Eventually the wave will release you. Time. Not yet. You’re still caught in the swirl, still holding onto disbelief, some hope that this isn’t real. Nightmares fade, the details drop away, they don’t make sense when we try to retell, or even remember them.

It takes longer for reality.  disbelief. Numbness. Paralysis. then anger. So much anger, thrown in all directions. All directions.

Time. Hope. If there is a reason and a plan we cannot comprehend, then… No, even then, the anger must be hurled back at whatever or whoever. No. This was a mistake in the plot. This wasn’t right.

No. No. No.

No, we don’t get to write the script. Bad people would suffer, young people wouldn’t die.

Time. Time. Time.

Image (16) Knowing they can’t offer more than words and thoughts, friends want, desperately, to relieve some of your suffering. Perhaps a word by someone searching for the right words, when there are none, perhaps a wave of truly-felt condolence will relieve a portion of the pain.

Perhaps. That is the hope. But the pain will be real, full force, and you will endure it. 

You will look to the horizon, the waves forming, you will feel the warmth of the earth and sky, step back into the water, open the file, now over-filled  with snapshots of a life too-short.

You will no longer be numb. Not in that moment. In that moment.

Time. All wounds. Memories. Love. We throw out prayers in all directions.


Stephen Davis and Cap Score… Maybe

Stephen Davis is, no surprise, on the Big Island; missing out on really cold winds blowing over always-cold water.  So, what you see below is Cap (Steve has never given me his real name- maybe it’s Cap) captured mid-turn on his Go-Pro.  So, Cap in a cap, jauntily turned sideways.

cap with cap

The spot is called… I’m not trying to be coy here, Steve told me the name of the place he and Cap scored, alone (I forgot it), for three hours; after surfing another, well-known spot (Pine Trees, I think) where Stephen, unable to find the keyhole while trying to come in, got all cut up.  Ow!

So, what to do?  Neosporin, hockey tape, and a drive to this spot, waves accessible by paddling for fifteen minutes or hiking for a longer length of time.  Steve paddled; not sure about Cap.

Meanwhile, the cold winds keep on blowing; and, hey, I hit the rocks a few times last time I surfed, but I was wearing booties, full suit, hood.  Go Stephen, go Cap!

Oh; Stephen said the next day the spot was cr-ow-ded.  Timing is everything.

Original Erwin T-Shirt Design #4

All right, I tried to find the fax and scan feature on our new and hyper-confusing new computer. I have proof that I scanned a drawing before on this thing, but couldn’t seem to find out how to repeat the process on my latest illustration meant to become limited edition Original Erwin T-shirt Number 4.

NO, I had to download a free (thankfully) app from the overlords at Microsoft.

WE’LL see how this works, and worry that, one, I can find the scan in the files, and, two, if that’s successful, that I can do it again next time.


OKAY on the first point. SO, I had to work in Bremerton, had the original drawing, the negative image of this (sort of), and a fresh-from-Fed-Ex-Kinkos white-on-black version, and showed them to the sales crew at Miller (Kelly-Moore) Paint Company in Silverdale.  Kevin, the manager, and, this might ordinarily matter, a non-surfer, said that if I can get him three shirts, xxl, with long sleeves… So, YES, pre-sale.

ORDINARILY a non-surfer wearing a surf-themed t-shirt might even solicit a question from me, such as, “Do you actually surf?”  NOW, because most of my paint shirts come from Goodwill, I have been known to wear a Harley-Davidson shirt- haven’t ridden a motorcycle in 50 years, and then it was a stripped-down dirt bike.

This might prove slightly embarrassing if, say, one was gassing-up at the Sequim Costco and a real Harley-Davidson Dude, leather and tattoos and pony-tail and actually on one asks, “What kind’a hog you got?”

Not that this happened, not more than once.

AND, BESIDES, if Kevin is willing to risk looking like a Hodad, and he’s willing to promise a purchase; there’s some money to offset the cost of printing… this is something to put in the ‘hopeful-optimistic file,’ off-setting something four or five notches down on the ‘worry’ column.

BUT, as when reviewing anything with others, I realized I had to make some changes in the original Original Erwin. Did that during a break, went back to Kinko’s on the way home, borrowed some whiteout for some fine(er)-tuning, got another batch shot.

AGAIN, I am marketing these as originals, and, de facto (because the printing money goes out all at once and the sales dollars come back slowly) limited editions.  Between those sold (some still available) at Tyler Meek’s Disco Bay Outdoor Exchange, those I’ve sold out of the back of my surf rig, and those (few) I’ve given as presents, most of the first editions are gone.

THOUGH I am way more interested in doing the drawings, I’m working on my sales strategy.  My daughter, Dru, is returning to the northwest from too long in Chicago (most recently working at the “Onion,” quite status-y; and I’m hoping we can do something, something bigger.  I hear this Internet thing is catching on.

No, not blogs.

MEANWHILE I continue to get the occasional (small) wave and the occasional skunking, the northwest continues to be dominated by cold, offshore conditions, I’m past the 40,000 word mark on “Swamis,” the novel, and, as always, I have to go to work work.