|From left to right: Kerrigan Byrne, Tiffinie Helmer, Cyndi Stark, and Cynthia St. Aubin.|
Have you ever been in a group of people with whom you just felt comfortable in less than a day?
You all come from different states, make different livings, wear different styles, and yet, there's a snap and suddenly, you're all aligned. Everyone is smiling comfortably, talking as if you're all old friends. Laughter happens often, and it's got the full-bodied warmth that only comes when you're in the company of your people.
Speaking to anyone in the group is a pleasure. The myriad of personalities are as reflective as jewels, and all fit snugly into the setting in any order. The thought of departing for home is bittersweet. You've met your tribe. Your coven. The mothership bearing your kind. The clique that makes your high school group look shallower than a snail's slime track.
This weekend has once again reaffirmed that the world of literature is my home. I met people who read, wrote, edited, and assisted authors, and no matter what we discussed, books came up over and over. There were debates over interpretation and style, and genre preference. We shared authors we loved and spoke passionately about what a heroine is and isn't. Through it all, there was no anger or unkindness, just honesty and respect for each other's preferences. I witnessed intelligence and wit and so much humor my cheeks are still sore, yet I can't let go of my smile.
The tireless ladies that collaborated to write The Witches of Port Townsend series are a perfect balance and it is clear that these books are more than just stories. They are a labor of love created by four women whose affection, support for, and belief in each other is obvious just by watching them together.
Tiffinie Helmer is a fascinatingly earthy woman. I don't mean in the way that the word has been twisted. In truth, she brings back the real meaning with a natural and honest beauty that reminds her fellow women that confidence is the ultimate sexy. There is not an inkling of judgement. Her easy smile is genuine and warm, and when she hugs you, it feels like home.
Cindy Stark is nothing less than delightful. Her bright smile holds such sweetness and I'm so very sad to say I did not get enough time to talk to her. She's lovely both in visage and heart, and there's something about her that says there are many interesting facets to her. Watching and listening to her reminds me that no matter how smooth the surface, intriguing undercurrents are constantly in motion.
Kerrigan Byrne is one of those women that could seduce the planet with a wink and a smile. Her wit and confidence are irrefutable, and her presence can be felt even as she is avidly listening to someone speak. There is a radiating strength within her that bolsters you, makes you stand up straighter, and be in the moment. She is startlingly beautiful, in a way that you'll find yourself staring, and then when she speaks, you'll be laughing at her humorous deep savvy and grounded personality.
Cynthia St. Aubin is instantly charming. Never before have I met someone whose joy is expressed without reservation or self-consciousness as Cynthia. She is open-hearted, humble and has a kindness so obvious, I want to follow her around like a Disney forest creature. Her classic beauty is only emphasized by the honest appreciation and affection she freely bestows, and her quick mind bubbles over with humor and intelligence.
Port Townsend is more than just a pretty tourist town with gables and widow's walks. Streets and buildings bearing discreet historical placards hold shops, restaurants and galleries. A short wander along Water Street has such variety, it's impossible not to find something on display that won't tempt you to lighten your wallet, even if just a little. The history is rich and deep. Listening to our very knowledgeable tour guide, Grymm, I felt a kinship to this place. There is something that speaks of strength here. Through turmoil and hardship, this town has more than survived, it's retained its beauty and mystery. There are talks of hauntings and odd happenings. Whether you believe or not, there is no doubt that this place has a presence of its own.
Grymm (aka Geoff) told eye-widening histories and details that only a native could relate. His enthusiasm was bone-deep, but not overbearing. It made me want to know more, and I found myself recounting the tales of sailors going to sea - often against their will. The history wasn't whitewashed; we learned about nefarious deeds, societal chasms, and the use of Chinese immigrants as veritable slave labor, as well as the swells of prosperity and strife.
The Old Consulate Inn is the Bed & Breakfast in town. Other locales might be grander, but they have nothing on this stately Victorian overlooking a lighthouse and marina. The care and detail of each room is impeccable and unique. Modern amenities are present, but blend beautifully and are disguised with an artful hand. The decor is true to the period but never feels cluttered. Instead there are nooks and shelves and niches displaying pieces to inspect and admire. I found it comfortable, and not as though I was a naughty child exploring forbidden rooms, because the atmosphere is welcoming and homey. The nearby clock tower at the Jefferson County Courthouse chiming the hour always made me smile. It never caused me any lost sleep or annoyance even though my windows faced the building across the park. In truth, I slept more soundly and longer at the inn than I have in months. Breakfast is presented at 9:00 like clockwork and is a work of art in itself. The proprietors are everything for which one could hope, looking quite at home in their period appropriate clothing. Cindy is graceful, elegant, and capable. Her wry humor and economic movements speak of her confidence, and when she isn't bustling about behind the kitchen door, she is the epitome of a gracious hostess. I liked her immediately. Nathan is a charmer with a quick smile and an intriguing mustache. Though suited to perfection, he never failed to pitch in when necessary, and offered seamless transitions through breakfast and an event or two. I saw more of him than Cindy, but had the impression that the two were truly partners, and both came and went with an elegant discretion that I envy. The staff is friendly and almost fairy-like in their spectacularly efficient and nearly invisible comings and goings. The rules of the house are not overbearing or unreasonable. Rather, they carry common sense, common courtesy, and a respect for the graceful home and its inhabitants.
As I am a cube dweller with an appallingly sedentary lifestyle, I found I was unable to keep up with all of my fellow adventurers and had to bow out of a few events. However, the soiree, two history tours, dinners and author meet-and-greet were a swirl of laughter, fun, conversation, excellent food and drinks, and company I'd keep again, given a chance. This was a trip I will remember always. I very much hope everyone I met and with whom I spent such swiftly departing hours stay in touch.