Stories by Madronaman (9 matches)

The Madrone Seedlings!

I have a strong affinity for madrone trees. Though they grow along most of the west coast, their abundance at sea level and especially on islands in the Pacific Northwest is such that I feel they reflect the soul of this place. Their nonconforming and sensual nature has a way of attracting artists to their midst. In my immediate area, they grow in a few coastal places on the mainland and especially on the nearby islands. My dream is to live among them, but the real estate prices on the mainland where they grow is astronomical and living on an island cuts you off from your family. So instead I have been studying their very specific growing conditions and learning how to propagate them myself to plant them where I live. Last year I purchased 150 seedlings from a native plant sale at the community college in Bellingham. About 25 of these trees ... Read Full Story >>

2267 Reads

Someone Has To Be The First One To Show Kindness

A shipmate of mine took an interest in my paracord artwork, so I rigged his mug up much the same way I rope African djembe drums. Embellishing objects with decorative knotwork is a maritime tradition mostly practiced in the navy. I started doing it years ago with paracord because the stuff is so useful and comes in endless colors and patterns.

My shipmate is a gruff individual not known for his kindness, but I didn't let that stop me from spending a few days on his mug! People sometimes think that you shouldn't show kindness to someone who was never kind to you, but someone has to be the first to show a little love!


1485 Reads

Gratitude In The Disaster

It sounded like ice, that awful scraping cacophony I experienced up in icy Cook Inlet years ago. It didn't alarm me, and that's how I knew I was asleep, because there was no ice where we were. My door flew open, the engineer shouting, "Get Up!" I rolled out of my rack and climbed the few steps up to the wheelhouse, and there in front of us was the reef marker, the one that we aren't supposed to get anywhere near. We were hard aground, and in the open waters a 6 ft swell was rolling in over the reef, picking up the vessel and dropping us onto the reef with an intimidating shudder. We were stuck, and were were going to break up on that reef if we stayed there. In the dark Alaskan night near the time of the solstice, if you went into the water you only ... Read Full Story >>

1355 Reads

Love Jiu Jitsu

I was sitting in class with a coworker who's reputation I respected but I didn't know him very well. It was a couple hours or so after lunch, that magic time when most people's bodies are telling them to take a nap. I could see that my coworker was slightly distressed, but I didn't know the nature of that distress until the instructor called on him to answer a question.

He struggled for a moment and said that he just couldn't answer at that moment because he needed to eat something.


I was saving my chocolate chip cookie from lunch and gave it to him immediately, and in less than a minute he told me with sincere gratitude that he was much better. We are now friends, not just coworkers. It's like love Jiu Jitsu,-a little kindness at the right moment can have unbelievable results!

1090 Reads

Horchata Down!

I was at the taco truck the other day getting an horchata, which is a Mexican rice beverage that tastes like rice pudding. The vendor handed three young girls their horchatas, and then started to make one for me. A moment later and I looked over to see them staring down at the ground where the youngest, a girl of about 5, had dropped hers. Another opportunity for kindness! The timing was perfect to show them that even perfect strangers care with nothing expected in return.

The vendor handed me the horchata, but when I turned to give it to her the girls were gone! Fortunately they were walking up the street a short distance away, so I ran after them and gave her the drink. And then went back and got one for myself because that stuff is delicious!

986 Reads

The Cook's Drum

Over the years, I've rebuilt multiple djembe hand drums by purchasing rough mahogany shells and completely reworking them into playable artwork. There's just something about the tactile nature of a hand drum that draws me, along with beautifully oil-finished wood and of course lots of knot work! One day, I brought a drum shell down to the galley prior to taking it on deck to sand. The cook, a lovely woman in her late 70's and still going strong, started asking me questions about it. I've known her for about 10 years now, having first met her when she injured her ankle and had to be helped off the boat she was working on. I picked her up with a smaller vessel, brought her to the small boat harbor, and then practically carried her to her hotel room because she couldn't walk. When I brought the drum shell down, I had been ... Read Full Story >>

959 Reads

The Compassionate Captain

I have been promoted to tugboat captain, and will assume my first command early July. One of the most difficult challenges I face will be keeping morale high in an environment of high turnover and uncertain future. These are a result of our contract coming to an end within a year, when many expected to continue working here until they retired. The captain has a great deal of influence over the culture of a vessel. I have worked on tugs where the captain was constantly negative, and the rest of the crew followed suit. Except for me, that is! My intentions are nearly always positive, a fact which was summed up as a "good attitude" and was a factor in my promotion. I feel confident that a culture based on mutual respect, service to others, emphasizing strengths over weaknesses and compliments over criticisms will more than make up for the demoralizing winds ... Read Full Story >>

938 Reads

Hammock City!

Early last winter, while hunting for madrona trees along the top of a wooded cliff in the local state park, I came across a series of fishing nets strung between trees. As someone who looks at knotwork as an art form, it was like finding a wonderland of possibilities! I immediately set about connecting the various nets together so you could climb from one to the other without touching the ground (because when the the kids show up, it might become lava or some other imaginary hazard!) I brought my kids there soon after, and they loved it! In later visits, I rigged more and higher nets, swings to get up to them, and other fun items made of rope. Here's where the kindness aspect comes in, because I have been putting time and money into a public playground that could be taken down by park rangers at any time. I ... Read Full Story >>

881 Reads

Engaging The Crew

I have discovered upon taking my first command of my tugboat that I am more a servant to the crew now than ever. I've always been on the lookout for ways to help them in whatever they might need, now more actively so and with much more influence than as first officer. I wanted to share a leadership technique that has literally produced wonders in the past, a technique that I now apply to the entire crew. Our discussions tend to get rather personal because we spend half our lives on the boat. A crew of 6 living in close proximity for half of the year becomes your family away from home. In these discussions, I am listening and observing carefully to find out what they are passionate about. Then I engage them in their interest, encouraging them to take it to an artistic level. The results of this can be ... Read Full Story >>

685 Reads



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The Madrone Seedlings!