Editor’s note: This is the introduction to Port Townsend author Corky Parker’s new book, “La Finca: Love, Loss, and Laundry on a Tiny Puerto Rican Island.” An excerpt from the book begins on Page 10.

GUESTS ASK. All the time. “So what made you want to do this?” “How’d you … ?” or “Why … ?”

In the 1990s, Corky Parker decided she was ready to escape her Seattle work life and embark on a tropical getaway. Eventually, her family found an eco-lodge to buy and manage on a small Puerto Rican island. (Corky Parker)
One woman’s path to paradise on a small Puerto Rican island was a 20-year journey full of love, humor and loss

Funny, it seems so natural to me. Don’t we all want to grow up to be innkeepers on tiny tropical islands? Isn’t the “Swept Away”/”Gilligan’s Island”/”Fawlty Towers” combo fantasy simply basic human nature? Regardless, I never know how serious the guests are, or how much time they have. Because answering could take a while.

Sometimes I wonder if they’re asking for do-it-yourself instructions on how to ditch the work world. They might want to know if it’s safe, or a good investment, or if anyone can do it. Sometimes they’re pretty open about being jealous of my good luck — I’ve learned to laugh that one off. I’m usually busy hanging the laundry, or duct-taping a fix to some emergency, so I am able to dodge the questions. But even if I am in the mood and have the time to answer, I still get stymied on where to begin. It’s a bit like peeling an onion. One layer reveals more of what’s underneath. If I go deep enough, someone might end up crying.

Truth is, I’m not sure exactly what made me fall in love with a piece of property on a small Puerto Rican island when I was 40 years old, now more than 20 years ago. Not just fall in love, mind you, but act on it — make a commitment.


My book is the story of La Finca Caribe: three acres in the hills of Vieques, a small Caribbean island just off Puerto Rico’s eastern coast. It’s about why and how I and my family found it, loved it, and held onto it — even though we had pretty much no idea what we were doing. It’s about listening — even in the din of tropical depressions — to your spirit place, inside and out. Ultimately, it’s about discovering how much we can learn from a place, and the futility of asking: ¿Por qué?

It’s difficult, and a little daunting, to try to capture one’s memories over 40 years with certitude. I’m so bad with numbers, whole years could be off. Luckily, I usually have my journal and sketchbook nearby as some oddball form of witness. Nonetheless, in case I got anything wrong, I’ve changed some names and locations, and condensed conversations to the best of my memory.

The part about the magic, though — I’m totally clear about that.