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 … ?”
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.