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Vashon Vision: Future Found in a File Cabinet

Vashon Vision: Future Found in a File Cabinet

Cleaning House, Finding Treasures

Ah, the new year, a time to fall in line with my better self and ponder the things I plan to do, change, rectify and/or discard in my life. Nothing too heady here; I’m thinking clean closets, no second helpings, walking more and talking less.

One of my first endeavors included cleaning out and removing two file cabinets from my upstairs linen closet alcove. Initially, I was counting on eight gliding drawers of storage space to keep the documental detritus of my life locked and loaded for easy retrieval. Instead, the behemoths acted more like steel sarcophaguses where entombed papers and “collectibles” awaited an afterlife never realized.

In one file cabinet, under a pancake-stack of CDs, rested a zipped-up leather portfolio cocooning a bunch of forgotten writings, cards, and photographs—seemingly, mementos I held in higher esteem than the neighboring discographies of 80’s greatest hits and funk legends. Inside the portfolio, I found a document titled Homework: Vashon Vision.

I read the first few lines (head-tilt and curious puppy-face on full display). After feather-dusting the cobwebs from my head and shaking a few bread crumbs out of my ears, I remembered Vashon Vision was an exercise to write down what I wanted my life to look like, that is, prodding pen, paper, and intent to speak to my future self. The homework assignment from twenty years ago was part of a life-coach curriculum I was participating in with a friend of mine, Kathy, who was seeking her certification in the field. I was her willing student and she my steadfast, whip-smart mentor.

At the time I wrote Vashon Vision, I was living in Seattle commuting to a corporate job that I feared did not see the magic in me, nor I in it. In my heart, I wanted something else, a day without meetings, posturing or feeling less-than. I also wrestled with the reality that Seattle had outgrown me. My sweet little Green Lake neighborhood was being roused from its century-old sleep by the pin-pricks of “progress” and development. After the little brick house next door to me was torn down only to be replaced a spec-box four times its size, I thought I needed to figure out my next move to escape such urban encroachment and loss of place. How did I see myself in the coming years and just what would a good day look like to me?

My sweet little Green Lake cottage before the neighborhood’s building boom.

The following excerpts are from that writing assignment, where I waxed on about what a move to my favorite Puget Sound island and imaginary farmhouse would look like.

HOMEWORK: Vashon Vision (circa 2003)

“A rooster crows and the lone wale of a ferry horn follows, cutting through the morning fog and silence alike. The warmth and stillness of being in bed makes it difficult to leave such a blanketed embrace, that is until the snorts and gurgles of a sleeping bulldog morph into a full-blown snore — my cue to rise and shine. Downstairs, my ears are keen to another morning sound: the welcoming call of a programmable coffee pot—first rumblings, then escaping steam, drip, drip, drip, then the aroma escapes the confines of this little appliance and finds its way right to my nose.

First coffee on the front porch stairs, as the morning is young (so says this early riser). I wonder what the day will bring—routine, surprise, contentment, a little angst, a little intrigue? I lock on the sight of deer drifting through the tall grass, and I let them linger long enough to stare at me and me at them. As they graze my garden, I think it’s time to shoo them off, knowing they’ll be back by evening when my attention is elsewhere. Maggie wedges her wrinkled mug through the unlatched door and senses adventure mere yards away. A quick piddle in her favorite spot, then off to expedite the deer’s departure and save me the trouble.

My old farmhouse casts a spell of cozy familiarity, of earlier times, of forgotten history. It has stood in its place for a long time, when roads were mud and timber king, when letters were hand-scripted on paper stiff, when the mosquito fleet of Puget Sound dodged flotillas of schooners and masted giants. I know not the history seen through the windows of my house, but my imagination finds no limits to that which I have not experienced, but hold in my heart. I see the mistress of the house retrieving sheets off the clothing lines as a storm approaches, along with a young man carrying a smile and a weighty bushel of fresh-picked apples, his cheeks blushing with the same color found in the basket. Children clamor down the stairs to intercept his windfall. Minutes later, all run for the porch as clouds like the burgeoning bushel can hold their contents no longer.

My daydream takes me to work at hand, some simple chores: feed the chickens, thin some apple tree branches and ponder the story I’m writing. My toes cannot escape the slap of wet grass saddled with dew. The dawn is young and the sun has yet to fully join us. Maggie acts as scout, cutting through the meadow like a stealthy, invisible, tigress. She leads me to the berry patch for breakfast pickings.

After breakfast, I go to my study, to a desk reserved for writing. My study is a small room, well-appointed but not too cluttered (very wishful thinking), and with a view of the garden and the changing cloudscapes skirting the tree line. I have another desk in another room, but it’s reserved for the daily duties of paying bills, and maintaining one’s paper-trail life. And yes, it’s quite cluttered.

I have several projects going, one a freelance piece, another an essay on gardening, and one an evolving story begging to be a book. I hum a song in my head and try to pen the lyrics before the melody evaporates and leaves me in silence. I remember enough to tuck the words away for another day when more music seeks refuge in my head, or I seek refuge in the music.

I write throughout the morning, but not without taking breaks to hug Maggie, drink more coffee and take a clip around the garden again. A neighbor stops by for fresh eggs, rewarding me with a half-pint of honey for my hen’s efforts. We catch up. We laugh. We wave goodbye.

I finish the afternoon writing and rewriting. As shadows lengthen, the sun’s arch towards the Olympic range reminds me it’s time to take a walk before dusk—time to rediscover that the inspiration in words comes from the inspiration in life.”

My first spring on Vashon, where aspiration met sylvan reality.

How Time Flies…

Posts like these are a little awkward for me. I’ll be the first to say there are no magic waves-of-the-wand to make things happen; but based on my own experience, I think any time I focus on what I do want, I find myself on a better path to understanding and realizing my direction. Writing down my perfect day got me started. Course corrections and awareness led me further to find my beloved farm and the solid touchstones of friends and family. Twenty years later my dream found a place to park.

peach palace vashon
2004: Home Sweet Home right before I moved in.
2022: original siding exposed, new paint makes her shine!

Island Life: Words to Live By…

This “Hiway Haiku” of mine is right at home on Vashon Island, just like me.


  1. Good Morning Tom! As always is the case, seeing your post in my email list brought a smile to my face. Hearing about how your dream of a Vashon Island home came to be was lovely and so encouraging to know that dreams do sometimes come true. You are a painter with words and I wonder if you have ever considered compiling your posts into a book. I remember reading books long ago by Gladys Tabor. She wrote of her country home and her beloved pets and the animals who wandered by to wink hello. Her books were enchanting and comforting and I think one written by you and coauthored by Buddy would be as well! Blessings! Alice

    • Good Morning Alice, I love your idea of a compilation of posts. So my next move is to place some Gladys Tabor books on hold at our local library and check our her stories. Thank you! Now I just have to convince Buddy to be onboard. He’s a bit private in nature. 😉

  2. I agree with Alice, it’s always delightful to see an email in my inbox from you. Thank you for sharing your story about moving to Vashon – so well written! Also, I think you’re a gutsy guy, Tom, tackling not one but two file cabinets of documents. It’s only February and you’re already done?! That’s a job that could take me a year. Already looking forward to your next post and pix.

    • Linda, I laughed at your tackling-two-file-cabinets comment. Trust me if I didn’t have a generous friend helping me and cheering me on, those metal monoliths would still be blocking my way. Thank you for your generous words and visit. Tom

  3. such a wonderful story. and dreams do come true if you work for them. i’ve always wanted a house in the woods and that is what i am turning my guest house into, albeit, it’s in the city. it’s almost done and i am moving in soon. gulp!

    • Good stuff Joyce, how exciting to move into your “new” guest house, planted in an urban forest of your making. Here’s to future dreams and enjoying the current ones. Well wishes, Tom

    • You know Anne, I never thought of that dubious inclusion in my day: deer. Next time I’ll envision the deer off in the distance, walking down another lane to greener pastures. Too funny. Thank you for the kind and insightful words, Anne. Tom

  4. Tom, you write so well. I am always totally enchanted by your words, pictures, thoughts and activities. Keep them coming…Debbie in North Carolina

  5. What a beautiful find! I recently found a dream journal from 2007. Many entries are a page or two, but this one in particular was four pages of detail.
    I wrote: ” Large farm compound, dirt driveway, large white farmhouse, big porch.” We moved to the western plains in 2015, and settled into my maternal grandmother’s white farmhouse and barn on eight acres. Was it manifested or a foretelling? I’m fascinated! In the same journal, there’s a similar entry about an Italian villa above the cliffs of the ocean, surrounded by tall grass meadows and citrus orchards. I’ll keep in touch and let you know when I’ve moved. ; )

    • What a great find Kelly. And I love that it’s a multi-layered story with another chapter in another place appearing. Now does this Italian Villa have a pool? Just asking for a friend…
      cheers! and save me some Limoncello!

  6. Twenty years ago I couldn’t have told you what this perfect life I’m living would look like. So generous of you to illuminate one possible path. That’s the work of a True Elder. Well done, friend! To badly misquote Rumi: “Let what we love be what we do. There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”

  7. The tulips are already 3 inches high and that tells me for sure spring is on the way! Every day I feel blessed to live on an island, watch the eagles fly and the waves wash the shore clean of lost logs and empty shells. Getting ready to plant those sweet peas I should have started last fall but such is the pace of living in tune with the long nights and lengthening days. Just a quick hello, a lovely distraction to read your old journal and remember how dreams come true for those who believe…

    • Thank you Rahda for that lovely daydream in words. Funny, I was just pondering the planting of sweet peas this weekend. I think they prefer to planted around Valentines Day, since they are so loved. Take care, and happy gardening, Tom

  8. It all came true! Even the part about neighbors stopping by and exchanging bounty. And of course, the bulldog. What an accomplishment!

    • Thank you Mary Margaret. I suspect that is one of the best parts of your job, helping folks find their dream homes. I feel very fortunate to be here.

  9. Just love your posts Tom! And good for you doing the final decluttering…, the hardest, that of digging into files and paperwork accruing over the ages! And what a find! So happy to be on this wonderful journey with you! Hugs to you and Buddy!

    • Thank you Diane, I really appreciate your kind words of support. Buddy and I are lazing around today, taking full advantage of a Sunday off! Take care, and thanks again, Tom and Buddy

  10. Thank you Diane, I really appreciate your kind words of support. Buddy and I are lazing around today, taking full advantage of a Sunday off! Take care, and thanks again, Tom and Buddy

  11. Tom and Buddy Happy Valentine’s Day!! From Viv, Abbey, Oscar and Meg
    ( Harris passed over the Rainbow Bridge on Dec 1/21)

    My house (1885) gives me so much joy as your house and environment does. I made the choice not to live the pristine life and what blessed knowledge has opened up to me.

    I look out my window and a world embraces me, each day by the changing wonders of nature. I never know which little visitor/s will be coming by to stop and take a few morsels that God has allowed me to provide from them (especially in the bitter environment of the winter’s night)

    How bless we have been to be taken on this journey.

    Viv and the GANG

    • Good Morning Viv and furry babies, I’m so sorry to hear about Harris. I can only imagine what a wonderful life he had in you loving care. Your beautiful words paint a comforting picture of a magical place where both two-legged and four-legged souls thrive. Thanks for the visit, always great to hear from you. Well wishes, and again, so sorry about your beloved Harris. Tom and the Budster

  12. Tom, I’m poking through your back posts while waiting for the rhubarb pie to bake 😉 You have 5 years on us- We moved to Orcas in June 2007 with a much different story. Vacationing, we made on offer on a property on a whim which was accepted in a day. Went home with buyer’s remorse for a year, until we came back and remembered what we felt. Life here is not for everyone. Expensive products, ferry hassles, limited services. But for us, it’s the home we never knew exsisted. Diiferent journey, similar result!

    • I love your story. Life on an island is self-selecting; those who are impatient and demanding don’t last too long, and on their own volition seek the more familiar rat race they’ve come to unwittingly love. 😉 I’m so glad you found the magic in that special island of Orcas. It healed me many a times in my youth when I was lost my way. I relish my discoveries there and the kind people I met.

  13. Tom, thank you so much for this beautiful writing. It is incredibly inspiring! I actually found this by searching keywords: “visions of a filing cabinet”. Oddly enough, I just finished creating a vision board and I’ve been struggling to understand why I had placed an image of an old, flat filing cabinet on it. So, I spent this morning reading about these kinds of filing cabinets and writing about my experience with them, then I found you. You are a very vivid writer and I loved reading every bit of this. Again, thank you!


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