Words

Strong Heart

Charlie’s back, and he wrote a book

Attend

What: Charlie Sheldon reads from Strong Heart

When: 7 pm Fri., Mar. 17

Where: Village Books, 1200 11th St.

Cost: Free

Info: http://www.villagebooks.com

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

In 2012, after he’d been on the job for a barely a year, the Port of Bellingham (stupidly, criminally, in my opinion) pitched their talented and capable new executive director over the side—just as the agency was beginning a large-scale waterfront cleanup that has stalled ever since.

A better captain than his crew, Charlie Sheldon has gotten a lot more done in these past few years.

A salty and able-bodied seaman, Sheldon landed with balance and bearing on new decks and set sail on new seas, shipping out with the Sailor’s Union of the Pacific as a deckhand and bosun. His last gig was in 2016, aboard the USNS Shughart, from New Orleans to New York.

A former commercial fisherman and director of shipping at the Port of Seattle, Sheldon also has a love of the land—he has hiked extensively through the Olympics and Cascades.

When he’s not at sea or in the mountains, Charlie is a culinary master at his home in Ballard. And—oh yes—he writes, first one book and then another. Most recently, he penned Strong Heart, his novel about the Olympic Mountains and the Pacific coast and the sturdy and remarkable inhabitants thereof.

“For about 20 years I’ve been wondering about these legends in all of the Pacific Northwest tribes that basically say that people were always here,” Sheldon relates. “I wondered how that could be true. All the evidence seems to say people came here from Eurasia across the Bering Land Bridge 12,000 years ago. So that was an idea that I was noodling around.

“And then I’ve always liked hiking in the Olympic park and I thought, that’s a wonderful land that could use some celebration and I always wanted to do a sea story because I’ve spent a lot of time at sea and I came up with a kind of wild idea for a sea story that’s a big part of this book.

“It’s really a celebration of this area,” Sheldon notes, “the Olympic Peninsula, the Pacific Coast the north Pacific area from Washington and Oregon all the way to the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia.”

Strongly rooted in the oral tradition, his narrative is expressed in large part through stories told around the campfire.

“I have this belief that what made us human, what made us modern human beings, wasn’t the big brain—because earlier peoples had big brains—I think it was the ability to tell stories,” Sheldon said. “Stories carry memory, stories carry learning, and stories carry magic and imagination and fantasy. So I wrote a story about how stories make us human and the story really is stories within stories. There’s really three stories within this one tale that all interact and mesh into one in the end. Stories are what make us human and it was the sitting around campfires hundreds of thousands of years ago talking and wondering and imagining that helped us become who we are today.

“It’s a quest,” he noted, “and along the way there’s this little girl who’s 13 and orphaned and alone and finds a grandfather she never knew she had, she’s trying to find a home and this is a story about how she battles to claim a place to belong.”

I miss you around these parts, Charlie, but I’m glad you’re still in this great region, writing stories about finding a place to belong.

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