By Barbara Gustafson
There once was an island named Vashon
The residents loved it with passion
As visitors neared
They found it was weird…
In just Vashon’s own homegrown fashion.
~ Lynn Walters
So begins the newly released book, “The Heart of Vashon: Sharing Our Stories,” a lovingly written tribute to the island accompanied by rich and inviting photographs.
The stories in this book were originally solicited for “Heart of Vashon: Telling our Stories,” a community-building literary project spearheaded by Mary G. L. Shackelford and Shirley Ferris in 2015, and archived at the Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Museum.
Inspired by these heart-felt stories, island educator and photographer Barbara Gustafson decided to pair her photographs with some of these poems and prose pieces to create a series of three slide presentations, which she shared with Island seniors at Vashon Senior Center and Vashon Care Center.
Later, with encouragement from friends, she and Laurie Stewart, author of “On Fisher Pond,” created this book as a gift of love by and for the community. The Heart of Vashon is truly a labor of love as all of the writers, photographers and artists involved in this project have graciously shared their work for this book knowing that proceeds from its sale will benefit the Heritage Museum.
“Heart of Vashon” was originally released just before the pandemic. Even so, we quickly sold out of books. Recently we considered that Islanders and visitors really missed out on this delightful book and decided to reprint it.
Elsa Croonquist, Executive Director of VMIHA, says “Each vignette depicts a moment of life in a community filled with people who are proud and steadfast in their protection of its (Vashon’s) natural beauty, and yet sincere in their welcome and joy in sharing the Vashon story.”
The stories and poems chosen for the book range from childhood memories to spiritual ponderings, from humorous limericks to contemplative poems, from tender moments in nature to the rules of commuting.
The earliest island story in the book is shared by Joy Sherman White, a direct descendent of one of the original island settlers, Salmon Sherman. Her story about her grandfather as a young boy in 1887 is accompanied by a photograph of Marshall Sohl’s handcrafted “First Settlers” wooden plaque, currently owned by Emmett Sherman.
Erin Canfield and Tressa Azpiri share memories of their lives as Island children, while Katy Jo Steward and Frank Jackson share thoughts on community activism. With humorous detail, Gayle Kellner shares The Vashon Way: How to Be Mistaken for a Local.
Photographs by Ray Pfortner share the page with stories about orcas, and a Deere-shaped pond brightly lit for the holidays. All of the stories share a love for this unique and special place that we call home.
Beauty splashed everywhere around me
Stars and rain
Smells of woods
I live here!
~ Mary Kelly
“The Heart of Vashon: Sharing Our Stories” may be purchased at the Vashon Heritage Museum, Vashon Bookshop, and Vashon Pharmacy. All proceeds benefit the Vashon Heritage Museum. This and subsequent issues of The Vashon Loop will feature several short excepts from the book.