Port Townsend 5–7 Jul 2018 to remember Dr. Meier

Having heard a professor Melody knew at WSU passed away this spring, we made plans to go to a memorial service for him in Port Townsend. We decided to arrive a couple days early to spend some time in the area, including hiking along Dungeness Spit.

5-Jul, Thursday: To Port Townsend

So we could have all of Friday to do things around Port Townsend, we left mid-afternoon. There was a bit of I-5 traffic, but before too long we were in line for the Edmunds–Kingston ferry. The line was backed up a bit on SR 104 (Edmunds Way), and looking at the wait times we figured we wouldn't be catching the ferry which was leaving next since there were many more cars in front of us than open spaces in the holding area.

Once the line started moving, we ended up being in the first pair of lanes in the holding area for the next ferry, so we knew we would get on. The next ferry arrived, so we drove on then went upstairs to the top deck.

The ride was about a half hour, which gave us time to wander around and enjoy the sun and breeze. We got to the car as the ferry was slowing on its approach to the dock. Because of where we were loaded onto the ferry, we were close to the last people off. On land again, we continued on SR 104 to go across the Kitsap Peninsula.

The Hood Canal Bridge is a floating bridge, just like the ones crossing Lake Washington, but needs to account for tides. The last time I had been across the bridge, traffic lanes jogged out and back in; two tuning forks with the tines touching. That part of the bridge has since been replaced so it's now a straight shot across.

We were still on SR 104 until it was time to go north to Port Townsend. We found where we were staying with no trouble, and the owner showed us around. It was dinnertime, so after doing a bit of unpacking, we headed out on foot to downtown.

Our destination was a Japanese restaurant, but there seemed to be quite a few people waiting, so we looked for other options and settled on the Fountain Cafe next to Haller Fountain. The place was full, so we sat at the counter and ended up being waited on by the owner. We split an appetizer and entrée, which was plenty of food.

Wandering around, we decided to get a little bit of dessert. Seeing Elevated Ice Cream was not far away, we settled down with our dishes of ice cream, glad that they weren't very large.

On the way back we walked by Haller Fountain and up the stairs, then over a block to take a look at the Fire Bell Tower and the view below. Having eaten and been able to stretch our legs, we went back to settle in for the night.

6-Jul, Friday: Dungeness Spit

The plan for the day was to hike along Dungeness Spit. Because the spit narrows towards the end, we didn't want to be there at high tide, but fortunately for us, that was in the middle of the night. The lesser high tide would be when we were hiking, but we knew there would still be plenty of room without having to walk on driftwood.

On our way, we went by the store to pick up some food to supplement the lunch we had brought. We had a bit of food before heading out but got some more to eat in the dining area.

After about an hour of driving, we pulled into the parking lot of the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, paid our fee, and started out. Before you get to the actual spit, there's a paved path and an alternate path through the trees called the primitive path. The docent at the beginning of the trail all but rolled his eyes, saying it wasn't really primitive.

We soon joined the main trail. Just before reaching the beach were able to look out to see the whole spit. Since we weren't very high up, it took a little while to figure out exactly what we were looking at. We were able to make out the curve of the spit, and the lighthouse at the end (our destination) looked extremely far away; we're not used to such a clear view of the end of the trail. For the first few miles down on the spit you can't see the lighthouse, so you end up seeing lots of gulls, driftwood, and kelp along the beach.

Once we made the turn at Graveyard Spit, we began to see the lighthouse, and from that point, we felt we were making progress. A couple of hours after we started, we made it to the lighthouse and started looking for the entrance for a tour.

Lighthouse tours are given by volunteers who stay in the light keeper's house for a week at a time. A couple guys were just leaving the house, making us their first visitors for the day. The trip up the narrow, spiral staircase to the top rewarded us with a 360° view of the spit and the Olympic Peninsula. It was kind of hard to make out which of the distant shores were the San Juan Islands and which was Vancouver Island, but we made a guess based on direction.

Back down to the base of the lighthouse, where there was a small museum. The most impressive items were two older lamps, the kind with big, third and fourth order Fresnel lenses (the current lamp is very small, but can still be seen just as far away).

We ate lunch and relaxed for a bit at one of the picnic tables outside. Then we wandered around the lighthouse grounds a bit, looking at the old structures which are now only foundations.

It helped to know what to expect on the walk back, so it didn't seem as far even though it took the same amount of time. When we got close to the end, however, we made a detour to go to the south side of the spit.

During nesting season, you need to stay on the north side of the spit, but since it was off season, there's a section along Dungeness Bay you can walk along. On the way out to the lighthouse, we noted where that section began, so on the way back, we went over the driftwood piles to a whole different area. It was warmer, less breezy, and there was less kelp but more algae and other vegetation. You could see why birds would want to nest there.

We bypassed the primitive path on the way back to the car. Driving back to Port Townsend we saw a small plane cross at what must have been about 20' above the road, then saw there was an airfield just on the other side. We were a few car lengths away, so it felt really close.

Back at our room, we cleaned up then relaxed for a bit. Back downtown for dinner, this time early enough that there was no line at Hanazono. I had a good view of the kitchen, and everything seemed to revolve around one woman who was giving the finished dishes to the servers, making clear which was which. She was also tasting and adjusting the various broths and checking the doneness of the noodles. Must have been Kaori, the proprietor.

Full day, so we called it a night.

7-Jul, Saturday: Dr. Meier memorial service

After getting up on Saturday morning, we had breakfast, packed up, and said goodbye to our host. As it ends up, she had heard Dr. Meier perform before; Port Townsend is a small town.

The memorial was going to be followed by a potluck, so we stopped by the store to pick something up to take. We had plenty of time, so it was back to the downtown area where we hung out at a café for a while.

We found our way to the church and started looking at the remembrance table. Lots of photos of Dr. Meier conducting, as well as him enjoying the outdoors. We considered going into the sanctuary but decided to wait until Melody's friend Kate and her family arrived. Just as we decided that in they walked.

The service was very touching. Several people spoke of their memories of Dr. Meier. There were also several performances, including piano, a string trio, and a vocal piece which he composed.

We stuck around at the reception a bit, chatting with a few people and having a bit to eat. It was about lunchtime, so we once again headed to downtown and had lunch at a small restaurant.

After that, we started backtracking our way home, wondering which ferry we would be able to catch. It seemed as if we wouldn't be able to catch the next ferry, but should be able to board the following one. As we pulled into the toll booth, the woman said we were a maybe for the boat that was about to load. We got close; the last vehicle to load was three cars in front of us.

Having some time, we got out to stretch our legs, then went to find where everyone was getting ice cream. We ordered a single, which ended up being probably more than a half pint. Good thing we only ordered one.

Back into the car, and before too long we were on the ferry, across the sound, and once again in Seattle.

Remembering Dr. Meier

Much of Dr. Meier's history is in an announcement of his passing, but the gist is he was born in Switzerland, studied at the University of Berne (Switzerland), the Akademie Mozarteum (Salzburg, Vienna), and Indiana University. He conducted and performed internationally, and has had several of his worked performed. He enjoyed mountain climbing as a youth and was a modern day polymath.

I can count the number of times I met Dr. Meier on my hands, but it was very obvious that he and Melody had a great connection. She knew him when she was at WSU; she majored in music, and he was the director of the symphony. They had kept in touch through the years, which continued after Melody and I met.

Every now and then our phone would ring, and Dr. Meier would say he's in town and was hoping he would be able to drop by. Perhaps in an hour or so? Sometimes he would need a place to spend the night. Fortunately, it always worked out to see him.

Melody never felt comfortable calling him Beatus (even though it seemed to me he was encouraging her to do so), so he was Dr. Meier to me, too. He always seemed very happy to see us and had a kind of manic energy you don't often see in someone in his 70's.

I didn't know much about Dr. Meier's involvement with music when we first met. Once he practiced the piano at our place, another time he worked on a composition. Ends up he gave Melody a copy of a piece of his, a sonata for piano which he began in 1965 and finished in 1976, then revised in 1984. It's subtitled “A Taste of Honey” because he borrows from that song in a couple of the movements.

The last time we saw Dr. Meier was when were in Port Townsend about five years ago. We were vacationing on the Olympic Peninsula and knew we wanted to see him. He had had a stroke a couple years before, but he seemed to be in great shape, ably (but slowly, and with help) going up and down the stairs of his home.

One wish held by many people is to have an impact on the lives of others. It's clear that Dr. Meier had an impact on so many people across several decades. He may have appeared to be a quirky, older man, but it would take only a few minutes to learn that his interests were wide, his humor sharp, and his passion for life deep. Even if you never met him, you can envision the kind of person who starts out thinking about making a difference in the world, and only by looking back can one see that he did just that.