Message in a bottle


I thought it was a pop bottle that was snuggled tightly into the sea kelp near Crescent Bay, on the Juan de Fuca Straight. The canoe bumped it gently and the boys reached to retrieve the discovery. It quickly became clear the bottle had a different story.

Upon noticing the papers tucked inside, Leo shouted, “I’ve always wanted to find a message in a bottle.”
They each held the bottle, I snapped a quick picture.

Then I saw the waxed seal over the cap, the intricate note and the acorns and other items tucked inside.

The bottle, it seemed, contained Ruth Ellen Smallwood who had died in 2012. Her husband had placed the bottle in the water nine months before we discovered it.

We explained the situation to the boys. A mid-morning paddle had suddenly turned into a lesson about living and dying. Being young, growing old. Being healthy, getting sick.  And while they’d hoped for a greeting from a foreign place, maybe some coins from a foreign place or perhaps an S.O.S. from a distant island, they still expressed intrigue and joy at having found something special.

We pointed the canoe away from the kelp and headed for open water. We placed Mrs. Smallwood back in the Salish Sea and wished her a safe journey.

It was a different message in that bottle than we’d expected. I think we got it.

I wrote to Mrs. Smallwood’s husband when I got home:

Hi Ron,
I just wanted to let you know that on this past Monday, we found the bottle you sent to sea to honor your late wife.
My wife Sara, two boys and I were paddling around Crescent Bay, near Salt Creek Recreation Area – which is near Joyce, Washington…not far from Port Angeles.

We were pleasantly surprised it wasn’t trash stuck in the kelp.

My older boy Leo, 8, figured out quickly that it was ‘a message in a bottle’, something he’s always wanted to find. It appeared to be in fine shape.

We’re honored to have found it and are sorry for your loss. We placed the bottle back in the water, as the tide went out, away from the kelp, with hopes it would travel a great distance.

We hope you’re well.
Attached you’ll find a snapshot.

Take care,

and he replied:

Thanks very much, we put Ruth in Active Pass just west of the Tawassen Ferry Terminal in BC. Just great that you found her. You brought many tears to my eyes today, but I sure am glad she’s traveling. We were married for 48 years 4 months
Again thank you,

all content © Tim LaBarge 2013 / 2014