Author Corky Parker of Port Townsend gives a reading at the Ajax Cafe of her new book, “La Finca: Love, Loss and Laundry on a Tiny Puerto Rican Island.” (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Author Corky Parker of Port Townsend gives a reading at the Ajax Cafe of her new book, “La Finca: Love, Loss and Laundry on a Tiny Puerto Rican Island.” (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Graphic memoir recalls joy and struggle

Author purchased inn on remote Puerto Rico island

PORT TOWNSEND — Here are the things you can’t possibly do, and besides you’re flat-out crazy, they said.

Those are the naysayers in Corky Parker’s past.

When she and her first husband bought an inn on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques — a remote and magnificent spot — friends shook their heads.

Some 25 years later, Parker, who splits her time between Port Townsend and Marrowstone Island, devotes a collage to those people. It’s in her new book, “La Finca: Love, Loss and Laundry on a Tiny Puerto Rican Island,” published by Trinity University Press.

“Beware of the Naysayers! Who say you can’t … do it on your own … have the front desk in your living room … have mismatched linens … tell people about the bugs … run an inn from 4,000 miles away.”

Also laugh off those who say you can’t “be serious about wearing that muumuu,” she writes.

Parker did all that and then some at La Finca Caribe, the inn she later operated with a lot of help from her friends.

By 40, her first marriage had ended; she was living and working in Seattle part of the year, innkeeping in Puerto Rico during the winters — and turning La Finca into a success.

In an author’s reading at the Ajax Cafe in Port Hadlock last Thursday, Parker spoke about what success meant to her: a place where guests could let their hair down and be themselves.

People came back to La Finca year after year: executives, celebrities, Norwegians, Canadians, singles, couples, wedding parties, groups on yoga retreats. Parker’s preferred reaction from a guest: “Oh my God, I don’t have to be fancy anymore.”

It all began at Fort Worden State Park.

She’d heard about Puerto Rico’s small islands of Vieques and Culebra but harbored doubts about the glowing descriptions. When she saw a bumper sticker on a parked car at the fort, she left her business card on its window.

Yes, the guy called her, and yes, the island is glorious: These answers sent Parker on her way.

Running La Finca was more work than she could have imagined. Parker’s book depicts that — amid the beauty of the Caribbean — with its maps, drawings, photos, paintings and paper collages.

After her split with her first husband, Parker dated a series of men, some of whom visited La Finca. Most didn’t care for it. Then came Bill, a Seattle architect.

Seated on the inn’s swing after his first day on the inn’s grounds, she nervously asked: “So, whaddya think?”

Pause.

“It’s spectacular,” he said.

All in, he became her partner in innkeeping, her “wooden boat guy,” her beloved husband.

“After years adrift, just when I learn to single-hand the place, I meet Bill,” she writes.

“He gets the whole finca thing. He gets me. Bill cautiously steps aboard, and we are on course, underway.”

The couple continued to live part of the year in Washington state, and in 2008 they bought a small farm on Marrowstone Island, where they raised sheep and grew vegetables.

Parker spent some of her teen years on a farm in Sonoma County, Calif., so she has an affinity for the land and the animals.

She lost Bill to cancer in 2017, the same year Hurricane Maria hurtled into Puerto Rico.

Parker, 65, has had to remake her life. She still farms on Marrowstone, rents out a trio of local properties, writes and creates art on her website, corkyparker.com.

She’s also on a kind of book tour, having given several virtual readings; “I’m up for any and all bookstore and book-club Zoom things,” she said, since she can talk with book groups anywhere thanks to the internet.

“I simply love doing these things,” she said.

Information about her book can be found on Trinity University Press’ site, TUpress.org, while “La Finca” can be ordered through local bookstores.

In her acknowledgements, Parker thanks the people who walked with her through the years-long publishing process; among them are “the whole duct-tape digital creative team,” including Port Townsend and Chimacum friends Katy McCoy, Tia Taylor, Daniel McCurdy, Anne McGowan and Anika Colvin.

This memoir looks back at a time in Parker’s life when she learned to listen: to others on their island, and to herself. In her book’s pages filled with the colors of the tropics, Parker stores the joys along with the struggles. Of those, there were many.

Life in Puerto Rico — and on the North Olympic Peninsula — taught her how to embrace cultural differences, and to stay open and accepting of the need to learn, again and again.

“In a more cosmic sense,” she added, La Finca “taught me what it’s like to fall in love with a place. I am still deeply in love with that piece of land … you learn how to keep the love there,” for the people and places that have been lost.

In the last collage of the book, Parker explains her “20-step, 20-year program” for following her heart and making it work.

“Forgive a lot. Ask to be forgiven more. Ignore the naysayers. Don’t stop your Spanish lessons. Find a great therapist. Hire smart people. Keep a journal.

“Watch the sunrise as often as you can. Trust the people you trust. Go for the guy who isn’t your type.

“When all else fails — find, create and share joy.

“Do it all until humble is your middle name. Then repeat, until it’s your first.”

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected] news.com.

The title page of Corky Parker’s new book illustrates her two lives in the Pacific Northwest and on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

The title page of Corky Parker’s new book illustrates her two lives in the Pacific Northwest and on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

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