JOYCE — People tend to ask questions about Nature Lindsay’s first name, while which one depends on which part of the country she’s in.
On the West Coast, where she recently relocated from Port Townsend to Port Angeles, it’s often: “When did you change your name?”
Out East, where she grew up in Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay: “Oh, were your parents hippies?”
Lindsay was in fact named Nature by her parents, when they brought her into the world 33 years ago.
But it’s her middle name, Joy, that is the operative word nowadays.
Nature Joy Lindsay, a singer and songwriter who will play today at Next Door in downtown Port Angeles and at The Upstage in Port Townsend on Wednesday, is embarking this spring on a whole new life.
Seattle was Lindsay’s first experience of the Pacific Northwest, when she moved from her native North East, Md., to the Emerald City 10 years ago.
Then she discovered Port Townsend and the Olympic Peninsula.
Lindsay adopted Port Townsend as her new home town in 2006 and built a landscaping business, Simple Nature. Also an herbalist, she pedaled her bicycle around town, trailer in tow, and sold herbal tinctures and salves at the Port Townsend Farmers Market.
But in spring 2011, Lindsay began to think about a new direction.
Sitting at her kitchen table, telling a reporter her story, her voice is soft. She admits that she’s nervous.
Then Lindsay leaves the table, goes to the next room and returns with her guitar.
Standing in the light pouring through the living room window, she begins to sing. Her voice is clear and strong as a church bell; as her hands move across the strings, the singer is wholly focused on the song.
This tune, composed the morning of Jan. 1, is a call to her beloved. It’s also about a winter storm, and the two people finding their way out of a snowy wilderness.
It’s Lindsay’s expression of longing, and her call out to a man she can only imagine.
“You are but a dream . . . ,” she sings.
The song is a kind of culmination, the fruit of the preceding months when Lindsay decided to pursue a life in music. Yes, there would be day jobs — she’s worked as a waitress for years — but Lindsay took decisive action on this new front. She established a website, NatureLindsay.com, recorded an EP, “A Taste of What’s to Come,” at Toolshed SoundLab, George Rezendes’ studio in Port Townsend, and took her guitar on the road.
She traveled down the coast to California, playing her music, visiting friends, going on epic hikes in Big Sur.
On one of those, she encountered a cougar and managed to scare it away with her voice and guitar.
“I played it really loud, and I screamed,” she says, grinning at the memory.
During her time in California, Lindsay had another epiphany.
“I needed to do some healing,” she recalls.
She needed to be with her family back in Maryland, so last fall she crossed the country again and found herself an apartment in Elkton, Md. She spent the holiday season there, but by year’s end, Lindsay knew she belonged back in the Northwest. One of the signals came from her landlord, who objected to her putting a recycling bin outside her apartment.
“We don’t recycle here,” he told her.
“I do,” Lindsay countered.
“You need to go somewhere else to live,” was the landlord’s last word.
Friends in Port Townsend urged her to move back to the Olympic Peninsula; so did Devan Miller, a man she had met years before while he was a music promoter coming through Port Townsend.
But Lindsay thought Portland, Ore., would be a better place to develop her musical career, so she bought a plane ticket to take her there.
On New Year’s Day, Lindsay recorded her “You Are but a Dream” song on her iPhone and posted it on Facebook. Miller, one of her Facebook friends, listened.
He heard it clearly, with his heart.
At 39, Miller had had his share of romances. He’d been single for a while, and had kept his mind and heart open.
The same was true for Lindsay, who after three years as a singleton, felt ready to explore a new relationship.
And so it began. Lindsay and Miller, on opposite sides of the continent, talked on the phone. They sent text messages. And when Lindsay flew to Portland on Jan. 15, Miller was waiting there to meet her again.
They drove to Breitenbush Hot Springs, the Oregon retreat center known for its organic cuisine and hiking trails — two things she and he adore. Then came a blizzard, and 2.5 feet of snow blanketed the place.
So as in Lindsay’s song lyrics, the pair made their way out of the white wilderness, to drive all night to Miller’s home west of Port Angeles.
In the months since, Lindsay and Miller have confided in each other their dreams and desires. They have made discoveries about, and agreements with, each other.
“The first agreement we made, in our second conversation, was to be completely honest with each other,” Lindsay says, “and Devan was very open and very excited about that.”
For Miller, this promise provided relief.
“I didn’t have to worry about sharing how much I liked her,” he recalls.
The second agreement is that each person is sovereign, meaning each moves freely, without seeking to control the other. Each takes responsibility for his or her own feelings and doesn’t project anything onto the other.
Another pact, perhaps the most passion-infused: To create a joyful life together.
“Love is a verb,” adds Lindsay.
Naturally, doubts and fears bubble up as they spend more time together. The issue is: Do you give in to doubt and run, or do you face your partner and your fears and move through them together?
Miller and Lindsay are choosing each other, scary as it may be sometimes.
Miller quotes Marshall Rosenberg, author of Nonviolent Communication, who said, “Love is something you do.”
Naturally, now and then, the partners wonder: Can this incredibly delicious thing really be happening to us? Are we as right for each other as it seems?
“Part of us is really sure, and part of us is freaked out,” Miller acknowledges.
Yet he decided, and continues to decide, not to let fear close his heart; Lindsay walked beside him, step by step.
“She didn’t back up. If she moved forward, I moved forward, until all of a sudden, we’re sharing our lives.”
“My biggest fear,” Lindsay says, “is that I’m going to lose myself” in the union. “When that fear comes up, I go into defense mode.”
She has, however, opted to come back out of that cave and connect.
Lindsay has moved to Joyce, where she and Miller plan to make their home together, and where she is developing her music, with Port Angeles as her home base.
Both Miller and Lindsay see good things in their community’s future.
Lindsay, however, never thought she’d move to Clallam County.
Port Townsend has plenty of beauty, in its people, its cultural resources and its beloved parks, waterfront, downtown and uptown.
Port Angeles, of course, has a different kind of aesthetic, but one Lindsay finds welcoming.
She’s met warm, like-minded people out west of town — several neighbors are organic farmers — and she loves being near Crescent Beach, Lake Crescent and Salt Creek.
When she walked in to Next Door, the First Street pub, to talk with music booker Justin Tognoni about performing there, he was open and friendly, even though she was practically unknown in this county.
While Next Door is already becoming one of downtown’s liveliest spots, the future holds even more promise, Miller believes.
He touts Country Aire Natural Foods, which will this spring move from its tiny store at 117 E. First St. to a much bigger, multifaceted location at First and Oak, where Gottschalks once was.
“I think Country Aire is going to light up the town,” Miller says.
In a way, the couple’s vision for their relationship is similar to that of their hopes for the community. It’s about positive thinking and wanting the best for one’s fellow beings — something Miller studies as a Buddhist, and as a facilitator of the sangha, or community, gatherings each Sunday in Port Angeles.
Miller is also known on the North Olympic Peninsula as the man behind the Tuvan Throat Singers, the musical group for whom he has orchestrated concert tours.
Today, he operates the Tuva Trader (TuvaTrader.com), a company promoting Tuvan music, art and travel; at the same time, Miller is deeply rooted in the soil of the Olympic Peninsula. After attending the San Francisco Art Institute, Miller left his home state of California in 1998 to move to Joyce, where he helped his father build a beachfront bed-and-breakfast inn.
The inn is no longer, but Miller continues to make his living as a handyman and builder. He built the house where he lives now, not far from West Wind Farm and Salt Creek Farm, where Miller has worked as an apprentice.
Lindsay, for her part, looks forward to more new beginnings — musical, natural and spiritual. She and Miller envision a kind of botanical garden and retreat on their property; a place for community gatherings.
“It’s a good time,” Lindsay says, “to move to Port Angeles.”