Linda Leinen aboard Alaska Eagle, Newport Beach, California
Sharing stories, trading secrets, weaving new realities with threads pulled from discarded memories or long-forgotten dreams – those are the tasks I’ve set myself, here on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Living a quiet life, a hidden life — anchored to my dock like a barnacle to a piling — I varnish boats for a living. My dock provides both things Virginia Woolf recommended for a woman who writes: money, from the labor, and a room of my own — space and solitude for thought, remembrance, and creative reflection on the truths and mysteries of life.
Years of life and experience lie behind me. A child of the American Midwest and the only child of striving parents, I was expected to attend college, but I rejected teaching in favor of a degree in medical social work. It was a good occupation, leading first to Houston’s Texas Medical Center, then on to Phebe Hospital in Bong County, Liberia, where I served under the auspices of the Lutheran Church in America.
As so often happens in countries like Liberia, changing needs dictated a change in responsibilities, and my initial involvement in maternal-child health clinics was exchanged for oversight of the hospital chaplaincy. Then, in a delicious bit of irony, I was asked to begin classroom teaching in an inter-denominational seminary not far from the hospital, while supervising students in a clinical setting.
I enjoyed it tremendously: so much so that I decided against a Master’s degree in social work, choosing instead to pursue theology. For a variety of reasons, I settled on Berkeley, California for my schooling, and spent four years studying at the Graduate Theological Union and Pacific Lutheran Seminary. Offered a chance to continue on toward a PhD, I chose instead to serve Lutheran congregations in Texas for the next decade, before a series of mostly serendipitous events and inexplicable impulses led me to strike out on my own, beginning the business that still brings me delight.
Today, as I write, images and words tumble along the edge of memory’s winds like so many scudding clouds. Living and working in West Africa, studying in Berkeley, open-ocean sailing and the joys of teaching have all shaped my life and influenced my convictions.
With a sense of yet one more sea-change arriving, I remember the words of Georgia O’Keeffe, quoted in Joan Didion’s White Album. O’Keeffe says, “Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant… It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest.”
Basic Life Choices
Sweet or Salty? Salty
Compass, Map or GPS? Compass
Morning or Night? Night
Ocean or Mountains? Mountains
Both/And or Either/Or? Both/And
Freeway or Back Road? Back Road
Artists: Georgia O’Keeffe, John Singer Sargent, Edward Hopper
Books: Lawrence Durrell, The Alexandria Quartet; Loren Eiseley, The Star Thrower; Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek; Alan Paton, Cry the Beloved Country; Beryl Markham, West With the Night
Building: The Flatiron Building, New York City
Songs: The Star of the County Down, Orinoco Flow, Jig Cajun, Bread and Roses, La Vie Dansant, Clean Curve of Hill Against Sky
Musical Forms and Periods: Baroque, Blues, Cajun & Zydeco, Medieval Carols & Gregorian Chant
Architectural Style & Architects: Craftsman – Stickley & Wright
Weather Phenomenon: Fog
Question: How Can I?
Sport: Good conversation
Literary Form: Essays & Letters
Place to be: A hundred miles from anywhere
Current Favorite Quotations
“A genuine man goes to the roots. To be a radical is no more than that: to go to the roots. He who does not see things in their depth should not call himself a radical.” ~ Jose Marti, Cuban Statesman, Poet and Journalist (1853-1895)
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” ~ John Muir, Naturalist (1838-1914)
“To achieve great things, two things are needed ~ a plan, and not quite enough time.” ~ Leonard Bernstein
“The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein
“It is the essayist’s task to say, “This is what I have seen. This is what I have experienced. This is what I have discovered lying along life’s shore, waiting to be plucked from the sands of obscurity, turned and examined, magnified for detail, polished until its inherent nature shimmers in the light.” ~ me
“What difference does it make if you live in a picturesque little outhouse surrounded by 300 feeble minded goats and your faithful dog? The question is: Can you write?” ~ Ernest Hemingway
“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
“Obscurity and a competence—that is the life that is best worth living.” – Mark Twain
“Who does not want to work in the heat, will have to starve in the cold.” – Swedish Proverb
“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” – Leonardo da Vinci
“Knowledge is the sunlight which causes being to develop.” ~ Nickolai Berdyaev