I’ve been very fortunate to interview the most amazing people here on Bainbridge Island, not just for my Currents articles, but also for my blog, The Island Wanderer. Although each and every person I’ve interviewed has been someone truly remarkable and talented, sometimes I come across someone who is extraordinary. Melody Mociulski, author of “Viewfindings: Slivers of light in a tempestuous time,” is one of those people.
Melody was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. Although she didn’t grow up on Bainbridge Island, she spent quite a bit of time here in her high school years. In 1994, Melody and her family were in search of a more intimate rural community that still allowed easy access to big city amenities. Obviously, Bainbridge was the perfect spot, and they moved to the island permanently.
Melody spent the next 10 years continuing her career as Procurement Director for the City of Seattle, retiring in 2004. With free time now on her hands, she decided to try new things: she worked at The Traveler because she loved meeting people and talking about travel, dabbled in consulting in the government procurement niche, served as the “bell ringer” and office staff at Madrona School because she loved spending time with the children, volunteered at Clear Path International (CPI)—a local non-profit that provided assistance to survivors of landmines and unexploded ordnance in post-conflict zones —and subsequently took a position with CPI as SE Asia Program Director.
During her travels for Clear Path along the Thai/Burma border, she met women with so little who yet always managed to find joy in their lives. Melody recognized the need to create more awareness and to empower and educate women and girls in Myanmar. Inspired by these women, Melody and two other Bainbridge women founded the non-profit Educational Empowerment in 2012, which continues to this day to assist the women and girls in Myanmar.
Her work with Clear Path and Educational Empowerment sent her on regular trips to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar over the past dozen years. Those trips were the catalyst for her developing love of photography and storytelling, which she documented through trip blogs, sharing the culture, beauty, struggles, joy and pain of the amazing people she met.
Although her work with CPI and Educational Empowerment was rewarding and kept her busy, another discovery nine years ago changed her life. Melody learned that she was adopted and that her birth parents were young and unmarried Irish Catholics who felt they couldn’t care for their newborn child at the time. The couple married a year later and went on to have six more children. Melody was able to connect with five of her siblings and has become very close to them, especially her sister, Lizanne. Her eldest brother spent a great deal of time in Ireland meeting relatives and visiting family homesteads, and he also introduced Melody to some of her cousins. Three years ago, she made the trip over to the Emerald Isle to explore her heritage.
When Governor Inslee declared the lockdown in March 2020, Melody, an avid walker and cyclist, refused to be locked inside, instead taking to our beautiful island’s outdoor spaces as often as possible. Armed with her new 11Pro iPhone, she challenged herself to take photos every day, posting two photos per day to her Facebook page. As the pandemic continued into Fall and boredom began to set in, Melody’s sister suggested she turn her photos into a book, which would include narrative pieces written by Melody. The result was “Viewfindings: Slivers of light in a tempestuous time,” a collection of 50 photos, poems and missives.
To create the book, Melody drew on advice she’d read from Stephen King on writing, as well as an article on blackout poetry she’d read in the New York Times (blackout poetry is the process of selecting half a dozen words from a poem that resonate with you and blacking out the rest to create your own poem with the remaining words). Poetry wasn’t something Melody felt a connection to, however, by using the blackout process she found it to be a fun and rewarding exercise. Her first poem was “Wonder,” and from there she created several others to include in her book.
“Viewfindings” is much more than a collection of photos and poems. Throughout the book, Melody shares historical information surrounding some of her photographs, adding quotes from both famous and anonymous authors, describing what she felt during the lockdown, as well as anecdotes about the people, animals, and nature she encountered.
As she describes it, “In an attempt to focus my photo write-ups, I named each photo. I realized that what I saw in each photo after months of Covid was usually quite different than what I saw initially. A moss-covered rooftop became Tapestry. A long-horned sheep became Wonder. A red poppy became Dance. Those 50 names continue to float around in my consciousness because I have lived with them for a year, and they are part of me now.”
One of her musings stood out to me and seemed to epitomize the overall feeling “Viewfindings” invoked in me: “Ideally, photos arouse emotions, both for the photographer and the viewer” (pg. 74). Her photographs, poems and musings certainly arouse emotions; those of joy and wonderment, and thankfulness to be part of this amazing island.
Melody is especially thankful to Seattle author and friend Joyce Major who helped her navigate the publishing world, as well as her editor, Jacoba Lawson and her book designer, Wayne Kehoe. Their expertise and creative input were instrumental in making “Viewfindings” the cohesive and thoughtful book it is today. She also created her own imprint, Irishlass Press, for “Viewfindings” (and future books) as a tribute to her newly discovered heritage.
Going forward, Melody is considering another book project, which will most likely be about Myanmar, her “second country.”
“Viewfindings: Slivers of light in a tempestuous time” is available at Eagle Harbor Book Co. on Winslow Way, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop.org, and on Amazon.
OTHER ISLAND WANDERINGS:
Island Wanderings: Joanie Klorer
Island Wanderings: Ali Holmes
Island Wanderings: Wendy Armstrong
Island Wanderings: Fatima Young
Island Wanderings: Gigi Godfrey
Island Wanderings: Chris Demarest
Island Wanderings: Deborah Rhee
Island Wanderings: Andy Bergh
Island Wanderings: Maddie Rogers