Riding the intrepid waves of sea, land and wilderness
An interview with author Gustav Tjgaard
Written by Jean Bartlett, October, 2017 (www.bartlettbiographies.com)
“Consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself?” ~ Herman Melville, Moby Dick.
Shortly after the December 2011 release of his sea-driven historic nonfiction novel “Windjamming to China,” the book’s prolific author Gustav Tjgaard was featured on the Pacifica Historical Society’s award-winning television series Footprints of Pacifica. The episode was hosted by Pacifican David Hirzel. David, a tall ship and heroic era historian as well as a multi-published playwright, poet and novelist, asked the author what his reasons were for writing this book – a book which went on to land the coveted Literary Classics Seal of Approval.
“It was my ambition in writing ‘Windjamming to China,’ to make the sea, the sailor and his ship, legitimate literary subjects by associating them with man’s intrinsic fascination and challenge with the mystery of the vast ocean, in my case, the Pacific,” Gustav began. “I believe that there resides in the human subconscious a profound and innate nostalgic connection with the salt sea. After all, the waters of the ocean and the amniotic water of our mother’s womb are identical. The mineral content of the ocean and its ionic balance is exactly that of the optimum healthy human blood, amniotic fluid, lymphatic fluid and cellular fluid. The human embryo lives in this oceanic environment obtaining a growth of three billion times its original weight. This cognitively precise similarity between the human fluids and the ocean has been recognized since antiquity. (Greek historian) Heradotus wrote of this subject matter in
408 BCE. So, of course, even if unrecognized, there is little wonder that there exists in the somewhat loquacious depths of the human soul a nostalgic longing for home and for the sea salt origins.
Gustav, who did not begin writing or doing art until he retired at 79, in 2004, and moved with his wife Sono to Pacifica, California, is currently working on his eighth book, a novella, which he plans to finish by year end. “I have to do something in my retirement,” the celebrated writer laughed.
Gustav was born in his father’s boatyard which was located on Decatur Island, one of the 172 named islands and reefs of the San Juan Archipelago which is located in the northwest corner of the contiguous United States and is part of the state of Washington. Located between the U.S. mainland and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, the islands are home to a variety of residents which include: osprey, bald eagles, harlequin ducks, peregrine falcons, harbor seals, harbor porpoises, river otters, black-tail deer, silver foxes, and the noble pass through of gray whales, humpback whales and pilot whales. The islands have a temperate climate year-round and in the 2000 census, Decatur Island had a human headcount of seventy-one.
Vigilant Crewmen (1937)
“I was born in 1925 and I am the only child of Charles and Lillian Tjgaard,” Gustav noted. “My father was from Sweden and my mother, who was more Swedish than my father, is the daughter of two Swedes. Only very recently I discovered that she most likely romanticized her origins and was born in Colorado rather than Sweden. While that is still under investigation, what remains true is that after my parents married they moved to Vancouver, Canada.”
“But all their lives they had a built-in hatred of England,” Gustav laughed clearly not agreeing with this thinking on his parents’ part. “If it was English it was bad. They went from Canada to the United States in a very short span of time because of that reason. Vancouver is almost within walking distance of Decatur Island. But still, once they got to the United States, ‘Phew. What a relief!’ My father was a relatively serious fellow. My mother used to complain constantly about every picture that came out about royalty and she said, ‘Queen Mary has not changed her hat. That’s the same hat she had in 1914.’ My mother was outraged by this hat behavior!”