Serendipity in Sedona – Part I: Love and Grace

While in Sedona I was staying with Jan Messersmith, diver, photographer, blogger and missionary, and his new wife, Grace.

The welcoming committee in Madang (photo Jan Messersmith)

The last time I had seen Jan was in Papua New Guinea, where he had lived for over 30 years. I well remember that day in the Solomon Sea, when I was still a day or so away from my destination port of Madang, when we first met. Jan came out in his funny little yellow and blue dive boat, aptly named the Faded Glory, to find me. As the small boat approached, I could see a compact, trim man at the wheel. He had a long white ponytail, a close-cropped white beard, and an extensive collection of tattoos. He was wearing shorts, a vest, and a big pair of sunglasses.

 

Jan Messersmith, aka Mad Dog

My account is here, but Jan wrote a much better description of our first encounter than I can ever hope to do, so I will let you read his version of events. He also says lots of nice things about me that I can’t possibly say about myself – but just so you know, Jan is nice about everybody, being a genuinely positive and loving kind of guy, so I won’t let his kind words go to my head.

As you will have seen from that sample of his writing, Jan is a blogger par excellence, so I am going to point you in the direction of a few more of his posts – ahem, all of which, incidentally, feature little old me:

Diving with Jan (photo Jan Messersmith)

My arrival by rowboat in Madang, Papua New Guinea

Diving with Jan for the first time

More underwater photos from Jan – including awesome photos of a cuttlefish

(If you are into photography and/or aquatic life and/or simply excellent writing, I am sure that you will enjoy browsing around many more of Jan’s posts.)

Jan and his wife Eunie went on to be my adoptive Papua New Guinea parents. Jan took me diving several times on the Faded Glory and taught me how to take underwater photographs (some of my best efforts here and here. I stayed at their home for my last few nights in Madang, enjoying their gracious hospitality. They even held a farewell party in my honour.

Tragically, shortly after I left Papua New Guinea, Eunie was diagnosed with cancer, and after emergency surgery in Australia she passed away. I was really worried about Jan. After forty-five years of marriage, I wasn’t sure how he would cope alone.

Jan and Grace

But the story has a happy ending. After what must have been an incredibly dark period of his life, with poignant reminders of Eunie at every turn, Jan has once again found love. Grace had been a childhood friend of his late wife, and had always been a part of their lives. After Eunie died, a different kind of love kindled between Jan and Grace, and last October they married (more wedding photos here) and Jan moved to join Grace in Arizona. Jan now describes himself as “twice blessed” to have found two such wonderful women with whom to share his life.

I was delighted to hear the happy news, and even more delighted when I found out they were living in Sedona, which I had already planned to visit. Now I would be able to see Sedona, and Jan, and get to know Grace, all in one trip. What serendipity! Maybe there is some truth to this positive energy vortex after all….

With many thanks to Grace and Jan for their kindness and hospitality.

Other Stuff:

I am in New York at the moment. Had a mega-meeting today with TrashMobs collaborator Ed Scott-Clarke of Plastic Shores (trailer and website). Poor Ed was still jet lagged, but still managed to endure a 5-hour-plus meeting hammering out objectives and logistics. Another big strategy session planned as soon as I get back to the UK in mid-March. More news as soon as things become more definite.

Off to Texas tomorrow for my next round of National Geographic presentations. Still a few tickets left for the evening event, I believe – more details here. Hope to see you in Dallas!

  • Anonymous

    Roz, when you first posted about Jan and his blog about your not-so-serendipitous encounter (after all, Jan went out searching for you) off Madang, I began following Jan frequently, even after you had moved on — his blogs were indeed a treasure. I was deeply saddened by his blogs about his trip with Eunie to Australia when she was ill.  I am so happy you reconnected … and in Sedona of all places!  Jan, if you are reading this, I send my best wishes to you and Grace in your new home.

  • Anonymous

    Jan, I am just catching up with your most recent blog http://bit.ly/Jan21Sedona and especially like this: “It must take a lot of humility to be a good riding horse or a fine, well mannered dog. Humility is a good thing. It can take you places where pride is met by a burly bouncer.”  Words to live by … Hope to meet you in person soon ;-D

  • http://www.messersmith.name/wordpress Jan Messersmith

    Thanks, dear friend Roz, for your endearing post about your visit with Gracie and me in Sedona. It was maybe a little over the top in the complement department. I recently bought a very nice new leather hat which now no longer fits. My head seems to have swelled a size or two.

    Our second seemingly chance encounter has given me over to contemplation of the contrariness of life when it comes to our expectations. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re making your plans for the future.” (slightly paraphrased)

    As many others do, I treasure you friendship and admire your dedication.

  • Jeremy K.

    “I thank the Lord for the people I have found….And I thank the Lord, there’s people out there like you,”
    Keep it up, Roz!

    -Elton John,
     Austin, TX

  • Anonymous

    Jan – I should probably have cleared it with you before I published – but there again, you didn’t clear it with me before you likewise said complimentary things about me on my arrival in Madang – touché! :-)
    I love that Lennon quote. We never know quite what life holds in store for us, but so long as we believe that it’s all good – it will be.
    Still delighted that our paths crossed again so fortuitously. And I hope we don’t leave it so long before it happens again.

  • Anonymous

    I am now in Dallas, within a stones-throw (relatively) of Austin – but alas will have no time to get out there before I head to the west coast. I have heard such good things about Austin, I really must come there sometime soon. Hope to see you then!

  • Bob Tregilus

    Well, this is great news! Thanks for the update on Jan. I’m an FB friend but I’ve not noticed any posts from him of late. (I have too many FB “friends” I suspect.) Jan always writes wonderful blogs decorated with top-notch photos. Highly recommended! http://www.messersmith.name/wordpress/ 

  • Tricia Grossman

    AZ and I are sad to see you leaving Roz but I hope you had an excellent resting time here and I should like to hear you speak in person sometime (I missed your time here in Mesa). Much love to you in your endeavors!! Thank you for the blog posts to allow us to follow your efforts! :-)

  • Elton John

    You’re always welcome here :),,
    I’m just sorry that engagement was there and not here in Austin, a much more progressive and interesting city than Dallas, but o well. 

  • Anonymous

    Jan, 

    I remember picking up Roz from SFO upon her arrival from PNG via Manila. We talked about you and [Eunie] as we crossed the Bay Bridge. She was not only devastated and heart-broken, but her concern for you was clearly in her eyes with that first toast of beer in Cato’s in Piedmont. Tired and wracked from all of her decisions (whether to fly or not and in preparation for her US tour, being back in USA, finding new and old friends among others), she managed to remember you with utmost respect and frequency. I resolved to help her out unconditionally at that moment… now she knows. 

    Perhaps the next day when we met to look for June and Margo at Chrissy Field, I glanced at her looking over the Pacific. In my opinion it was palpable that within the myriad of thoughts while she was directly across the Presidio Yacht Club under the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge balancing the border between sand and sea, she was wondering how you were faring. I cannot prove my observations but dare to have Roz deny it now. 

    Eunie was present on her ClimateRide 2010 as well, This too, we talked about more than once as I supported the ClimateRiders working their way south along the coast. Please know that she was more than occupied with her own intricacies as she was mid-tour. Yet you were a priority for her.   

    When we held that solidarity sunset on the Indian Ocean, I for one included a toast for you as well as for the family of Timothy Ray while including Rita and Doug too. (On her last year in review slide-show January 2012) If you look back at her picture of her wearing the red South End Rowing Club cap while eating a Tim-Tam that she had saved for the occasion, you will see what I mean. For me, we were all together that day. I am elated to hear that you are doing well. 

    We will again toast to you as well as the rest of Roz’s friends and family in San Francisco at eight pm sharp pst on Friday March 9th should you wish to be there at that special moment in time. We will be with Reuben at the historic Dolphin Swimming and Boating Club at Hyde Street Pier as the moon rises over The City. 

    Roz seems to bring together souls of not only land but also ocean, air and spirit. Time not withstanding. Aloha. 

    I commend each and both of you on your navigational skills. 

    All best… 

    Jay Gosuico
    OutsideJay

    It matters not
    Who you love
    Where you love
    Why you love
    When you love
    Or how you love
    It matters only that you love.
    ~John Lennon

    Row Roz Row!

  • Jrho278886

    Welcome to Dallas, Roz .  You’ll find us locals to be really nice folks.  Your venue for tomorrow night’s presentation is elegent.

    Since you’re staying down town, take some time to explore our city and culture.  Sorry there’s no oceans close by … Tomorrow evening will be another wonderful ‘Roz experience’.  Looking forward to it.

    Jimmy-in-Dallas     :-^)

  • Anonymous

    Oh, I so love reading about your life. You are every place I want to be, so I can imagine just bumping into you the next time I’m someplace wonderful :)

  • Anonymous

    Went out for a really nice walk this morning – pleasantly surprised to find that there are pedestrian-friendly sidewalks in this city!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Max – I very much hope we do indeed bump into each other again one of these days!

  • A ballerina/adventurer

    dear mrs.Roz

     i was listening to the radio yeasterday and i heard you and i asked” daddy who is this person?”and he said “roz savage. she rowed acroos the indian, pacific, and atlantic ocean.” and i said ” dad im going to do that. im going to do what she did.” so the minute we got home i made him go on the computer and look up the performance for last night and i went a saw it and it was really good. you have an excellent way with crowds. if i am only 13 years old and want to do exactally what you did by the time i am 15 would you have any suggestions? i would love it if you would txt me back or call me on my cell phone. 9728353579. my mommas email is tami.pellicane@pepsico.com. i absolutly love what you are doing. i love to go on adventures and explore. i am a ballerina as well and love to dance.

     
                                     sincerely
                                                    riana

  • Outsidejay

    Roz is looking forward to catching up with her San Francisco Bay Area Contact on Friday March 9th (6pm pst) at 502 Jefferson at the historic Hyde Street Pier. Hosted by the Dolphin Swimming and Rowing Club. 

    So far about 50 of us plan to cheer her on. We are approaching my estimated number of people attending so I would appreciate it if you could RSVP to OutsideJay@gmail:disqus.com and let me know if you are coming to the reception. Please make the subject line have Roz March 9th RSVP so that I can search it out.
    It is free and byob and apetizers. Thanks to fellow long-time Roz Supporter, Reuben!She is on her way to Newport Beach presentations (Thursday February 23 at 4pm and 7pm) Make sure to catch her there also. if you are in SoCalhttp://explorocean.org/education/waterman-lectures/ Cheers and thanks~Jay

  • Anonymous

    Hi Riana

    You sound like a very courageous young woman – good for you. What do your parents think of your idea?
    At the moment the youngest person to row an ocean is 22, so you still have plenty of time – and there are some things that you might want to consider. People get stronger as they get older (up to a limit) – muscles need to mature and strengthen. It would also be good if you could get experience on rough water, and learn how to mend things like broken oars, water makers, electronics, etc.
    How about rowing with an older person in the 2014 race from California to Hawaii (see http://newoceanwave.com) and then consider racing solo when you have more experience?

  • Pingback: Serendipity in Sedona – Part II: Fit at Fifty - Roz Savage, Ocean Rower()

  • Dan Shub

    Dear Roz,

    Thank you. I just read your inspiring book and will continue to push my limits in open water swimming. I started the recycling program in our office and will find ways to do more.

    Regards,

    Dan Shu

  • rozsavage

    Good for you, Dan – thank you!!