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