Sarah Van Cleve, a Poulsbo student attending an east
coast boarding school, recently wrote a great story for class based
on the home of Chris T. Christensen.
You might remember Christensen,
whose death in September 2008 revealed his meticulous home inside
the woods just off highways 3 and 305 in Poulsbo.
“At my boarding school my English teacher just asked me to write
a narrative with a prompt of ‘an event that revealed a divergence
between a person’s ideas about who he/she was and other people’s
ideas about who he/she was,’” Sarah wrote me. “As bizarre as it
sounds, I immediately thought back to a conversation my mom and I
this article a while back, and thought it would make for a good
I was really impressed with they way she captured detail in what
she called “Woodland Man.” But I’ll let you read it for
The red light switched to green and we sped along again. My
cousin Josh sat next to me, with Mom in the driver’s seat. Beyond
the window, ratty plastic garbage bags rolled across the highway.
Drivers ahead of us were laying on their car horns.
“I think he lived right up in there,” Mom said, letting go of
the wheel for a moment to point to the woods above a hill covered
with dead grass and old cinder blocks.
“Who did?” I asked.
“The, the man in that article. The homeless man. You know, in
the paper? He just died,” she stated with her pitying, maternal
tone, her lips turned into a thin frown.
“What man?” Josh piped in. His British accent was thick with the
undeniable charm and cheer.
“His name was…well, I don’t remember his name. But he, uh, lived
up in there. They found his body and apparently he had, like a
whole hut in there,” She took an awkward pause and a deep breath,
“I mean, it was made out of garbage and stuff, and he obviously
didn’t have many materials to come by. But you could tell he took
some pride in the place, you know?” Mom shook her head gently.
The trees’ reflection and my own melted together on the car
window. Mom turned on her left clicker. We were surrounded by cars
crunched together at this particular stoplight, which always made
us five minutes late.
“Maybe then…he wasn’t really a hobo, more like a…woodland man,”
Josh grinned. He just bought flashy sneakers yesterday and his
clothes all fit him perfectly. His face was clean-shaven, and
despite all his piercings, his eyes remained soft, searching the
trees with genuine interest.
“That’s just…really sad,” I lowered my voice.
Staring straight ahead, but rubbing her eyes far too often, Mom
replied, “I just wish…I wish people knew about him, you know?”
Nobody answered her. Sitting beneath the apathetic grey sky, skinny
trees surrounded the highway, but no lopsided tent or deteriorating
shack peeked out from behind them.
The only sound came from Mom’s metronomic left clicker.
“Where are we going again Mom?” I broke the impassive
“The supermarket,” she replied softly, “We’ve got to buy food
for dinners this week.”
Sitting on the sidewalk corner, a homeless man clung to his
flimsy cardboard sign. The sloppy sharpie words were difficult to
read and his eyes were framed by matted mousy hair.
He tried to connect his eyes with mine, but I immediately
avoided his pleading gaze. Was this what the woodland man looked
“What do you have in mind for dinner Mom?” The red light turned
green and we sped along again.
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