Everyone has a love story.

Ours reads like a Harry-met-Sally saga, spanning 10+ years, 3 cities, and 2 broken hearts.

You can call it coincidence, luck, or fate, but any way you look at it, it’s uncanny.

Which is why I lay it out here in black and white, so you can see that sometimes

truth really is stranger than fiction.

Janna’s family also loves the sea. Her dad is a dentist in the Navy, and the whole family is stationed in Japan for 3 years. While there Janna’s folks think it might be fun to crew on a sailboat going south to Guam. They get caught in a typhoon, capsize twice, and are reported missing in newspapers, radio, and TV. It looks like Janna and her brother might become orphans.

Graeme grows up commercial fishing with his family up and down the Pacific Northwest coast. By age 5 he is steering the boat. By age 6, he’s gutting fish. And at age 7, he’s so used to boat rules that one day on shore he asks his mom where his life jacket is so he can go outside to play.

Graeme’s folks are both teachers, so they fish during the summers. His dad is addicted to fishing boats; he buys boat after boat after boat. Considering how little fishing pays, sometimes it seems more like an expensive hobby than a job.

Janna’s parents don’t orphan their kids. But they do lay off ocean-going sailboats for a while. Back in Seattle, they buy a Bill Garden designed power boat called the Captain Teach (after Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard). Legend has it the boat was built on a wager to see how long and how narrow a power boat could be and still be seaworthy. Cap’n Teach is 80 feet long and 11 feet wide. Needless to say, Janna’s folks never test her open ocean capabilities.

While not at sea, Graeme’s family lives on a farm outside Walla Walla, Washington. They jokingly call it the Silk Purse Hog Ranch. One of Graeme’s most vivid memories is trying to get pigs--with their corkscrew nether-parts--to mate. (In the pic above, Graeme’s the little guy in front. His younger brother is the big guy in back. In between are two neighborhood cowgirls.)

Janna grows up in a well-to-do suburb outside Seattle, but she’s a cowgirl wannabe. Every summer she goes to horse camp where she rides an old nag named Sugar and sings songs like “Cowboy Joe” and “Home on the Range.”

Eventually Graeme’s family moves to Olympia. Graeme still spends a lot of his time fishing. As he grows into a surly teenager, he complains about it. A lot.

Janna also spends a lot of her time fishing. Her dad is fanatical about it. He drags his kids along as often as he can. (This photo is Janna with a Red Rock Cod in Tofino, BC. That’s her bro in the background.)

Janna and Graeme meet across a pool table in a party-packed basement in college--Whitman College, a liberal arts school in Graeme’s old stomping grounds of Walla Walla. Janna is a freshman; Graeme is a junior. Graeme says it’s love at first sight. Janna says it’s love at first beer goggle.

In Taiwan, Graeme works hard and plays harder. Soccer. Karate. And the best Halloween costume ever. (He’s the cowboy on the right.)

Over the course of a year, Graeme grows neglectful and Janna becomes a nag. Finally, on the wet lawn outside her sophomore dorm, Janna tells Graeme, “Tell me you don’t love me anymore and I’ll walk out of your life forever.” Graeme says, “I don’t love you anymore,” turns on the worn heel of his flip-flop, and walks out of Janna’s life forever.

Graeme graduates that spring with degrees in Politics and Philosophy. He moves to Taiwan where he learns Chinese and becomes, of all things, a businessman. At one point his gig is selling suitcase wheels. Janna hears about this through a mutual friend and thinks, Good riddance.

Janna spends her junior year in France where she learns French the best way she knows how: from a French beau. Back in Walla Walla her senior year, she forgoes soccer season for flag football. Her team wins the championship for the 10th year in a row. She graduates with a B.A. in Philosophy and a minor in French.



relationship round 1







Janna spends her 20s following crazy dreams. Working on a dude ranch in Wyoming. Milking cows and baking pretzels in Bavaria. Ski bumming in Park City. And while she doesn’t pine away for Graeme, that song “Ghost” by the Indigo Girls sure does remind her of him.

relationship round 2

Five years after their first breakup, Graeme moves back to the States. His dad gives him a group Christmas letter from Janna passed on by a mutual family fishing buddy. Graeme’s dad says, “Why don’t you call that Janna girl up? She sure was nice. And she could throw a mean football.”

Graeme emails Janna out of the blue. She’s on the other side of the country getting an MA in English at Georgetown. A steamy e-courtship ensues. After 6 months, Graeme flies out for a romantic road trip across Delaware. They have a fantastic time! Graeme promises he’ll do anything to make this relationship work. Janna says, “No thanks,” and breaks his heart right back.

(breakup #1)

(breakup #2)

Janna moves to New Orleans where she joins Teach for America, a program that mitigates teacher shortages in under-served schools. She teaches 6th grade Language Arts/Social Studies and coaches girls’ flag football. It’s the toughest thing she’s ever done.

Janna stays (somewhat) sane doing things she loves. Backpacking. Hanging with girlfriends. Raising a Chocolate Lab pup named Scout. She also gets a tarot card reading in Jackson Square. The Prophetess says, “Your love card is someone you’ve been with before.” Janna says, “Impossible. I’ve crossed them all off my list.” Prophetess flips another card and says, “There it is again. You definitely know this person.” And then, in her best woo-woo voice she adds, “The cards never lie...”

Graeme takes a job in Bellingham, Washington, where he spends half his time in the Economy section of United Airlines. He travels back and forth to China every month. But at least he makes time to pursue his passions...

Mountain climbing. Kayaking.


And of course fishing on his dad’s latest boat.



and this is where Fate steps in...

After two years, Janna moves back to Seattle, gets a new teaching job, and walks Scout every morning at the local park. There she meets a handsome dog named Milo and his matching owner Dave. Turns out Dave is one of Graeme’s best friends from Taiwan. And Janna’s moved in a few doors down. Janna thinks, “Of all the neighbors....” She assumes Graeme will now know she’s back in town. Maybe she’ll get another email...?

But she doesn’t. In fact, Graeme, who sleeps on Dave’s couch most weekends, has no idea Janna’s living just a block away. For nine (9!) months Dave and his friends keep her whereabouts secret because they don’t want to jeopardize things with Graeme’s current (and admittedly amazing) girlfriend.

But that spring, Graeme’s relationship is going downhill, and he decides to go uphill. He quits his job and plans a mountain climbing expedition to Peru. The night before he leaves, his friends sit him down for an AA-style intervention--only it’s in a bar and they make him chug a couple beers first. Then Dave says, “Graeme, I’ve been walking dogs with Janna every day for the past 9 months.”

Graeme chugs another beer. And leaves the next morning.

For the next two months, Janna’s ghost follows Graeme up and down the Andes. When he returns, he and his girlfriend break up. Then, still in between jobs, Graeme goes fishing with his dad. On the way south from Alaska, Graeme’s father says, “Why don’t you call that Janna girl? She sure was nice...

And she could throw a mean football.”

relationship round 3

Finally, 10 years after they first met, Graeme emails Janna out of the blue...again. She doesn’t respond. A week later, he emails again. She reluctantly agrees to go on a date.

They have a fantastic time! Graeme drives Janna home in a grocery cart--she’s a sucker for cheap thrills. Graeme takes Janna sailing the next day--she ignores the rundown boat and limp dinghy. And two days after that, Graeme announces he’s going to China on business and would like to fly Janna to Hong Kong for a long weekend. Janna says that sounds pretty serious...and she wants to take things slow...and he shouldn’t expect anything...then says YES.

Sitting in a vegetarian restaurant in Hong Kong, eating greens in oyster sauce, debating the merits of capitalism, Janna looks across the table at Graeme and realizes she wants to have this conversation every day for the rest of her life.

And she turns the corner.

they spend the next 3 years...



And having fun.

They decide to tie the knot,

untie the lines, and sail across the Pacific on a 35’ sailboat.

People tell them if their marriage can survive this, it can survive anything.

And they’re right...


Driving each other nuts.


and finally...

The adventure continues in Janna’s book

The Motion of the Ocean:

1 Small boat, 2 Average Lovers, and a Woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife

(Touchstone, 2009)

Curious how to pronounce my name? It’s easy. 
JAN-nuh Course ES-uh-ree
Rhymes with banana of course yesiree

copyright © 2009 janna cawrse esarey
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