Everett native weaves stories of past, present

Wherever she goes in this world, Toni Mirosevich carries another world with her. It’s a bygone place, here but not here.

“As a child, whenever Dad was there, I was on the docks. It was spectacular,” she said. “I know they’re going to knock down the net sheds. It was a very dramatic world there, with the men going off to sea. We’d watch them go into the sunset.”

She’s 55 now, an award- winning poet and professor of creative writing at San Francisco State University. Raised in Everett, the daughter of Croatian-American fisherman Tony Mirosevich and his wife, Pearl, she hasn’t lived here since childhood. Nonetheless, Everett lives within her.

Threads of memory, family and places from her past are woven into her latest book, “Pink Harvest: Tales of Happenstance,” a collection of short pieces she describes as “creative nonfiction.” She’ll read from the book and talk about writing at 7 tonight at the Everett Public Library.

Readers picking up her book shouldn’t expect a typical memoir. It’s not a history of the fishing community’s glory days, when tough men went off to seek salmon fortunes in Alaska, nor a neat chronology of girlhood stories from Everett in the 1950s and ’60s.

It’s something different, more rare. The prose has an ephemeral quality. It hits like deja vu or the fleeting sense of being jarred from a dream. It’s not all about the past, either. Mirose­vich’s book is all over the map, in place and time.

There’s a story of a recent pilgrimage with her longtime partner, nurse practitioner Shotsy Faust, to a church in Napa, Calif., near their home in coastal Pacifica. They went to see relics of a Catholic saint — or more pointedly, to see reactions of people who came to see the relics of St. Therese of Lisieux.

The book’s theme is a realization that seemingly unremarkable moments if life later stand out as gems, precious and unforgettable. “That’s where meaning is collected,” Mirose­vich said Monday at the Everett library’s coffee shop.

With her elderly mother living in the area, Mirosevich returns here several times a year. She recently visited the Everett waterfront and was struck by how small the buildings were where her father once repaired nets with big wooden needles. Last month, commercial fishermen spoke out against Port of Everett plans to tear down the dockside buildings — the net sheds that loom large in Mirosevich’s memory — to make way for a $400 million redevelopment project.

“I remember that dock, all those Slav and Norwegian fishermen,” said Mirosevich, who attended View Ridge Elementary School and the old South Junior High School.

She didn’t take a direct or traditional route to a career in letters and academia. After high school in California, she worked as a laborer. She drove a delivery truck, insulated attics, even cleaned toilets in Seattle parks.

All the while, she filled notebooks with thoughts that would someday become poems, stories or occasional columns in the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine. She went to college in 1985, when an illness ended her hard physical work. She earned two master’s degrees from San Francisco State University. In 1996, she published her first book, “The Rooms We Make Our Own.”

At her reading tonight, she’ll focus on Everett sections of the new book, published in 2007 by Mid-List Press, a nonprofit literary organization.

A piece titled “The Nickel” tells of a day, seared into her psyche, when her father drove her through Everett’s Forest Park in a rainstorm to see white deer among the trees.

Tony Mirosevich was 49 when he died of a heart attack; Toni was 12. His death ended the Everett chapters of her life. With three daughters, her mother moved the family to San Pedro, Calif., which like Everett had a close-knit Croatian community. Her father’s 75-foot boat, the Western Maid, was sold.

For decades, whenever she was at a harbor on the West Coast, Toni would look for that boat. Through a maritime association, she finally found it in the 1990s at Winchester Bay, Ore., near Coos Bay.

Once a gleaming white, it was converted into a crabber and painted blue. Its house was removed and the name shortened to the Western. For Mirosevich, seeing her dad’s boat again was one of those moments. Two thoughts, pain and delight, came simultaneously: “Oh my God, it was so sad to see. And oh my God, here it was in the world.”

Like moments she chronicles with such clarity, the lost-and-found boat is a big piece of her world, both here and gone.

Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Author in Everett

Toni Mirosevich will read from her book “Pink Harvest: Tales of Happenstance” and talk about writing at a free program at 7 tonight in the auditorium of the Everett Public Library, 2702 Hoyt Ave. Raised in an Everett fishing family, Mirosevich teaches creative writing at San Francisco State University. Call 425-257-8022.

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