When you take a six-month road trip early on in a relationship, you find out fast if it’s built to last.
> For Chris and Eliza Morris, their adventure led to a nearly 30-year union, two kids and a thriving body care business.
> The Morrises say they knew it was true love right after their first date in 1993, several years after the two initially met while Eliza was attending graduate school in Olympia. It wasn’t until later when she moved to Orcas that Chris asked Eliza out.
“But I knew Eliza was special from the first time I saw her book collection, by chance, when visiting her roommate’s house in Olympia my first summer in the Pacific Northwest in 1990,” he said. “It was full of hard-to-find Beatnik titles and I thought to myself, ‘I want to meet this person!’ It took a few years for fate to cross our paths properly but after our first date, we never looked back. We took a cross-country road trip several months after we started dating and have been together ever since.”
When the two returned to the Pacific Northwest after half a year on the road, they settled on Orcas, first landing at George Orser’s property in a renovated barn with no insulation.
“Fortunately, after a few cold months there we found a fantastic house on Pioneer Hill Road in Olga where we really settled into our life on Orcas,” Chris said. “We were a team and shared everything from that time onward. We decided to get married in 1998, and had our ceremony in August of 1999, but we were basically married since we got back from the cross country road trip in 1993.”
The couple said their vows under a giant chestnut tree on friend Kaj Enderlein’s property and in New York in Chris’ parents’ backyard under an arbor they built with Enderlein and Loren Dickey.
“We wrote the ceremony with our friend Mike Weaver from Orcas, who was the officiant at both ceremonies. Mike was amazing. One of Chris’ uncles was so impressed by him that he asked if Mike had a congregation back on Orcas!” remembers Chris.
Eliza gave birth to Linnea in 2002 and Buna in 2005. Chris says their time alone together prior to having children gave them a solid foundation from which to raise kids.
“But it definitely is a big shift as anyone who has become a parent knows,” Chris said. “Now our kids are teenagers, practically ready to launch on their own adventures. It is so amazing how quickly time has passed.”
Eliza started Island Thyme in the mid-90s as a wintertime extension of the herb and flower farm she was running at Rainwater Farm in Olga. She had been making herbal salves and medicines as a hobby and was intrigued with the idea of making soap.
“This was before the internet was a big thing and recipes were available online,” said Chris.
He found a book on handmade soap at Darvill’s and gave it to Eliza as an anniversary present. She dove right in, making some soaps for the Artisan Faire that winter.
“The soaps were a big hit, and it grew from there to include salves, oils, creams, lotions and more,” explained Chris. “In those days I was obsessed with design and building. We started working on Island Thyme together when our daughter Linnea was born and Eliza needed help with her growing business. I became fascinated with it at that time and my interest and knowledge only grew from there. Eventually, around 2015, I was ready to join Eliza at Island Thyme full time with the goal of seeing how far we could take it together.”
They said running a business together was a natural transition because they’ve always approached life as a united front.
“We realize that working together, raising children and being a romantic couple is not for everyone,” Chris said. “But we came here together and carved out our niche here on Orcas together. We are both from the East Coast and our trust and belief in each other made it possible for us to create a life that we wanted. Is it easy always? Certainly not! But we will never end up strangers to each other the way many couples can be. We are a team. It’s how we’ve always been.”
Eliza and Chris say their shared interests are cooking, talking, taking on challenges, nurturing new ideas and traveling the globe — near and far.
“We are also a great balance for each other,” said Eliza. “We complement each other, bringing different but complementary energies to our life together. And the fact that we both love being here on Orcas has definitely helped us stay focused and keep growing as a couple. And for that, we are truly grateful.”