An Island Reprieve

Last Friday, I traveled to Lopez Island via car and ferry, accompanying Sam and his “Foraging” class from Fairhaven College at Western Washington University. I stayed behind from the foraging expedition in Lopez Village (not my choice!) but had a very peaceful day enjoying the Village in its off-season. It was grey, but a quiet and peaceful day overall, quite a change from my ultra-urban, pastel life in San Francisco, the city of attached houses. Below are my reflections:

I am perched on a rock on Lopez Island, just beyond the Village. All is silent and still in this off-season except for incoming waves gently lapping at the rocky beach, calling to each other in rhythmic voices as they announce their arrival from the sea. All is peace on this day. Though land is always present and visible here (the islands do not stand in isolation), the sea is truly the omnipresent one. Water is the foundation of all life on an island and this one is no different: it is the life blood which comes to establish its marine identity. It hugs the perpendicular, keeping the interior land and its community of people safe. Yes, isolated too, but also sheltered from the outside world and its many fineries and complications.

I smell the fresh, salty air, my nose tickled slightly by a drifting breeze and floating salt crystals. The colors on my palette today are greys and blues and forest green. The land masses are serene in their navy blue stoicism, merging with the grey sky. Expanses of green forest poke their pointed heads from the top of each land mass, into the sky. Rocks line the shores- ancient, large boulders that could represent another time, any time from then until now, then being the beginning  of time and now being now. They are everpresent, everknowing, ever representing the Northwest coast, as wise as the lapping tide.

These smells of brine and seaweed, this taste of salt, this sound of arriving waves- never crashing, ever gently splashing…These are pieces of my childhood, immortalized. Pieces of my summer spent here in the islands where time slowed and then stopped as I became one with the land and the isolation, impartial and oblivious to my life back home. This expansion of time, as supple as toffee, began to become normal each year until this place, this culture of the San Juans over the years has become a place of serenity, of home, to me. A place where I can come to find peace, my heart fluttering with happiness.

The caw of a sea bird and the squawk of a gull resonates in the air. Over the last year or so, I have come across by ferry to reconnect with my favorite sites on Lopez and Orcas as an adult. I have had hopes of continuing my relationship with these places beyond a childhood nostalgia. The ultimate desire is that, these islands will continue to be a place to visit, to hike on, to play music at, to eat at, and to read upon, well into my adult years. Vague memories of my childhood are continually becoming one with adult experiences to create a holistic scene of serenity on these islands, the place where everything settles into place: first kiss, learning how to drive a car, first experience milking a cow, hikes galore, eating home-raised beef and drinking good beer in a loft apartment on Lopez, walking flat roads and hitch-hiking into town, the memories extend. They encompass the idealized and the reality- both equally beautiful but in need of sustaining, of collecting, of remembering, of recording and organizing, so this haven of my identity can be preserved and respected.

So- I am here, perched on this rock, smelling my childhood, remembering the sun-drenched days of freedom spent on these shores, gliding through the water in a canoe, jumping off rocks into the chilling surf- the snippets of feeling extend back to the first instant my toe was dipped into the Pacific Ocean at age 1. And it is here that I recall these memories of my life, the smell calling them out of the depths of my memory, inviting them to come out and dance in front of me. And it is here that I imagine the new memories I will form here in the future, a conglomeration of past, present, and future colliding…just as the sea continually collides with the land, directly in front of me.

Anacortes, WA

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6 thoughts on “An Island Reprieve

  1. Katie,

    Your writing of the islands is so poetically descriptive and accurate. I was compelled to read your entry out loud to Nicole as she ate her breakfast, that is how stunning your words are.

    Much love, Lindsey

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