It’s been a long while since I’ve seen a view like this. A view where you can almost see the curvature of the earth and watch the sun go down on one end while tracking the movement of the shadows traveling across the mountains on the other. It has a way of making you feel very small.
It’s been harder here to ignore my thoughts, looking out into the water, seeing the landscape of the trees, the gradation of the mountains in the distance, and reliving some memories from times past. It’s easier to coast by in the city, whether in NY or Seattle, where you’re caught up in the rush of movement and lights and just “stuff” everywhere. It’s a distraction and it’s been a welcome one.
But I can’t always run away. Surrounded by lots of family on this trip I felt more alone than I had in awhile. Is that weird? It wasn’t exactly what I expected and it was hard. I’ve let go of any expectations that my reactions or emotions right now are rational. To surrender to your feelings is humbling in a way because we don’t always have control over them, do we?
And a view like this reminds me that there’s more out there. More places to see, more memories to be made, more life.
*Photos from Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island.
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A few things have changed since we last came to Orcas Island, though much of it remains as I remember it. Doe Bay Resort, where we had a class retreat for our music program back in college, got a whole lot bigger and expanded into multiple dwellings and even a cafe. Mark reminded me that some of us went swimming in the cold September waters on a dare during that trip. It was probably the only time I ever went swimming in Washington. I find the water unbearingly frigid and can’t even stand to dip my feet; they immediately go numb. The kids remarked at the difference in water temperature as well, but that didn’t stop them from wading in or swimming in the lake. I don’t know why some memories can be conjured up so clearly while others lurk in the shadows. I can remember how the air smelled during that class trip, how windy and cold it was up on the mountain, and the evenings filled with drums and music in the big retreat house we all stayed in. We drove 2 big school vans up to the ferry, a 3 hour road trip from campus. I don’t know if anyone had a camera. It’s quite possible that no photos of the trip exist. Isn’t that something? A stark contrast to now.
On this trip, we cooked all but one of our meals while on the island and ate them out on the deck on the weathered table: A barbeque, Norwegian-style pancakes with fresh blueberry and huckleberry sauces, zucchini bread, eggs, fennel salad, and quesadillas made with leftover pork from our Hawaiian feast. But the best of all were the crabs and the clams from a local shop that laid traps in the nearby water.
A short walk to the beach is always a good way to start and end the day. When I stand here and remember where I am – on a tiny island on the most northwestern tip of the US – I can’t help but feel like I’m standing at the edge of the earth.
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These are the sort of vacations that the girls will have fond memories of when they look back on their childhoods: a house full of family, meals eaten outside. This is a 70th birthday to remember – surrounded by family, a surprise Hawaiian dinner cooked by a son and a birthday cake baked in Seattle and transported 100 miles by car and ferry. Deer wandered into our backyard in the evenings and we saw the full spectrum of stars at night.
Orcas Island was the first island I visited in the San Juans and it’s still magical 21 years later. It remains one of my favorite places on earth.
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Looks like we escaped that crazy, record breaking rainstorm on Long Island just in time. We were watching the weather all day, wondering if our flight would get delayed, but it was on time and we even flew in 45 minutes early, missing the storm on the East Coast by a few hours. I feel like we’ve had some good weather karma this summer, escaping rain on market days when it’s been in the forecast.
The days here in Washington so far have been drizzly and cool. We come in August because it’s usually a guarantee of the best weather of the year. The sun usually shines and the temps are warm but dry, and it feels like an escape from the humidity back home. This summer in NY, however, have been unusual in that we barely hit above 85 degrees and for the most part, wasn’t as humid as you would expect when you conjure up images of hazy East Coast summers. The weather this summer has been spectacular, in fact. The grayness here so far has been fine – typical of weather here year round and it reminds me of the days when I lived here. I think about our vaguely loose plan of moving back here in 20 or so years – you know, when we’re ready to retire or whatever that means, and whether I can truly get used to the damp and the gray again. I get cold easily. But it feels good right now, wrapping a jacket and a sweater when we’re out in the mornings and putting on socks for what seems like the first time in weeks.
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It’s hard to believe how much bigger the kids are since the last time we visited our friend Sara’s lakehouse 2 years ago. They seemed so little the previous years we’ve spent our Fourth of July here. So much has happened to both our families in the past year, but there’s nothing like sitting out on the dock in the first morning light, taking in all the sparks of light that reflect off the water’s surface. This year the girls were able to swim across the lake to the other side of the dock, with flotation devices of course, but still an accomplishment. They marked their names on the inside of the living room closet, adding their names to the list of family and friends who have completed that swim in past years (never mind that they technically cheated). They’re etched now into the history of the house.
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