BY HOLLY CHADWICK
June 14, 2017
I’ve been thinking of the word “eidetic” to describe the nostalgia of long-time Whidbey Island residents. Eidetic is defined as mental images that are so vivid and detailed that they seem real, and sometimes my vivid memory of the island skews the current image of it. I am a long-time resident who experiences this phenomenon. Having lived primarily in the same house on Whidbey Island for more than 35 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes. Despite being a filmmaker and looking around with a motion camera in the present day, I am prone to nostalgia. Sometimes, the distinct vision of Whidbey Island in my mind’s eye conflicts with reality or emphasizes that I’m living a sort of magical realism.
An example of the latter is roller skating. Do you remember roller skating at the Roller Barn as a kid? I remember it as being mostly a magical experience gliding around the floor with the pulse of disco lights and ‘80s and ‘90s music. The skates were smelly, like bowling shoes, and the food was salty. Socially awkward teenagers, I’m sure, had many tears and falls, but it was magical for me.
Aging athletic ability aside, roller skating at the Roller Barn is still magical. However, now the experience is coupled with a bit of competition. That’s not necessarily a bad thing! If you display an inkling of interest in the sport and demonstrate that you can skate backward without tripping too badly, a roller derby girl may try to recruit you for the local roller derby team! Suddenly, the fantasy of being Drew Barrymore and wanting to direct Whidbey’s own version of “Whip It” flashes through my mind.
I also have an example of this more conflicted eidetic island vision from boating. I bet I’ve gone over Deception Pass a million times via car and taken many photos from the beach and bridge. I’ve always appreciated its sheer beauty. However, I never went through Deception Pass on a boat until we bought our 36-foot Uniflite, “Rubicon” two years ago.
On its maiden voyage from Bellingham, dear neighbors Heather and John Willoughby, my husband, and I reached Deception Pass on a slack tide and motored through without a hiccup on our way to Oak Harbor. That was a rather idyllic first adventure and what I expected since an easy crossing was always my experience from land. However, every time we’ve motored through Deception Pass since then, it has been different and, in turn, has conflicted with the initial perspective of the pass. Being boater newbies, we navigated under the bridge a few times when it wasn’t slack tide.
Not as easy as it looks from above: The Rubicon goes a bit sideways as it
navigates Deception Pass with James Olmstead at the helm. (Video by Holly Chadwick)
I certainly was still aware of the beauty of the area, but the danger of Mother Nature, that sheer cliff face, and those hidden rocks were in the forefront of my mind. I personally had never seriously considered the fact that the area is rather dangerous!
I realize that this was rather naïve of me to think as, of course, the area is dangerous. Think about all the boats that have traveled through the pass when there was no bridge. Think about smuggler Ben Ure hiding among the islands and risking it all during a flooding tide. Think about the dangerous construction of the bridge. Think about the sheer power of the current that could drag you under if you fell in from your boat! No, this is my eidetic island and somehow those thoughts get buried, and the idyllic beauty vision of the pass returns! It’s funny how fickle perception can be.
I like playing with this concept as an artist, and maybe that’s why I mostly make fictional pieces and not documentaries. My latest project, “Sounds of Freedom,” is a series about a servicewoman who returns from the Iraq war and a Vietnam Veteran named Charlie. Reality is not what it seems to these characters.
With this series, I try to capture the magical realism that Whidbey Island holds.
In the larger context, my project is a prime example of what it’s like to be an artist and a Whidbey Island resident right now. To have any vision of a future, the past should inform the present and make constellations of progress that map the future. It seems that most contemporary artists struggle with visions of the future and see them as dystopic because an end of energy sources is in sight. Strife, conflict, and trauma make up the present and the predicted future, as wars over resources continue. As an artist, I strive to have an eidetic vision. It may be fantasy, but the magical realism that I get to live as a Whidbey Islander trumps dystopia.
In preparation for my project, my director of photography Alex Walker, my crew, and I did a lot of tests with the RED One digital cinema camera that resulted in this look near Strawberry Point:
From the heavy influence of my crew’s outside perspective, parts of it are a rather idyllic view of the area, making it what I call an “eidetic island” view. It’s interesting how a newcomer’s vision of the island matches closer with my nostalgic vision from the past.
I think being able to articulate the concept of “Eidetic Island” helps me have a more rooted vision of the island, one that considers the past, accepts the reality of the present, and looks toward the future. Well, we’ll see how it plays out. Stay tuned for more blog posts from me featuring our Eidetic Island!
Holly Chadwick resides on Whidbey Island (in the same house she grew up in) with her husband and two golden retrievers. She enjoys kayaking, boating, playing piano, extreme sledding, and off-roading adventures. As a filmmaker, she is continually working on the project “Sounds of Freedom,” which will soon to be available on worldwide video-on-demand platforms.
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