BY JUDITH WALCUTT
April 1, 2015
I’ve been thinking about summer on Whidbey lately. I am beginning to see it glimmering in the green glow of late afternoon; I am catching a whiff of it in the softening air. We wait all year for it.
In the dead of winter, with its endless shades of gray (so many more than fifty), immersed in infinite purgatorial variations of whiter shades of pale in the palette of a dingy seagull’s wing––we wonder: will this ever end?
Spring brings her proverbial promises. That luscious pink confection of blossoms on the flowering plum trees makes a holy corridor of beauty on the road into Langley and leaves a rosy-tinted snowfall of petals behind when a sudden chill wind comes off the waters of Saratoga Passage and we button our coats back up. Soon, though, the opaque atmosphere cracks open, the sun shines, the sky turns poster-paint blue for the first time in months and, as the sun sets later and later, we know we are headed into the glory days—the Golden Days–– inspiring good times in paradise, soon to be infused with the scent of wild roses everywhere.
Summer on Whidbey Island is Paradise or, as we in our family sometimes refer to it, Brigadoon––that magical, mythical place that appears out of the mist and vanishes again when the weather changes. These lengthened days—I call “golden” because the quality of the light caught in the full bloom of Summer foliage is a deep, rich, yellow-gold, pooling in patches on the forest floor or encircling ferns in the grottos of hidden lakes. Our sky-colored liquid jewels buried in the woods call to us like sirens to thirsty sailors, whispering: Summer is coming…find a bathing suit that fits!
In the years the kids were growing up, when school let out, those beautiful Whidbey days were ours to own. We were never at a loss of things to do and we tried hard not to let that precious treasure slip away without some kind of adventure to mark its passing.
One favorite day’s outing was to Double Bluff Beach. We brought our small folding chairs and picnic baskets, inner tubes and buckets with shovels and followed the tide line all the way out to its lowest mark. Then, flopping upon the salt water as it warmed up coming in over the hot sand, we let the waves roll us back to shore. Puddles that the changing tides made were perfect kid-sized pools, good for lolling in and making castles by.
Years after that, the boys went skim boarding on Double Bluff, too, as it is perfect for that purpose with its thin layers of water coming in over hard-pan sand. I’ve also seen people parasail-surfing there. It is quite a sight! Humans turned kites fly up into the sky and careen over frothy waves crashing in rows. With its picnic tables and shore side parking lot, Double Bluff lends itself to such vicarious observational opportunities and can be enjoyed even with a simple brown-bag lunch in hand.
When the tide is low, you can walk a long way around the bluff of Double Bluff and catch a glimpse of Mt. Rainier gleaming to the south and—to the north—the transiting of large container ships bound for Alaska is an eyeful of slow amusement. Sometimes we stayed at the beach until sunset, watching the flourishing of carnelian reds and merlot purples in the sky then reflected on the surface of twilight-smooth waters, providing the ideal ambiance for the practice of calm abiding—unless the dogs start barking.
It is a leash-free dog beach, which makes it nice for the canine population and the people they like to take for walks, offering water-spigots for feet, shower heads for bodies and even bathrooms, built beside the parking lot—very convenient for families of all kinds, furry and human alike.
On a day when we had a Grandma with us, we stayed closer to the picnic tables and easy access to the beach from the parking lot. The kids gathered bits of driftwood and made boats that they then set sail to float away in the rising tide of waves, betting on which would last and which would be dashed.
It was so easy, so free and freeing; the memory of it reminds me of the very best part of summers past and summers ahead—the time we take to enjoy just those few things that require nothing extra, nothing costly, but offer the pleasure of building something out of nothing but sand and stones and flotsam with your hands, while the white noise of waves washes away the heaviness of winter, school years finished, and the expectation of what happens next. Let it go, with a small boat made of driftwood––embrace the coming summer on Whidbey, where days are made of gold and the trees and the sky and the water glitter with the buried treasure of simple beauty.
In preparation for those golden days to come, join the volunteer brigade that is covering the island, beach by beach, doing post-winter pick-ups at Keystone Spit East State Park on Saturday, April 4; Ebey’s Landing National Reserve on Friday, April 10; and Windjammer Park on Saturday, April 18. Contact Stinger Anderson, Community Litter Cleanup Program Coordinator before the scheduled days, so he’ll have enough tools for everyone. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 360-240-5558 or 360-941-3171.
Judith Walcutt has lived on Whidbey Island for 27 years and counting. A grateful alumna of Hedgebrook, she is an award-winning writer, producer and director for public radio, stage and TV.
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