BY LES McCARTHY
July 15, 2015
As of last week, I am a full-fledged islander with one year of island living under my proverbial belt. I’ve learned a lot, but the Northwest—and especially island life—remain somewhat new to me.
It’s just different here!
I grew up in the ‘burbs of Chicago and, after college, landed in Denver. For 30 some years I lived my happy-married-kid-animal-friend-filled life. But—as life does—it changed my planned journey and took me down another path…
Expected: college temporarily claimed my kids.
Unexpected: cancer permanently claimed my husband. Then Chicago called me ‘back home’ for two years.
But, last year, on the Third of July—with Freeland’s “bombs bursting in air” and eagles soaring over a flag-draped barn—I was welcomed to my new island home. To put it mildly, this has been a change of epic proportions.
Change is scary. But realizing that somehow neutralizes the unknown, the scariness of it all. Change is needed, inevitable and constant; there would be no butterflies if no change. Growth happens when we get out of our own way and our comfort zone and say Why not? or What if? It miraculously leads to paths and journeys, people and places we never could have imagined. Change is good.
And with that said, from being on this glorious rock for the past 379 days…
• Though I knew no one, and had not seen my house before I bought it, all will be fine.
• “Island Time” is real—it means add on/allow for an extra hour, day, week or month.
• There are so many events (gatherings, concerts, parades, workshops, exhibits) going on on this island that it’s not possible to fit them all in in just one year! Trust me, I tried!
• Winter and Spring here are better than anywhere else I can imagine. You want to see a cold/wet winter? Go to Chicago. You want snow in Spring (and Fall)? Go to Denver.
• There are more artists, writers, musicians and people of talent here than probably anywhere else on the planet. And they share those talents, too!
• Deer and slugs will eat just about anything. At least once. At my house, at least twice.
• It’s good to go walking in the woods above Greenbank Farm (not so good during hunting season. Well, at least not without proper “I’m not a deer” attire. Trust me on this, too!)
• One only needs to take 316 steps to reach another coffee shop in any of the towns.
• Riding the ferry continues to be delightful and exhilarating (yet always too short!).
• Whales and their friends do live in our waters even though I haven’t seen even one…yet!
• A leftover slice of pie from Whidbey Pies is a great way to start the day!
• If someone waves at you, it doesn’t necessarily mean you know them.
• Llamas and alpacas have really cute-creepy, whimsical, Dr. Seussian-type faces (and they live so nearby that I can see them whenever I want)!
• The drive up/down 525 makes my heart sing no matter what time of day or season.
• Ebey’s Landing and Double Bluff Beach are breathtaking walks! (Go see for yourself!)
• Friends are truly just strangers you haven’t yet met. Thank you for such joy, new friends!
• Each town on this island is unique and varied in its people and offerings.
• I’m not afraid to try something new here—whether a class, hair style or business venture.
• I’ve never been around more involved, artistic, vibrant, caring people.
• I can’t seem to go a week without the fried chicken from the Star Store!
• The “can-do” and “let me help you” attitude is alive and well and thriving everywhere on this island. And, philanthropy isn’t just an idea or one-time donation; it’s a way of life.
• No one cares what you do, how tidy your lawn is or how much money you make. They just care about and are interested in YOU.
• Vitamin Sea is the best supplement I take every day! That Passage! Those views!
• “Welcome Home!” Those aren’t just words on my doormat. It’s what people said to me from the moment I stepped foot onto this island, and something I now say to others.
I’m old enough to know that people, however different, are fundamentally the same. In general, I think people want to be loved, accepted, respected, valued; we want to know that we matter and that what we do makes a difference.
I’ve found that on this island people are more open to expressing and challenging themselves (if one thing doesn’t pan out, they try another) and they make their dreams happen and help others do the same. They are open and embracing of ideas and each other; there is fierce individuality but also strong community spirit.
I’m still not sure what “it” is—but something SPECIAL is going on here. And everyone here seems to understand. Is it the air? The water? A bit of magic? I don’t know, but I think whatever it is infused itself into this islander’s soul immediately upon my arrival and life is just…better. I am so grateful to call this place my home.
So, if I had a glass in my hand, and not just my keyboard, I’d raise it and say, “Thank you, Whidbey Island, and its people and magic, and here’s to another 365 days on the rock we call home.”
Les McCarthy is an author, entrepreneur and IPPY bronze medalist for her yearly “Healthy Living ~ Healthy Life: 365 Days of Nutrition & Health for the Family” calendars. She’s been a year on the island and in the NW and loves every gorgeous bit of it. She joyfully tends to her geriatric fur factory and is rethinking her stand on how cute the snails and slugs are!
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