In Motion: Bellingham, Poetry, San Juan Islands, Ted Talks

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vicarious Vacation


The phrase “summer job” leads most people to picture a student making pizzas or serving burgers during the long three months off from school. If you live on an island it has a completely different meaning to a whole other demographic. A summer job(s) here is what the working class or retired folks do to make some extra money. Storing up cash for the economically slow months riddled with higher heating bills and expensive gift giving holidays, people in small tourist towns act much like ants gathering up food for the long winter. Jumping on an opportunity to help a friend with their tree pruning business, or ironing sheets for the Bed n’ Breakfast down the street are good ways to supplement your income. Being opportunistic is apart of island living.

Since I’ve moved to the island I have been fortunate to have summer job(s) that fill the week. I say fortunate because since the winter of 2008 one out of ten people in Washington State are unemployed. This summer I’m averaging 90 hours a paycheck and as expected, I find it difficult to do anything BUT work.

Writing has been pushed to the side, so has cleaning the house, and appointments are being moved into September. Instead of working on articles or my book, I am writing only poetry. My poetry however has not been of posting quality, but rewarding just the same. I write about how much my body aches, the way the sun shines through the trees, and about how angry I was at the moon; the crazy ramblings of an overworked woman to be sure. I DO think about my storylines, usually in the morning. Something will set it off. I’ll see an object or hear a phrase that ignites my imagination; it’s another refreshing creative escape, even if it only last a couple of minutes or so.

Until September rolls around I’ll just live my vacation vicariously through the other tourist. As I shuttle around the grounds of the resort where I work I pass and interact with all types of tourist. Three skinny boys in their tweens, bundled up in towels, dripping wet returning from a long swim in the lake. Seemingly numb to walking barefoot on gravel road, their only focus being “What’s next?” Planning up all sorts of things to do, see and eat. My feet hurt watching them walk on the gravel, but their excitement was contagious. Another day a sleepy couple, still in their flannels, come in for coffee and share with me about their wonderful yesterday of sight seeing, the super pod of orcas off shore, the kayaking, the hike. Just listening about their day tired me out! What a day!

Later that week I met up with a friend for coffee. She was as exhausted as I was but from friends and family visiting her. In one months time she had five visits, each time taking folks around the island, cooking, cleaning, and going out for dinner, seeing movies, then repeating it all over again with the next group. “It’s wears ya out having a good time” she joked. We both sat there exhausted and thankful for a peaceful cup and visit in a quiet house. I swear for a second our sighs were synchronized. We were situationally at two different poles but exhausted just the same.

Too much fun!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Friendly Lot

Princess following me on my walk
In my new neighborhood, just up the hill is an empty lot. I discovered it one weekend while taking my cat for a walk. We have foxes in the area and she won’t go far from the home unless someone walks with her. It’s a mutual benefit, she gets to explore and I get some exercise.

The main access road winds its way up a ridge just a few miles outside of town. All of the homes are built off that road with long individual driveways and dense woods keeping any passerby, weather on foot or in car, from seeing the house. It’s more like walking through a thick forest, than a neighborhood, with the only exception being the trail is a two lane gravel road. On this street people want to be hidden from the world, tucked away in their own little paradise, behind a curtain of evergreens. Unlike the suburban neighborhood I had just moved from, where every house is out in the open for all to see, but, I suppose that’s the idea.

About a quarter mile into my walk I pass by four large gates, evenly spaced apart, guarding driveways leading to a neighbor I’ll probably never see, unless they too are walking on the gravel road. The fifth driveway, however, was completely different. Standing out like a sore thumb is an entrance to this abandon lot. No gate or house numbers, no drift wood sign with a family’s last name to mark it, just some long grass and wildflowers.

Princess checking out the neighborhood
When I first discovered the lot, I was hesitant to trespass on it. Being new to the “neighborhood” I didn’t want to start trouble. From the gravel road I could see there was a clearing at the top of it, and thought for sure there had to be a view that was worth the risk. After a quick look for a No Trespassing sign or perhaps security cameras, or another human being, I decided the cat HAD to take a quick look and I couldn’t let her go alone.

This lot is friendly and open; it almost begs to have visitors! Why is there no house here? I learned from a neighbor the history of it: the owners will never build a house on it because like many areas on the island, it has no water. After three attempts digging for a well they gave up and are left with a very expensive piece of picnic ground. It’s unfortunate for them, but fortunate for suburbanites who walk their cats, namely ME.

There is something about this piece of land that holds my imagination. Perhaps it’s the same feeling that the owners received, who ever they are, when they first stood on it. The sunlight reacts to the trees in a dramatic way here. Even the grass and the little wild flowers carpeting the ground just seem to sing in the rays. The land has a natural driveway bending slightly to the left, nice and level branching off the main road. Walking down the driveway, towards the middle of the lot you notice a generous round lump of what I call “Island Rock” protruding from the earth like a gigantic beauty mark. This is the obvious location for the house. From the top of the mound of rock, turning towards the west, you get a wonderful view of the island, the straight and the Olympic Mountains. The land takes a downward slop forward like a ski jump leveling out into a flat grassy field. Madronas lace the outside edges with there signature orange bark.

I can see a beautiful modern home sitting on the rock, with large windows to frame the trees and mountains. Specters of people fill the empty space, living in the home I build here in my imagination. Family gathering together in the dinning room, a couple sitting out on the deck, kids running around exploring the little groves made perfect for gnomes.

The cat rubs up against my leg and sits next to me, bringing me back to our world, our world, standing alone on someone else’s land. With a heavy sign I take in the mountain range across the water. Now whenever I feel restless and need to stretch my legs, I travel up my road to the friendly lot that I’m sure awaits my visit.

The Olympic Mountains