HERE

Six and a half years ago I packed up my New York life and sent it west. I’d fallen for the Pacific northwest, a region of impeccable natural beauty and a relaxed lifestyle New York City can’t even imagine.  In the short time I’ve been here though, something big happened: Seattle took off. One reason for the awkward growth spurt is Amazon (our largest employer) and the “prosperity bomb” it set off in Seattle. Homelessness and multi-millionaire lifestyles clog the city with uncomfortable discrepancies, leaving less and less room for the middle way. Traffic is backed up, tempers are flaring, the skyline is littered with construction cranes – and the blast zone extends well beyond city limits.

Though I didn’t live in Seattle, I worked there, and my apartment was close enough to feel the heat. Then last year, I retired. So, time for egress. Time to leave the landscape that delighted me initially but is fast losing its charm.

In recent months we intensified our efforts to find a place to live that would be quieter, calmer and maybe – hopefully! – less expensive than Seattle and its tony suburbs. We succeeded in locating a two-bedroom cottage with a porch, and woods on two sides. It’s on Fidalgo Island, halfway between Seattle and Vancouver, Canada.

 

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Now we are here, on this pretty island, separated from the mainland by a modest channel and surrounded by more islands – mound after mound of deep green woods fringed by clean, cold water.  We are here after weeks of backbreaking, all-consuming labor. Last Thursday the movers (three hard-working Mexican-American men, thank you!) worked quickly and efficiently, carefully loading a van with furniture and books as we loaded our cars with potted plants, clothes on hangers and boxes marked “Fragile.”  By Thursday evening we were securely inside, furniture in place, boxes piled along the walls…and two days later we’d created a space presentable enough to invite my family over. They’re from the east coast and happened to be vacationing in the region. What a rush it was, pulling everything together that quickly, and what a pleasure to inhabit and share the new space.

 

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So far, mornings have been delightfully cool and bright, with sweet-smelling breezes wafting through windows on all four sides of the cottage. A mother doe and fawn visit sporadically over the course of the day, robins are gorging on ripening Serviceberry fruit, squirrels chatter in the trees. I just walked outside on bare feet, something I haven’t been able to do in years. Traffic noise is intermittent, not the constant highway roar punctuated by sirens that we’d grown used to in the last few years. The island is far enough away from Seattle to have a different flavor altogether, but still close enough for the occasional city trip. All good.

Over the coming months – and years – we’ll be exploring back roads near home, making day trips to the North Cascade Mountains, the San Juan Islands, and Vancouver – all within striking distance. In the meantime, I’m content to wander indoors and out with camera in hand, enjoying the ordinary treasures this life offers to anyone able and willing to attend to what is right here.

 

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*

Not far from home, a ten minute drive on a winding, tree-lined road takes us to Deception Pass State Park. Not every sunset is dramatic, but Saturday’s had a sweet subtlety, a balm to eyes weary from unpacking boxes.

 

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A crescent moon and Venus graced the color-shifting sky, signs of pleasures to come….

 

 

 


113 comments

    • It is SUCH a chore, and I had to hold back because of a not-quite-up-to-snuff knee. So far, things are going smoothly, and it feels almost like a vacation. 🙂 Well, there are still things to unpack and organize…

  1. Congratulations on your move and on finding a place with room to breathe. Thanks for the light-filled photos– I especially like the shells in the tea cup. Wishing you many more starry nights and good roads to explore in the days and years to come.

  2. I love these pictures, Lynn, and wish you an easy adaptation to the new home. It sounds like a delightful place, with a lot of nature’s advantages, and less of the crowd and the noise. I’m sure it’ll be very good for you. Wishing you health and happiness, freedom and good humor.

    • It’s interesting that you say you love the photos because I think they have a simialr feeling to some of your work – a certain warm pleasure in domesticity maybe? Perhaps you could articulate it better. I so appreciate your wishes, it’s very generous of you and I am buoyed.

      • I always enjoy your photography, Lynn, your composition, the colors you show, and the drama. I too like story telling through pictures. But there are some shots here that have especially drawn my heart, the light and shade on the branch, with the halo of blue as a spot background on one, the little chair on the window sill which represents the home in which it’ll sit and rest now, for a while. the lines of light coming through the blinds. I love to get a message in hints, and that the way I see that photo. And the branch with six beautifully enlightened leaves against the gray background. How gorgeous. I was amused by the profile of the bird, almost framed, and the dabs of light on the porcelain in the closet. As much as I appreciate your photography, I sometimes have the feeling that you lose some of the impact, because you offer too much at one time.

  3. Magic post! How lovely to escape the madness of cities … And your island looks beautiful. As does your photography – but it always does 😀 You sure will have lots of fun adventures ahead – exploring! I love that sunset too, they always look so good to me.

    • I do love the madness of cities, but it doesn’t suit me for too long a stretch of time. Thanks for all the good wishes and sheer from far away, Julie. I appreciate it. 🙂

  4. Heaven on earth. How lucky you are and what a wise choice you made in not settling for the mad hectic pace of city life.

    I only wish I could experience that gift of nature and the slow life too. Due to severe health reasons I have to stay within a short distance of doctors and hospitals, but at least I live next to a nature reserve and parkland and our short dead-end road has no ‘thru’ traffic, so mostly, the only sound is the fierce wind and the sound of birds as I sit at my desk, gazing out the floor-to-ceiling glass lounge windows.

    Off course, now, they’re building another apartment block opposite mine, but that’s another story……….

    • It sounds like you have worked hard to find the best possible situation, given the restrictions. Challenges do make us strong, and limitations push creativity. But if only they wouldn’t build that apartment block! We do what we can, right? Good to hear from you, Vicki. (Incidentally, we took hospital access into account, too. We steered away from really out of the way places that are a long way from acute care, just in case.)

    • Yes, lots of natural beauty around here, and the people who live here appreciate it. At the local hardware store yesterday I noticed they put up a suet cage outside where the plants are sold, and it was busy with sparrows. So sweet, who would expect that of a town hardware store? Thanks for your good wishes, Hien.

  5. I can definitely see why you made the move, Lynn! And to be nestled between two such attractive cities, your options for exploration truly are endless. Congratulations on your new home!

    • Thank you, Lynn….so far it feels good. It turns out that we have a navy base that trains pilots on “Growlers” – planes that make ear-deafening noise. After one sleepless night (training at night is important, unfortunately) we learned we just need to close all the windows for those two hours. It’s much worse south of us, closer to the base. There’s always something, but this is better than the 3 varieties of smoke emanating from our old downstairs neighbor’s windows – tobacco, vaping and marijuana. That got old pretty quickly. 🙂

      • Gosh, I meant to warn you about the growlers. We scratched Whitby off our list after spending a few nights visiting in Coupeville. As “military moms,” you and I are probably more tolerant/understanding of the need to train Navy/Marine aviators, but the neighbors were hostile toward the NAS there. Over here in Sequim, we see/hear flyovers, but they’re at 30000 ft and almost pleasant.

  6. Well, crap . . . on the one hand, I want to say “good for you”.

    On the other hand, I wonder about things like this:
    http://nwnewsnetwork.org/post/new-tsunami-maps-southwest-washington-coast-have-shocking-flooding

    Washington (a few of the islands and/or the Olympic Peninsula) were on our short list for possible relocation places but the “20% chance of a major earthquake within the next 50 years” gave us pause.

    I mean, the likelihood of it happening are . . . well, 20%, which means it may not happen at all.

    I know the same thing is a consideration for California and yet for both places, millions of people ignore the possibility and live happy lives. Now, it’s one thing if one has roots in the area (job/family/etc) but it’s another if one is contemplating moving there.

    I’m just curious if the possibility was a consideration at all or if the thinking is betting on geological time margin of error being multiples of the average span of a human.

    I mean, I love the area, but that nagging on the back of my mind ultimately won out and I’m just wondering if others employ a devil-may-care attitude or if there are more careful considerations and precautions at play.

    • Good food for thought, and maybe it comes down to where one sits on a continuum between fear and reasonable caution. We are currently further away from actual fault lines than we were earlier. Still, if they go in a big way during our lifetime, it would clearly disrupt access to many essential goods and services. We have quite a serious bit of emergency kit – food for X number of days, crank-operated radio, camp stove, etc. etc. Hopefully we won’t have to use that. We’re too high up now for tsunami problems, as I understand it. When we initially moved into the region we didn’t really worry about it – we wanted so badly to come here. After living here we began to understand the risks more and took some precautions. My son moved to Seattle too, and for me, the biggest issue in case of a disaster would be getting in touch with him and knowing he’s safe. He’s a former Marine so I trust he’d be better off than many people at surviving whatever happened. Thanks for your honesty, it is appreciated!

  7. Interesting to hear about the changing scene in Seattle. Sounds though like you’re in a place that has Lynn written all over it. Wishing you all the best in your new abode.

    And hats off to someone who can blog while packing, moving, unpacking, settling in, and entertaining guests — something far exceeding my own powers in similar circumstances just a few weeks earlier 🙂

    • Seattle is now the crane capitol of the country, with 65 cranes piercing the sky across city limits. We really have noticed a significant change in just these 6 years, including a change in politeness on the road, which this area is known for. That was a huge change for us New Yorkers to get used to, as you can imagine. 😉
      I’m not doing this alone, and what a difference that makes. And I need to take photos, refine them, and post – it’s clear by how much I miss it when I can’t get to it. So space had to be made for it. One of these days I’ll get to the paperwork and filing…. 🙂

    • I know this feeling will pass, but so far, it’s been a wonderful change from cramped quarters in a too-busy area. I hate giving up my excellent espresso but the trade-off is having average coffee and really nice surroundings, vs. fabulous coffee in difficult surroundings. 🙂 Thanks Jo!

  8. I suspect your new digs will be right up your alley, I look forward to seeing your interpretations. We’re actually heading up to Deception Pass tomorrow for a camping/diving trip – I’ll wave in your general direction as we go past.

  9. Wow, congratulations on finding such a place that has the balance you were seeking. Looking forward to seeing your new discoveries around the island!

    • Thank you very much, it’s good to hear from you. I think it may take a while to understand how to deal photographically with the light on all that water….but a challenge is good, right? 🙂

  10. Congratulations! I am glad you arrived in your new place healthy and well! And you are already exploring the scenery with your camera, wow! I am absolutely fascinated: an Island!! How amazing is that. So there will be more amazing pictures in the future (between the sky, the earth and the sea – to which I am looking forward 🙂 though they are wonderful right now! There is a little feeling of home in your pictures right now. I wish that you find the quiet and peace you came for! And I wish you lots of chickadees and other cute guests 🙂

    • Thank you for the good wishes….I’m glad you caught the feeling of home in these photos, because that is what I was trying to show, or what I was appreciating while I was taking them. Guess what – we are getting some nice birds already at the feeders, and others in the yard (a huge woodpecker, the Pleated woodpecker) and above (Bald eagles). The chickadees will be here soon, I’m sure. 🙂

  11. Congratulations on your move! You have found a beautiful place to live with some much to explore and photograph around you – the San Juan Islands, Rosario, La Conner, Port Townsend, etc. and… you’re now 1.2 hours closer to our neck of the woods! Beautiful photographs as usual.

    • You’re right, all those places and more. We’re finding parks we didn’t know about just 15 minutes from home, including one on Swinomish (the local Salish tribe) land that is open to the public via a partnership with the state government, a nice thing to see. It’s a very pristine little peninsula. I hope to be up your way more often, and to see Vancouver Island…and beyond!

  12. Congratulations on your successful move. If these photos are any evidence, you’ll probably find an endless amount of photographic inspiration. Good luck in your new home.

    • I think I will….and there’s more light. I needed that. I think about your work with flowers & plants sometimes, and the effort that goes into it, and I feel like this space may allow me to work like that. The old place was dark and cramped, which as you might guess, made it hard to even think about working indoors or close to the house. Thanks for your good wishes, Ken!

  13. Somehow it hadn’t registered that you were so recently moved to the Pacific NW. I suspect it won’t be long until you’ll be totally immersed in the beauty and charm of your new location and we’ll all get to see it through your magical lens. Love your reference to walking outside barefooted. It struck me that given my new location, I’ve been given the freedom to walk outside half-dressed without any concern. That’s a new level for me! 😀

    Love the bits of memories you packed into these images… #4 the shells (I have some my mother saved from her travels). Love the treatment you gave the #7 alders (?) so very painterly bringing out the true character of their bark. #8 suggested the bringing in of the outside, or would that be vice versa? Adding the charm of #13 & #14 was like sharing some more of your memories (brought across the continent perhaps?) My memories are taking far longer to emerge from some boxes. It takes me a good while to fine the proper place. Hard to believe you pulled it all together so quickly. I find that rather amazing.

    Wishing you both a very happy settling and absorbing all that charm and beauty in the new location (not too many bumps allowed)! Looks to me like you just about have it ALL (except for that espresso, of course 😦 )! Perhaps you could try to make your own – out of desperation, of course! 😀

    • Those alders turned out to be Bitter cherries – who knew? 🙂 So many things to figure out. Sorry I didn’t put numbers on the photos this time – it was all too much, as I barely got the post done at all. 🙂 Re #13 & #14, some of those things were my grandmother’s. She grew up in Charleston, West Virginia. It’s wonderful having those things, I’m glad you appreciate them too….the shells, well, who knows! Could be Staten island!! 🙂 I found a decent place for espresso, nearby and open long hours, a classic funky PNW coffeehouse. Not bad, and today I’ll check out another one. These are important research trips!! 😉

      • Hmmm… Bitter cherries disguised as Alders. What next to add to the confusion? Actually, I think we have a bitter cherry on the hillside behind the house.
        Having struggled with deer eating just about everything I ever tried to plant, I’m not quite as charmed by them as I used to be. Just discovered today that our resident deer ate the flowers off the Dudleya and an Agapanthus I moved from the old house. Not to mention stripping a good third of the leaves off the flowering currant bush! Grrrr… From past experience, I know it’ll take an act of Congress to discourage such raids. The only time I ever was protected was back at the old house with a six foot solid fence clear around the house (except for the front). No way can we do something like that here! sigh 😦

      • Oh, that’s really discouraging. I suppose you’ve tried various things that can be sprayed, even cayenne? The owner here planted 5 fruit trees a few years ago and put an entire netted structure around them – keeps the birds out too. Doesn’t look very good though! 🙂

  14. What a wonderful and peaceful place to live!! Congratulations on the location and the retirement. Several years ago we vacationed on Orca Island which shouldn’t be too far from you. If you haven’t been you should definitely go. It’s a wonderful place. There’s a bakery there called Wild Flour. Don’t miss it!

    • Yes, we’re almost part of the same island complex – we’re on the island you would have crossed over to (probably hardly realizing you were driving onto an island) when you drove to the ferry that takes you to Orcas – unless you got there another way. We plan to go over to the San Juan’s after the summer rush does down, maybe just do a ferry walk-on the first time to cut down on waiting time. Yesterday we found another lovely peninsula, owned by a local tribe that opened it up to the public in partnership with the state government. It was just about pristine. (Thanks for the bakery tip – I’m always looking for excellent bakeries).

      • I can live vicariously through you. When we were there I was feeling like it would be such a wonderful area to live in. So peaceful.

  15. VERY glad to hear that the move went well – excellent! You’ve certainly moved to a beautiful place, I love these first pictures. The 6th down is wonderful, and there are others that really get to me too – but where are the numbers you usually add? Very well done in getting further away from Seattle! A 🙂

  16. Welcome to your new home. Sounds like a lovely place to settle down. All what you write about Seattle I agree about. It’s become more and more a nuisance, particularly the traffic which has significantly worsen just over the last year. I certainly understand your desire to find a more peaceful place, closer to Mother Nature.

    • You’ve known Seattle a lot longer than I have, but yes, just lately it’s getting crazy, and the east side is the same, so it’s good to be in more peaceful surroundings. I’m hoping that going to Vancouver will be easy enough that I can get my city fix there once in a while. 🙂 Have a good weekend, Otto!

  17. Lovely photos. I love the PNW – it’s a great part of the world to have landed in. We have been to Deception Pass many times as we have friends on Whidbey Island.
    Alison

    • What a great way to visit friends – crossing that bridge…we’re finding more parks to explore than we thought possible, all within less than a half hour of home. Now I have to catch up on my email and blogs, including yours!!

  18. New locations are gifts to the creative spirit; it’s as if a glaze is wiped from our eyes, and everything appears exceptionally fresh – even the sunlight streaming through and illuminating the just-unpacked books! |Your new island sounds like a very comforting place to enjoy this new chapter of life! Congratulations, and we will all benefit as armchair voyeurs on that island via your future images!

    • You’re right Lisa, one gets a fresh start in so many ways. Thank you for your positive thoughts and all the support you’ve given over the years. I hope your journey today went smoothly!

  19. Dear Lynn, it sounds like a dream come true! Paradise! It’s exactly the kind of environment I would want to live in as well, close to nature and still not super far away from civilization. I’m sure you’re going to enjoy it a lot!

    • I imagined you as being rooted in place for a long time, but what do I know? Thanks Louis! I hope you’re getting through the heat and drought without too much difficulty.

  20. Well, welcome home. Nice to see your explorations, inside and out. I especially like the blinds patterns on the books and the vine climbing porch rails (?) and the window-reflecting window and the picture frames and the one below that. And all the rest.

    • Yes, I gave that jasmine plant a little help, and it’s settling in on the porch, so far. Glad to hear you enjoyed the images….it was a feeling in that moment, very hard to describe, but I think the photos convey it.

  21. As my wife likes to say: Happy new.

    Did you know that fidalgo is the Portuguese cognate of Spanish hidalgo? The word means literally ‘son of something,’ the implication being ‘son of someone of quality.’

    • “Happy new” I like that a lot! Thank you for the word derivation, I like that too. Here’s what the “experts” say about why they gave the name to this island (which is an island by virtue of a narrow channel between it and the mainland)
      Fidalgo Island was originally inhabited by the Samish and Swinomish peoples. Fidalgo Island is named for the Spanish explorer and cartographer Salvador Fidalgo who explored the area in 1790 with the fleet of Francisco de Eliza. Charles Wilkes discovered that it was an island rather than part of the mainland.

    • How nice to hear that, Penny, thank you. That little wooden chair was made by a sculptor I worked for when I was in school – a part time job at odd times. He made whimsical objects, and I’m glad I have this one. The birch trees are actually Bitter cherries – it took me a while to nail that one down but I’m pretty sure now. Well, Happy Explorations to us both, right?

    • This morning I heard a raven, a hummingbird and a Pileated woodpecker – all live nearby. There’s a terrific food coop about 20 min. away, as well as a very good espresso place, a great bakery, and a few very good galleries. I will have to work on exploring the restaurants, but I’m sure there are enough good ones to keep me busy. Speaking of busy, I apologize for my absence on your blog – I bet there are some really nice southwest stories and photos. Playing catch-up is a continuous process…

  22. Dearest Lynn, I’m very late this time, but it doesn’t mean I don’t care.
    I wish you all the best for the future in your new house on the island. It looks really beautiful, and what you’ve written about Seattle sounds so bad there cannot be anything better than getting out.
    Your photos make me hope for more, but first, you’ll have to recover from the weeks past and find your way into the new life.
    Love
    Ule

    • It’s amazing how much spectacular scenery is packed into a few square miles here, and there’s so much beauty within ten or fifteen minutes from home. Your delight is mirrored! Thank you so much – good to hear from you.

  23. Wow, what a perfect description of whats happening to cities the world over. But what a wonderful spot you have found. I really look forward to your discoveries in the surrounding nature. Good luck and settle well in your new home x

  24. Hi Lynn, I am so happy for you as you usher in a new chapter. Congratulations! And, in your signature style, your images tell an evolving story of your surroundings. Wonderful details and landscapes. Best wishes and much happiness. 🌈

    • There’s beauty in every direction, and there’s still some of the marine business hanging on in town, at the port. The area hasn’t all turned into prettified space yet…..

  25. Beautiful pictures -your picts of objects are amazing like your pictures of nature! There is no lack of beauty where you two are are perhaps you are good at reveling it!


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