Water’s Edge: Whidbey Island

In my drafts folder there is an unfinished post with photographs taken in 2014, on Whidbey Island, Washington. I first visited Whidbey Island in October, 2011, on a fateful vacation that led to my relocating from New York City to the Pacific northwest. After moving to a suburb of Seattle in 2012, I began driving up to Whidbey and the surrounding area whenever I could, ultimately moving to neighboring Fidalgo island.

Now, on the heels of another trip to Whidbey last week, I’m going to move those photos out of the draft folder and into the light of day. I’ll include a few recent images, too.

That September day almost four years ago, a spectacular fog bank had settled in at my chosen destination, Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. The park, which preserves natural and historical points of interest, is named after an early settler, Colonel Isaac Neff Ebey, who claimed land here in the mid-nineteenth century and became the first white full-time resident. Of course, well before his arrival local tribes lived here; one of the tribes (the Swinomish) that inhabited the island is now based on a reservation a few minutes from my home on Fidalgo Island.

Almost exactly 161 years ago, Colonel Ebey was killed by people from the north (it is still disputed which tribe was responsible) whose leader, along with other tribe members, had been slayed by the US military. In an 1851 letter to his brother, Ebey had written that this beautiful place seemed,

“….almost a paradise of nature. Good land for cultivation is abundant on this island. I have taken a claim on it and am now living on the same in order to avail myself of the provisions of the Donation Law. If Rebecca, the children, and you all were here, I think I could live and die here content.”










The five photos above were taken on that foggy September day at Perego’s lagoon, a shallow body of water just above the high tide mark on the shore at Ebey’s Landing. In the top photo we’re looking south, with the beach on the right and the lagoon on the left. The windy beach, littered with giant driftwood logs, abuts the Salish Sea; the ocean is about a hundred miles to the west. This lagoon dries out in summer and the edges crack into plates of hard mud. Driftwood is everywhere, as are waving grasses, wildflowers, lichens and the wild edible called pickleweed, or sea beans (Salicornia pacifica), seen at the left edge of the photo below.









The two photos above of driftwood shelters were taken recently at Double Bluff State Park, about 23 miles south of Ebey’s Landing, on the same side of the island.  It was a rare (for summer) overcast day when we walked the beach at Double Bluff, making the trek easier for someone like me, who’s not a fan of full-on sun. After an hour or so a narrow crack appeared in the clouds far to the south, over Seattle. The changing light cast a soft glow on the sheet draped over one driftwood shelter. It seemed the epitome of casual elegance, and in my mind, it wouldn’t have been out of place in an architectural magazine.






Cloudy skies didn’t deter this cozy trio perched high on a huge glacial erratic. The boulder has likely been here for 13,000 years, since the last ice sheet retreated and left it behind, like an afterthought. In the photo above that, driftwood lies in a shallow depression on the beach. The driftwood’s swirling form, the dark shadows of fir trees, the pearly reflection of an overcast sky, and ghostly pieces of submerged wood all came together in a brooding composition that I photographed as I left the beach – sometimes, parting shots are good.

Below, A gull glides through thick fog at Ebey’s Landing.  Watching fog banks coalesce and dissolve is a good way to feel the wisdom in the saying, “The only thing that is constant is change.” (Heraclitus).  Sure enough, the fog cleared, revealing the simple form of a softly rounded bluff as it met the razor-straight horizon.







Note: Some of these photos appeared in an earlier post here.



Foggy Island Saturday

On a recent Saturday – a blue, high-ceiling day –

I rode the ferry to Whidbey Island, where

the main road traces a curvy spine –

climbing and dropping,

climbing and dropping.

With no views

of malls.

It’s a world apart.

On the island’s west shore, a narrow strip of land fronts Admiralty Bay

(a bay that connects Puget Sound and Seattle to the Salish Sea and the great Pacific Ocean beyond).

It drew me in for a look.

Where the rock-strewn beach hooks westward,

a ferry idled in the fog. Fishermen gazed into dark waters.

Behind the driftwood-littered shore,

a marshy lake: its wet, salty earth stained red with Glasswort (Salicornia).

Known as Pickleweed and Samphire, the odd little vegetable is harvested

and eaten

around the world.


Grasses criss-crossed in the field, like a finely etched engraver’s plate.



On the road to Ebey’s Landing, fog,

thick as cotton, smudged a hillock of Douglas fir

behind an old farmhouse.

Bicyclists stopped for pictures.

Round the curve, down the hill…

park the car, step onto the beach…


I walked alone up the beach.

I found another wetland there, shrouded

in fog rolling in

from the Salish sea,

softening the colors

so subtly.




On the beach side, driftwood giants

rose up –

sky, land, sea,

wood, grass, rock –

all one.

Water is the common denominator –

mighty bull whip kelp sloshed

back and forth,

back and forth,

slowly washing up onto land.

Fog silvered the water.


It all left me