Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy New Year

The ringing in of 2009 was fairly mellow. Kevin and I hiked up Turtleback for sunset, looking west to the orange changing to dark blue over Vancouver Island. Then we got Thai food and watched a movie, going to bed shortly after midnight. New Years Day my friend Elizabeth came up to visit from Seattle and we headed out to Doe Bay for a hot tub soak, sauna, open mike music night, and hubbard squash/gouda pizza.

So far I'm feeling great about 2009. In the spirit of the end of the year, I've made a Top 5 list of the best and worst parts about living on Orcas Island.


Who wouldn't want to live on a pristine, remote island, surrounded by forests and farmland and sparkling water and bald eagles and leaping Orca whales?

I've lived here less than a year, and already I feel like I know a solid chunk of the residents. At the grocery store you invariably see a whole bunch of friendly faces. It's a comfortable place to try new things, learn skills, and see the close-knit fabric of a small town.

There are more boat owners per capita in San Juan county than any other in Washington. I've done more sailing and kayaking in the last 6 months than my whole life combined. Fishing and crabbing are practically out your front door. You get to take a beautiful ferry ride to get to the mainland.

There is no bustling stress of big city life, no traffic or pollution. Nights are truly dark and quiet. I've taken to ALWAYS carrying a headlamp with me, because you never know when you will end up at a house down a long, unlit driveway. Parties are often quaintly tied to the land, such as "biomass parties" (an excuse to get your friends to chop wood), or cider pressing parties.

I will walk anywhere at night here. We never lock our houses or our cars. If you leave a cell phone or a wallet somewhere, not only will you get it back, but the person who finds it will probably be your neighbor's daughter's math teacher.


The hard part about being near less developed land is to constantly see it disappearing. It is more noticeable when trees are cut to build a mansion that will only be lived in for 3 months out of the year. Less development also means less services, resources, and higher prices. For any medical emergencies, people must be airlifted to the Bellingham hospital. It's hard to shop for affordable, everyday items. Gas is reliably a dollar more than on the mainland, but you can't exactly just go to a different gas station.

Sometimes, it's just too small. You want to date some one til you find out that they have already dated your best friend, landlady, barista, and yoga teacher. If you drink a beer with some one at the bar, people will assume you're dating and every one will know. Like within 2 hours.

Have you ever missed a ferry? It throws your whole day off, as you often have to wait 3 hours for the next one. If it's a busy time of year, you don't want to get out of the ferry line either. And last summer I was late to work more than once for trying to commute by sailboat returning from a weekend sailing trip.

Cider pressing parties? C'mon. I just want to see a concert, or go to a movie theatre or an art museum or an author reading or have an excuse to wear something besides jeans and a down jacket. There are small happenings out here, but I do miss the cultural events of larger cities.

Sometimes it is a false sense of security. Sure, violent crime is uncommon, but there have been a substancial number of breakins to cars, homes, and business in the last few months. I was assured that I didn't have to lock my bicycle, yet it's been stolen here- twice. Granted, I did get it back both times. Thanks to the fact that it's such a small community.

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