You have to be at least a little weird to live on an island.
You do. You’re going to be there, surrounded by water, cast away from the mainland, deliberately. You’ll know your neighbors better than you ever did in the city. Sometimes that means a trip to the grocery store is like a coffee klatsch, especially in the produce section. This means that the old hippie with the silver braid down his back, the Vietnam vet in combat fatigues who walks up and down the main highway with a machete (but he’s harmless), the librarian with a passion for marine biology who leads free low-tide walks, the lithe performance artist who dresses as a chicken for the apple festival, the older man with only one working eye who sits in the coffee shop all afternoon, by the door, greeting people as they walk in — they all become part of your life. When you live in a city, you might pass a character on every block, but you may also never see them again. On an island, everyone is a character.
It takes a character to live in a place that requires a long line of cars, a lumbering ferry boat, and a 20-minute crossing before your feet touch the mainland.
We live here by choice. I love that feeling of distance. And I love ferry rides, even in the rain.
When Danny and I have been in the city with Little Bean, visiting friends, eating at great restaurants, shopping in stores where groceries cost 1/2 of what they do on the island, we feel enlivened. After all, we lived in a city together for three years, and separately for many more. We were city people.
But when the ferry kicks away from the shore, and the lights on the dock start to recede into the blue night sky, we both sigh. We’re going home.
You can sit in your car. Many people do. Especially if you are in the first row of cars, facing the water like Moses with his staff, commanding the sea to part. From that space, you can see everything, plus have the heat of your car. When we’re the first car on the boat, we stay in.
But almost every other time, we walk upstairs. We don’t want to miss this.
Even when it’s raining.
These are Puget Sound colors, that twilight blue, the light grey, the light that gleams beneath them both. My heart adores these colors. They feel right to me.
The expanse of open water opens me too.
I take my deepest breaths on ferry rides.
And in this blue light, the crepuscular hour after sunset, before the pitch black, the lights of the city are dazzling and pretty from a distance. There’s so much life going on there.
And it’s so quiet on the top deck of the ferry.
This sign always makes me laugh. “Please do not sit or place children on vessel’s railing.” Really? Does anyone have to be reminded?
Then I stop laughing, thinking that there must be someone who needs the reminder. I gulp in salty air and hold Little Bean closer.
(I can’t help it. I’m still an English teacher at heart. It still bothers me there is no apostrophe in there.)
Then we glide through these dark waters, silently, the engines thrumming down. We’ve reached the tip of the island, our home.
I love those trees on the edge of the water.
The light on in that house, the first one I see on land, that home glimmering in the distance. There’s such a feeling of coziness, of the evening settling on the shoulders of us all, of gathering in and warmth.
Feels like home to me.
(Danny and I always wonder what it would be like to live right on the water like that, in the midst of a giant storm.)
Then the lights grow brighter, and more clustered. We listen to the swish of the water under the churning engines slowing down. There’s the dock.
As we drive off the boat, Little Bean asleep in her car seat, we talk about the day’s stories, our favorite moments, and what to have for dinner the next day.
This is where we live.
This is part of a series of photo stories we’ll be sharing, every other Friday, on this site. Great food has such a sense of place. We’d like to share some of the place that makes our food what it is.