It’s been hard to put down on paper what being in Anacortes, WA for these last weeks has been like. The nature here is abundant, healthy, and well maintained. Many days have been spent walking or running the trails, hiking up hills, photographing sunsets, and spending time with wonderfully kind, generous, and happy people.
Just about everyone I’ve met around the area, including Skagit Valley, has been friendly, warm, open, and delightful.
The trees simply envelope you with their sturdy flexibility, their needles, their mystery. The rain here doesn’t often come down hard, but simply mists thickly until big drops form on the ends of branches, & ploop mutedly onto the forest floor. When rain does come, it quickly moves on, and keeps itself at a lilting, gentle pace, so as not to startle even the sensitive kitties in the house I stay in.
This quiet sensitivity, this roughing down of the edges of coastline & islands that sprinkle themselves into the ocean, has had profound affects.
I left the San Francisco Bay Area with a heavy heart. I left with a wake of destruction & sorrow, mostly towards myself. I left not feeling ready, and I left with a loose thread dangling. But mostly, I left with fear, and in fear; two very different things but both equally impactful.
Through the sunny days lasting til 10PM, through the views of Mt. Baker sometimes shrouded in its own self-made weather cloak, through the tranquility of this sleepy 12,000-person seaside town, through the angularity of the dockworks against the calm channel & shoreline beyond it– I’ve come to understand this fear. Maybe not all of it, but much more than when I left.
It is a fear of simply existing, a fear of stretching out of my comfort zone, a fear of succes, a fear of failure, a fear of abandonment, a fear of my own fear, a fear of myself, a fear of the unknown, and all sorts of angles & sub-plots of fear too complicated for words.
It is a fear that causes me to run from myself, to run from what I feel, to hide in the arms of another pretending I’m safe, when really, I’m just hiding.
It’s a fear of vulnerability, both feeling it, and showing it to the world. It’s a fear of mistakes, both making them, and then having to forgive myself.
What I’ve learned from biking through this idyllic small town, through stopping & listening to the mist-drops plink & plunk to the forest floor, through breathing in the damp earthy green smell as I run near a lake, is to embrace this fear, get to know it, invite it in, welcome it, and share a meal with this fear. Spending time in these natural spaces, has helped me to just stop, listen, and breathe. When I listen to what is all around me, when I take it in with my ears, not only my eyes, I see myself, lovingly reflected in the brown bark, the raindrop sounds, the moss smells.
Until listening, truly listening to the natural world so perfectly presented here on Fidalgo Island, I had no idea just how jarring city life had been. Moving from San Francisco to Oakland was certainly a downshift. But, even there, hustle & bustle existed, comings & goings of an intense & sometimes desperate nature swirled through the neighborhood. For me, it was yet another method I used to not feel. Now it makes sense the peace I felt every year when I visited my dad in his small Western Colorado town. It wasn’t simply visiting with family who has known me my entire life, or my aunt’s fantastic cooking, or the outrageously gorgeous San Juan mountain vistas. It was removal from the hurley burly Bay Area lifestyle.
Fifteen years in the Bay Area was a fine thing. It was exciting and glorious at first, and through most of my 20’s. I grew into adulthood, I learned a lot about myself & life, and built a corporate career for myself. But after a while, it was more like being sucked against the wall in those spinning gravity rides at the carnival. The last 5 years, really, have simply seen me hanging on, wondering how to get the attention of the carnie so I could get off the ride.
Only since having the space to breathe, the delight of new smiling, happy, & joyful faces to get to know, have I seen these years, this experience, for what it was. More truthfully, felt it for what it was.
Back in January 2010, when the concept for this project came to me, it was right that I was as jaded & bitter as I was then. It was right to act on the impulse to leave. It was time. The longing, sadness, and melancholy felt over the last year, knowing that I would go, was only just a big “Thank You”. It’s like a break-up; all the memories of the “good times” came flooding back; the sincere & wonderful friends that I’ve known these last 15 years, the nature, the new adventures like salsa dancing & rock climbing. But, despite these memories, and waves of gratitude, it’s time to be gone.
Even though I knew this, at some deep level, still…still I tried to maintain a tie, something to hold me there. It almost derailed my entire project, my will to leave. It’s amazing what a person’s unconscious mind will do when it feels threatened by something new.
Seeing the pink, orange, lavender, and other equally stunning colors creep into the clouds over the backyard every evening reminds me that I am no longer there, in the Bay Area. I’m here now, here in Anacortes, WA. Despite my mind trying to play tricks on me, I caught it in enough time to get out. I’m in Anacortes, WA now. Right where I belong.