Thursday, March 24, 2011

Where the deer are different

We've just spent a few days on Lopez Island, one of the San Juan Islands bang in the middle of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. (It's the wee green splot right above the 'e' in Puget Sound--you can make the image bigger by clicking on it):

Someone very kindly lent us their house for a week. A beautiful place, nothing but peace and privacy. This is the view from the living room at dusk the day we arrived:

I can't remember the last time I did nothing for so many days in a row: no writing, no socialising, no communication with anyone but Kelley (and a bookseller and a barista in the one little village at the other end of the island). Best of all, no plane ride to get there, just a pleasant drive, then a ferry ride, then a very short drive (it's a small island). All I did was...nothing. You saw the books I planned to take with me. Well, I ending up reading only two, and one of them was something I picked up on the island at Islehaven Books & Borzoi, a fine little bookshop. Phyllis, the owner, gave me some great recommendations. I bought a zillion books, one of which, One Small Step, by P.B. Kerr, I read in about three hours. It's set in the 60s, in Texas, and is the story of 13-year-old Scott (Dad is an Air Force major) who gets recruited for a secret mission to the moon: commanding two chimps for a moon landing. Sounds ridiculous, and I suppose it is, if you take a minute to think about it, but it worked. And it's simple, straightforward, and uncomplicated.

The whole time on the island was like that: unexpected and uncomplicated. It was a delight to not plan ahead, to just wander outside and poke things in the grass with a stick, or pick them up and ponder them: worms, flowers, a bumblebee, a bird skull...

...then come inside, built a fire, drink wine. Every now and again I'd wander outside again and Just breathe the scent of pine and wild grass, the sea, the sky. The only sound was birds (including a woodpecker in the wood on the other side of the bay, and bees, and bats) and wind and the slish-slush of surf on the beach. We were the only people for miles.

I fell in love with one particular wind-thrawn tree just beyond the patio. But every time I remembered to try take a picture of it, it was getting dark. And in the spirit of plain island living, I couldn't be bothered to futz with it to make it brighter.

We saw lots of wildlife, from the humble (lots of earthworms--not something I'm used to here in Seattle, where I spend most of my outside time on decking; fascinating to watch them do that oozing telescope thing to move along) to the sublime (eagles). We had many visits, I mean right there, from what I think was a Northern Harrier, following the contours of the bluff in search of prey (quail?), and from deer. Lots of deer. Eerie deer. Deer with glowing eyes. (Just the flash bouncing back, you say? Look at the colour of the sky. I expect that's what deer from hell would want you to think...)

The bird I saw the most of, though, was a viciously territorial robin. I watched it drive off a variety of more cheerful birds. It spent the whole time looking severely stressed out. I almost felt sorry for it. Islands are like that: they dial everything down to Mellow. Lovely.

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