I live near the southern tip of an island. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Actually, it can be. It is a sweet place and a magnificent place, and the only place that has felt like home. Traveling has taught me that every place is just right for some people and just wrong for others. There are people who would run away from Shangri-La. Real estate is about location, location, location. Life is about dreams, emotions, and reality. Nomads can blend those two by moving from this location to that location to the location over there. The rest of us tend to settle for longer and the choice of where we live influences how we live. I live on an island. It affects most of my life. Some of that is desirable, and some is not.
Deciding to live on an island can be dramatic. There are islands in Puget Sound and the Salish Sea (the new eco-region that includes the Sound and extends into British Columbia) that are only accessible by boat. A little over seven years ago I considered them and decided they were a bit too remote. Within the Sound are compromises. Some of the islands are reached by boat, which sounds remote, but the boats are enormous and run on “regular” schedules (depending on winds, tides, and breakdowns). A few islands are even connected to the mainland by bridges. Whidbey is one of those, and it is the largest. I didn’t want you to think I was stranded on a nubbin of rock. Whidbey is called “The Rock” but The Rock is mostly gravel and takes over an hour to drive from tip to tip. Deciding to live on Whidbey was also deciding to be readily connected to the land and within a reasonable commute to downtown Seattle. (Watch the Rural Character’s take on “a reasonable commute.”)
My choice has been brought up in several conversations lately.
One friend pointed out that my job hunt has probably been stymied by my address. They had a similar issue and didn’t get an offer until they used a mainland address. Sure enough, their employer said it was an issue, but let them keep the job despite the revelation. Some addresses are geographically undesirable. From my side, my job hunt is done in rings where each ring is marked by the commute. Island jobs are the most desirable because they are closest and therefore have the cheapest commute. Mainland jobs along bus lines that meet the ferry are next. Any job that involves taking the car onto the ferry every day adds thousands of dollars to the cost of keeping the job. That’s one reason why I’ve tried to build a business from home. Jobs much farther away necessitate selling my home or making so much that I can afford two places. The more I have to make, the fewer options I have.
Social life has its pluses and minuses. I love the community here, partly because there is community here. Life in suburbia diluted the expectation that people living near each other could care about each other, though maybe that was from a poor choice of neighborhoods. In suburbia I had friends who were next door neighbors, but I might not know the person two doors down. On Whidbey I live in overlapping communities of varied interests peopled by interesting people who are also interested in me. (Second Saturday Dance!) The degrees of separation are at most two. Good news travels fast. Gossip travels faster. Support in crises arrives in unexpected and heartfelt ways. People care about each other because we are all our mutual support network. I am generalizing, but the reality is that the majority of the time the support is impressive. But the community is limited so many single folks decide to only date mainlanders to avoid the gossip, and in some cases have actually moved off the island to find a new social scene. I met one woman who made the opposite trip to my place from mainland. We stood on the deck looking at the view. She loved it, paid me a few compliments, and eventually told me that I lived too far away.
The Open Studio Tour has brought geography to mind every time I blog, tweet, post, or email about it. I’m Number 1! I’m number 1 because no artist lives farther south than me. Go the map, check out #1, and notice that I’m so far south that I’m closer to Edmonds than I am to Langley. I’m closer to an artsy town on the mainland than I am an artsy town on the island. Being number 1 is good news, for the folks who start tours at #1; but, this is an art tour and art people aren’t necessarily that methodical. Nice to get the exposure. Hope I get the visitors. Come on by and visit me and my art.
I made this house my home because of its location. The house is small. The view is impressive. I bought the view. Location was important. I paid under $300,000 and have a view of almost the entire Olympic Mountain range, with a few houses cropping into the frame. A better location would have an unobstructed view, and a much higher price tag. I bought an impressive view and walk to magnificent views. Such is a simple, frugal choice. I consider this geographically desirable, and am confident that the house will sell because others that value views will think so too.
When I rode across America on a bicycle (Just Keep Pedaling) and when I walked across Scotland (which I hope to publish by Christmas) I learned that every place is desirable and not. I live in America, though the mainstream is held back by a moat called the Sound. There are things I love about this country; especially, our system of government and our acceptance of immigrants and innovators. There are things that make me wonder about other possibilities; especially health care and social responsibility. My life is in such flux from stock portfolios, my business, job applications, and possibly moving that I keep in mind that I could end up anywhere on the planet. Fortunately, I like this planet; though there are places I wouldn’t buy a house. A South Pacific island sounds sweet, but waterfront there may soon be underwater in a very wet sense as the oceans rise. Maybe I’ll become a nomad and explore.
As I wrote this a fellow island photographer called. John Pendleton knows that I need shipping tubes for the translucent satins I sell. Everything on the island tends to cost more than usual because it has to be shipped here. Someone shipped too many shipping tubes and he found a stash that’s 80% off. Unfortunately, the tubes and I are geographically undesirable. We are separated by forty miles and an hour’s drive. The gas would cost $18 and I’d spend two hours of my time to save, well, just about $18 considering how many tubes I need. The more valuable thing was the call. By the end, he’d agreed to help spread the word about the Tour, and I’d spread the word about the tubes. Whether these are big or small things, they are definitely desirable.
Sure, there are things about living on an island that are undesirable, but you know how I’m going to end this post. Of course, I think it is desirable. The ready reminders of nature and passionate people without a lot of distractions provides a perspective that is healthy and reassuring. I couldn’t find that in the light, noise, and density that is suburbia. Maybe now that I recognize it I could, but if I can I’ll stay here where it is open, available, and free. Now, if only I could find a way to pay the bills too. That would be highly desirable. Let me check my lottery ticket.