Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Chamber of Commerce Is Going to Love Me

Dear Hearts and Gentle People,
It's another cloudy sunny rainy haily snowy spring day on Vashon. The entry before this one is all about the weather these days, if you want to keep reading. That's my column for this week's Loop, which comes out on Friday, April 25.
This piece is one I wrote for "Destination Vashon," the local annual summer tourist guide that is published by the Beachcomber, the island weekly. It will be an insert in a coming issue of the Beachcomber, and then will be available at island places of business and on the ferries for the next year or so.
Two people have pronounced the piece "lovely." It's all about what we love about the island - Leslie, the editor, asked me to avoid the negative, and I did, absolutely.
If you used to live here, it might make you a little homesick. If you live here now, you might say, "Yeah, but wottabout..." I left out the wottabouts. Tourists don't need to hear about wottabouts. We who live here will deal with the wottabouts, just like everyone does in their home town.
In the interest of brevity, I cut out a nod to Austin, Texas, where I believe the "Keep (insert your home town) Weird" bumperstickers started. My writing pal Susan down in Texas says it's ok, because Austin isn't as weird as it used to be.
By the way, you can read Susan's column this week at:
She writes as the mother of two grown sons, and I really related.
Also by the way, Susan and I are the founding mothers of the Fat, Sarcastic, Average Ladies' Guild. We were talking one day about how we wanted to be tall and skinny and elegant when we were young, but, "I turned out to be fat, average, and sarcastic," I mourned. Susan picked up the ball from there. We are now the Guild. No rules, no officers, no meetings. If you're a member, you just know.
OK, on to this lovely piece - blessings & all

What Makes Vashon Weird?

You may have seen the deceptively subtle little bumper sticker: “Keep Vashon Weird.” Why is this sentiment appropriate, and why do people smile when they see it?
First, Vashon’s an island. OK, it’s two islands, Vashon and Maury, connected by a thin portage. There is something romantic about a place you can’t get to unless you get on a boat, and the inconvenience of an island is what attracts, and repels, people. Residents allow one to three hours to get someplace on the mainland which we could get to in twenty minutes if we lived over there. We live with inconvenience because we feel so privileged to live here. Islanders have a deep sense of being a people apart.
Second, Vashon is an island populated by eccentrics, even now when the internet has made the island less isolated. The character of a community is the sum of the characters that live there, and Vashon has always had a high percentage of capital C Characters. Perhaps living surrounded by a moat is what attracts, or makes, unconventional personalities.
Third, Vashon is beautiful. At every turn you see a view of the water, evergreen forests and stands of alder and Madrona trees, and of mountains, including Mt. Rainier, when the clouds part to reveal it.
In spring, the roads are bordered with dogwoods and their elegant, waxen blooms, and wild cherry trees in blossom. As they fade, the riotous yellow of Scotch broom and the purple and white foxglove come out. Wild sweet peas and purple larkspur bloom as the summer progresses, and wild blackberries ripen in August. Yum.
Not to mention the rather spectacular gardens and landscapes which people have created and tend here. Other manifestations of the human hand: a pond in the shape of a deer; a bicycle embedded in a tree; the exotic murals at the Island Theater painted in the early 1950s by a 17-year-old artist named Jonathan Tabor, who changed his name to Jac and went on to work for Disney; murals on the sides of buildings; and a lighthouse with guided tours, for starters.
As you bike or walk or drive around you might see bald eagles soaring overhead, or blue herons standing at the water’s edge. While walking on the beach you might see a pod of orcas swimming up the Sound. Once in a blue moon you might spot a mink, a descendant of escapees from the mink farms that used to be here.
Deer are everywhere. On odd occasions a bear swims onto the island, but only on odd occasions, and the bear is usually scared to death and looking for a more bear-friendly atmosphere, and swims off the island again.
Finally, Vashon is a small town. People value the sense of community and connection we have with one another. When you become a member of any group on the island, you will experience the overlap of a small town. We tend to disagree about practically everything, but we get along, mostly, because when you live on an island, you will run into that person again.
Come and visit. We welcome you, but guard your heart – as you watch the full moon coming up over the Cascades, or watch the sun going down behind the Olympics, you might feel like you’ve come home, and you might want to be a capital C Character, and help keep Vashon weird. It could happen. Ask anyone who lives here.

1 comment:

Nandi Devam said...

Vashon is so lucky to have you, Mary, and we (your fans) are so lucky to be so entertained by your literary finesse. You write like you sing and play guitar (and write songs). What a pleasure to know you!

Keep it up!

Nandi Devam (Sopwith Camel)