The theme for the June 2002 issue is New Starts, but from the looks of things it should be subtitled Merging into Life in the Slow Lane. In May, in a rather whirlwind transition of four days, I landed a new job, moved my household to overpriced storage, gave away my old truck, got another car, moved to a rural Northwest island, and started that job. I sent out a blanket note to my friends and acquaintances to tell them of the move, and without exception they all thought it sounded wonderful. Then, to them it seemed I just vanished.
On paper it sounds like a dream come true: Hired away from jobless Seattle at a (barely) living wage to transform the Whale Museum’s store into something that will support and match the museum’s new ambitions, living on San Juan island surrounded by tranquility and peace and beauty and charm and nice quirky people and a short boat ride away from Victoria and Vancouver BC when I need a civilization fix.
Now here’s the reality part of the dreamy lifestyle: The grocery store closes at 6, and all day Sundays. Gas and food cost at least 30% more than on the mainland. I occasionally work on a project at a lighthouse where I sit in an attic with two computers while Killer whales cavort in the kelp 20 feet away and I don’t even know they’re there. When I walk out to my car on a moonless night, the lighthouse beacon illuminates the trees above and it’s pitch black where I’m stumbling blindly along a dirt path. I can sometimes hear the whales go by in the dark but once again, not see them. There are five or so espresso places in town, four of which have dreadful coffee. The one place that has good coffee is closed weekends. My living situation varies from sleeping on the museum gallery floor and showering at the marina, to luxurious digs on beautiful salt water bays.
These are details, of course, and can be dealt with. The tranquility can be a marvellous thing for people who have partners, buddies, spouses or a dog. For a solo person it can be wretchedly lonely. Then the sun comes up in the picture window of a friend’s house, a Harbor seal waves a fish around on the glassy water, a big polite oafish dog stares at me for a pat, and I go to work knowing how rare the opportunity is to contribute to the support of a unique museum which holds exactly all the things I value in the world – appreciation of the whales of the sea, preservation of the wild, and information to anyone with an interest in them.
Your Rustic Editor-in-Chief