I’ve met my soul mate. It’s an island. But, it’s not an island like you’re thinking. It’s not all white sand beaches and palm trees. It’s in the most unsuspecting place, just off the northwest coast of Washington State in the San Juan – here’s a word I love to use - archipelago. The island didn’t woo me with its 4-star restaurants or luxurious hotels, because there aren’t any. It’s not that kind of island. I wasn’t wooed at all. I was quietly touched by its lush, green forests, perfect blue waters, salty sea breezes, smooth, pebbled, agate-filled beaches. I was captivated by its early, quiet sunrises and long, lingering sunsets. I was in awe of the friendly reception I received from the locals. I don’t quite know what I’m feeling about Guemes Island, but it’s something that resembles love.
Hey, I’ve been places. I’ve seen things. I’ve lived in San Francisco, Chicago, and I currently live in Boulder for the love of God! Every day as I drive out of my neighborhood I stare at the gorgeous Flatirons and foothills of this coveted, pretentious bubble of a town. I ride my bike and gaze at the pastoral, dramatic landscape around me, and I get to call it home. And what’s more, I lived in Seattle for almost six years. I’ve been to the San Juan Islands before; just never this little hidden gem of an island.
Beautiful destinations are nothing new to me. I’ve experienced the coast of Italy and France; the mountains and beaches of Belize; the pubs of London; the boulangeries of Paris; the Guggenheim in Bilboa and pintxos bars in San Sebastian, Spain; the glorious rainforests in the Virgin Islands; the fishing villages of Mexico. But there’s something, I can't quite put my finger on it, but it resembles the embodiment of the word, genuine, about Guemes Island that stirs my soul. There is an unmatched natural beauty that mesmerizes, silences and allows life to happen on the simplest of terms. The way the young natives adopted me and took me in like I was a part of their family was an experience that doesn’t happen on dry land. We sat together on the beach and talked about everything and nothing - for hours upon hours. They took me sailing. They had a beach BBQ, in my honor. They played guitars and flutes and serenaded me, and the best part was, we didn’t even know each other, but that didn’t matter. All that did was that we were living, and being, and enjoying each minute and each other and the island.
I’m 36 years-old. My life is just fine. I don’t need any beautiful, soft-spoken, romantic island interrupting my daily routine and taking over my emotions. I know how to do everything my own way. I’m not afraid of anything! Except, apparently, being in love. And that revelation didn’t hit me until the moment I set foot on this little island in the Puget Sound. Because when I did, a wave of uncertainty and surprise and relief and warmth washed over me, and covered me like the beach at high tide; and that tide hasn’t gone out yet.
What started as a writing retreat over five perfect July day became a love affair. Guemes Island made me smile bigger, feel deeper, and live more fully than I have for as long as I can remember. It made me say, yes, to everything. It made me forget about time and my iPhone and answering email and any responsibility waiting for me back on the mainland. I didn’t shower, and I didn’t care. I looked in the mirror and I saw me, staring back at me. Who had I been every other day before you, Guemes Island?
I was inspired to write like I'd never written before. The words couldn't travel from my brain to my fingers fast enough. Maybe it was the ever present smell of freshness, or the stillness of the air, or the constancy of green and blue everywhere I looked. I don't know, but the island became my muse, my inspiration, my partner. I wanted to grab her, hug her and never let her go. So I won't.
Yes, I’m in love with an island, and it’s totally unrealistic to think we could be together. But as I sit here, landlocked, surrounded by people and creature comforts and tall buildings, I wonder, why can’t it be reality? I don’t have the answer to that, so until we meet again Guemes Island – and we will, oh yes, we will – I love you.