(I have stepped away from the busy and slipped quietly into the calm. The fog helps to keep this island muffled from the spin and chaos of the rest of the world. I’m sitting in a small cafe in Coupeville. Having forgotten my pen, I am left to these other devices. Soon, I’ll tuck the phone in my pocket and observe this slower pace. I’ll give it my full attention and eagerly await what it has to offer in return)
To get here, one must endure the blinding city lights and the buzz of a world heading to work. I did the soul-crushing drive from Auburn to Mukilteo on a Monday morning. There is an energy even as we are all divided by space and steel. You can feel the urgency.
The short ferry ride to Clinton is over before I know it. I imagined it was a beautiful ride. Arriving in Clinton it occurs to me I have no idea where I have landed. Fog covers everything. As I drive through Clinton, the “eyesite” technology on my new car quits working because it cannot see the car ahead of me. Neither can I. I wonder what I’m missing.
My first stop is South Whidbey State Park. I get out to stretch my legs and look for a glimpse of the shoreline. The access to the beach is closed so I pick a trail up higher. It’s cold and I can barely pick up the outline of the shore. I wander down the “closed” path, only to find that not even light is breaking through the fog. I move on. Lots to see, not a lot of daylight. Next time I spend the night.
Fort Casey is the next park I come to. Again, the density of the fog holds in the cold and lends an ethereal feel to this place. Still no views from the ridge, but the structures here are spectacular. There is a line for the bathroom…
The colors give me a rush as I step onto the steel grates. There is something so beautiful about the decay of things. I’d have to know more about this particular fort to really understand the layers of corrosion and decline. One can imagine the elements factored in more as the fort became decommissioned. Decline has a story. It is held in these halls and corridors. Texture and patina. Stunning.
I head to Coupeville for coffee. The Little Red Hen bakery sits right on the water and my latte comes with a view. Well, sort of. Still no view to speak of, although the boats on the water are lovely against this soft, white backdrop. I wander around town before the shops really open. There is the soft buzz of locals and I join them for their walks through town. I head for the bluff and take a short trail across from the pier.
There is a coffee shop at the end of the pier so I grab a pumpkin scone and continue my walk through town. I step inside a few of the open storefronts and find a charming little town of locals eager to direct me around the island. The bookstore was my clear favorite and the shopkeeper was a delight.
Next stop Fort Ebey State Park. Fort Ebey is another coastal defense fort built for World War II. There is a lot of coast to explore and so much history to learn. I take a path down to the shore and watch kayakers launch themselves from a nearby boaters cove. The sun wants to break through but it just can’t seem to penetrate this fog. The trail is lined with spider webs in the shrubs lining the trail. There are dozens of webs, but not a spider in sight. They glisten like diamonds in this muted sky.
Back at my car, I run into a couple from Camas. We get to talking and I am with them nearly an hour. I smiled as I left, thinking “this is the ultimate activity of retirement”. We talked birds and west coast adventures and a few mis-adventures too. I have a few new places on my day trip list and a few longer ones as well. Life is good.
Next stop, Deception Pass State Park. My Discover Pass has already paid for itself in just the first two weeks of having it. (Thanks, Mom and Dad). I”ve been to Deception Pass State Park before. I hadn’t remembered until I drove down to North Beach and it all came back to me. The trail along the water meanders along a small bluff above the crashing waves below. I see blue sky and sun breaking through the fog. It doesn’t last, but for a few short moments, I can see the bridge and more than just the outline of shore.
Driving a little further down the road I park and walk to the center of the bridge. Clouds and fog have rolled back in and below the bridge it looks like fluffy pillows. Time to head back toward the ferry.
Last stop is Langley. I love this sleepy little town ! I meander in and out of the shops before everyone shutters up for the night. At one stop I meet a woman shopkeeper, a kindred spirit, and we talk for more than half an hour about retirement, life, new chapters, finding oneself and dogs. If I needed some good food for thought, I found it in this last hour in a shop in Langley.
I think that the most important thing I came away with was the notion that this is a time to stretch a little and learn the boundaries (if there are any) to this new life. The woman I spoke with shared that a friend of hers had retired right around the same time I did. She hired a “coach” for the sole purpose of making sure she didn’t say “yes” to everything. That is a very timely story for me as I make the choices of how I’ll spend my days. There is an odd temptation to feel busy again, though I know that isn’t what my heart is saying. For sure, I will make it back to Langley.
There is no actual map forward that I’m aware of. I am tempted to make my own version on canvas with bits of wisdom and rocks, ferry receipts and photographs. I can carve something useful out of the pieces of my days. After all is said and done, Annie Dillard had it right when she mused :
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives ”
That almost sounds like a prayer. Or perhaps the key to the map I’m creating out of experience and curiosity. Maybe the book I write will really be all about how to retire. Maybe it already is …