Each winter my family walks on the wild side during what we fondly call a retreat. We once traversed a boardwalk across two rugged miles of sand dunes and beach grass in the teeth of a bracing wind from which bits of ice were not absent. Another time we climbed the muddy path to a forlorn lighthouse at what seemed the world’s end. And then I also recall balancing on a jetty as waves licked the rocks below and rain pelted my face. Endurance, in such situations, becomes a mark of pride.
Why make a tradition of such insanity when most other folk are content to remain indoors and unchallenged? It’s hard to explain. That may be odd coming from a wordsmith, but it’s true. There’s a stark beauty to nature in its dormancy, but the attraction is more than that. Perhaps austerity appeals after so much Holiday comfort. As well, there’s something life-sustaining about being outdoors in the wind. The Lowara gypsies maintain they will die without balval. Perhaps they’re onto something.
As we drove through the night to board a late ferry to Whidbey island, I mentally prepared myself for a new test.
It was too dark to see our surroundings well, but we managed to find our bed-and-breakfast without too much trouble. When I looked out the next morning it was to discover with surprise that the road we’d traveled hugged the coastline. Beyond the road a steep hillside fell away into Puget Sound. The view was spectacular, with sparkling water curling against the green island and a few white crafts plying the surface. With the day at our disposal, we traveled to the small town of Langley. It was that penetrating damp cold found in the Northwest, and so by mutual consent we stopped for coffee at a local chocolate shop. Of course the temptation proved too much for me. I’d never tasted salted caramels before, and they struck me as pleasant but a little heavy on salinity but the caliber of the chocolate was not to be faulted.
Our next stop turned out to be Greenbank Farm, specifically the coffee shop, since it had started raining in a cold so intense I was loathe to hike. It was lunch time, so I ordered a bowl of clam chowder followed by salted caramel apple pie. I was determined to get to the bottom of this salted caramel thing. By the time we left the coffee shop, I’d formed the opinion that I like my caramel without salt. I’d imbibed enough of the white stuff by now to raise anyone’s blood pressure.
The rain paused long enough for me to snap a few photos of the pond, which boasted an interesting metal sculpture of a flying heron. But it was getting colder and I was glad to dive back into the car. My husband was in the mood for a hike by now, but all I wanted to do was go back to the bed-and-breakfast and rest. The stress I’d been under lately had apparently taken its toll, and I lacked my normal resiliency. I promised to be more up to the mark the next day, and John let me off the hook. We went back to the fireside and watched travel videos before going to sleep early.
The rain held off the next day but the cold came as an unwanted guest. John couldn’t wangle any extra time off this year, so we checked out of our lodgings. We’d skip the ferry and leave the island via the bridge at Deception pass, but first we wanted to visit Coupeville. We reached it around lunchtime, so we stopped for sandwiches at the local bakery. Since it was Sunday some of the shops were closed, but we went through an antique shop and on the landing explored a gift shop. A pair of colorful book stops in the shape of birds charmed me into taking their photograph. It was too tight in the shop for me to back up enough for the best of shots, but I wanted you to see them, regardless. They seem a happy couple and considerably brightened my spirits.
After visiting a gift shop on the Coupeville landing, we admired the bones of various marine animals hanging from the rafters, and then headed back. Before we reached the street we came across some intriguing steps leading downward. So far this trip we’d had nothing of adventure, so John and I smiled at each other and went down the stairs to the stony beach. The patterns beneath the pier caught my fancy, and I shot some photos there.
The stones on the beach made the most beautiful carpet. I had to capture them as well.©2013 by Janalyn Voigt
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