Whidbey Island is a softer place than many, a place where people don’t dress up much and might have a real conversation with someone they don’t know if they see that person, say, at a farmer’s market (there are five in the summer) or in one of the local libraries (five all year round).
A friend visited me from New York, and the story he took home from Whidbey was how we bought eggs from an untended farm stand and put our money in a wooden box with a slot. “That would never happen in New York,” he said. “That box would be gone. The eggs would be gone.”
What he didn’t realize is that this was an upscale farm stand, with a refrigerator and a locked cash box. My favorite place to buy eggs—because I know they’re truly fresh and from hens with names—is out of an ice chest that sometimes appears next to a field near my house, and these people put out just an envelope for the money.
My sister-in-law visited from Arkansas, and the story she took home was how at a local bistro she heard a guy at the bar giving a girl the farewell, “Good luck with the chickens.”
“You don’t hear that all the time,” my sister-in-law said. “It’s new for a pickup line.”
It’s just SO Whidbey.
There’s a sweet man who walks around the town of Langley quite a bit. A few years ago he was in an accident or had an illness that affected his brain, and now what he wants to do is to talk with people—tell everyone he meets how dazzling their smile is, how absolutely perfect the color of their eyes. Some find this disconcerting. I did at first. Then I saw that this man, who has no hidden motive, nothing to gain, is an apt expression of this gracious place.
I lived on an island in my twenties, and it occurred to me then that people move to islands not for the sake of money or power but because they want a certain kind of life: a slower pace, a more comfortable environment, a more resonant focus. Slower, more comfortable, and more resonant than what? Than what’s happening in the world outside that island—on the Mainland, Out There, in America, whatever people on that particular island happen to call the rest of the world. In my experience islands are worlds unto themselves.
Whidbey Island is teeming with artists and writers and musicians and singers and knitters and jewelry makers. This may not be what puts food on their tables, but just about everyone here is involved in some form of creative expression. In South Whidbey, which is the side of the island I live on, there are four community theater groups, one for children and one that does Shakespeare—for free! “We make much more money by passing the hat,” the founder and organizer of the Island Shakespeare Festival said.
It’s an expression of the better part of human nature—and it’s SO Whidbey.