Of Paradise Terrestre, A Year Hence

A year ago this weekend, I moved north from Seattle to my new home on San Juan Island. The past year has been both quiet and eventful, which was pretty much the mixture I was seeking, given that the previous decade was merely eventful, with only brief moments of relaxation. I returned this morning from a week in Seattle, dealing with personal errands, seeing friends, and attending a wedding reception, and as always, stress and anxiety bleed away once past the kiosk at the Anacortes ferry dock. Once I’ve made the ferry, I have only to sit back, read or study, and very soon I’m watching green and brown island slopes slide past, mountains in distant background glimpses, occasionally an eagle or seal.

After a week or so in the city, I’m always blown away when I return home, particularly to my little corner of the islands: the expansive meeting place of San Juan Channel, President’s Channel, Rocky Bay, and the more distant Haro Strait. As I sit here, after a nice dinner out on the deck (roasted chicken and potatoes, greek salad, Bandol rose), the cooling weather brings up a salty, seaweedy breeze from the water — amazingly refreshing after a week of unreasonably hot weather in Seattle.

As every summer, but especially these last two years, I recall Durrell’s opening lines in my favorite “travel” book:

Somewhere among the notebooks of Gideon I once found a list of diseases as yet unclassified by medical science, and among these there occurred the word Islomania, which was described as a rare but by no means unknown affliction of spirit. There are people, as Gideon used to say, by way of explanation, who find islands somehow irresistible. The mere knowledge that they are on an island, a little world surrounded by the sea, fills them with an indescribable intoxication….But like all Gideon’s theories it was an ingenious one. I recall how it was debated by candlelight in the Villa Cleobolus until the moon went down on the debate, and Gideon’s contentions were muffed in his yawns; until Hoyle began to tap his spectacles upon his thumbnail of his left hand, which was his way of starting to say goodnight….Yet the word stuck; and though Hoyle refused its application to any but Aegean islands….we all of us, by tacit admission, knew ourselves to be ‘islomanes.’

Lawrence Durrell, Reflections on a Marine Venus

I barely recall the thought process that seized me in the winter of 2006, and set me on the path to this gorgeous spot: closing the doors at Network Clarity, losing my mother and aunt in the same year, the drive every day from Seattle to Redmond….and the urge to simply flee. Originally I thought about Saltspring Island, to be closer to friends up there, but I have no regrets that I stayed this side of the border. The border which I look out upon in Haro Straight, just past Spieden and Flattop Islands.

Last night I talked with a friend at a wedding reception, and it turned out we’d both rented the same villa in Bandol, in Provence. We shared some memories of sitting on the deck there, overlooking the Mediterranean and within a few minutes of the Tempier vineyards to the north. My friend is considering looking for property in Bandol, and for the briefest moment last night I thought….maybe. Those thoughts were banished by the ferry ride today, the sea air tonight, and the upcoming sunset. Wherever else I may visit, I really have found my Paradise Terrestre. I have no regrets and regard myself lucky beyond measure.