October 31, 2013

A Love Letter to Guemes Island. ~ Sarah Sibley

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 four-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 genuinely 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, Colorado 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 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 gem just an eight minute ferry ride from the mainland, with only 500 permanent residents and a dozen paved roads.

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. You get the picture.

But there’s something 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 included me in their everyday 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 on a beautiful 35-foot sailboat called Mañana. They had a beach BBQ, with salmon caught just a few hours earlier, 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.

If Guemes Island were a man here’s where I’d pick a fight and break up with him. Why? Because 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.

Over five perfect July days, Guemes Island made me smile bigger, feel deeper, and live more fully and fearlessly 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?

Yes, I’m in love, I’m freaking 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.


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 Ed: Bryonie Wise

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