Lopez Island, A How-to Guide

This summer we visited Lopez Island for the very first time.  This sleepy island in the San Juan Islands has been waiting patiently in our backyard all these years.  It was indeed quiet and relaxed, but she offered many delights to discover.  Enough delights in fact, that I want to move here.  Seriously. Herein one way to spend five wonderful summer days (or a lifetime):

Friday:  Meet up with your friends in Lane 1 at the Anacortes Ferry to catch an early afternoon sailing. Enjoy epic views from the top deck of the ferry for the hour crossing.  Laugh and point at swooshing seagulls with excited little boys.

Check into Odlin State Park for $25/per night.  Choose site #8 for partial shade and a path down to the westward facing beach.  Sit on driftwood logs and clink enamel camp mugs filled with Prosecco. Enjoy sunset.  Cook bratwurst and s'mores over the campfire.  Listen to lapping waves.  Snuggle little boys. Curl up in tents, smiling.

Saturday:  Drink strong coffee around campfire.  Devour your friends' delicious macadamia nut pancakes with bacon.  Comment on your excellent taste in friends.  Drop two crab pots off the dock and whisper gentle encouragement to the big boy Dungeness crabs below.  Ride bikes into the village to scope the festive Farmer's Market.  Buy pottery mugs from Jeffrey Hanks of Red House Pottery.  Eat bettter-than-Italian wood fire pizza and finish with fresh peaches.  Taste a flight of surprisingly delicious wines at Lopez Island Winery. Bike back to the campsite, read magazines and throw rocks in the water.  Pull up crab pots with three keepers.  Feast on mussels and crab.  Tell stories around campfire.  Snuggle little boys.  Brain teasers and more s'mores.  Curl up in tents, smiling.

Sunday:  Cook eggs for your friends for breakfast.  Drop crab pots.  Cycle into village to drink strong coffee at Isabel's Espresso.  Shop at Larkspur Vintage and buy floral top for $10.  Browse at Lopez Bookshop.  Picnic on the Village Green.  Pick up fresh blackberries, radishes, garlic, potatoes and spinach from Thorton's honor system farm stand en route to Shark Reef Sanctuary.  Watch harbor seals cavort with pups.  Cycle back to campsite and hi-five husband for riding fifteen miles on a bicycle.  Play on beach.  Pull up five crabs for dinner.  Feast.  Discuss poetry, religion, travel, books around campfire.  Snuggle little boys.  Curl up in tents, smiling.

Monday:  Exclaim over your really, seriously excellent taste in friends as they cook you orange bread french toast for breakfast.  Drive into town to rest legs.  Spend more time browsing at Lopez Bookshop. Picnic on Village Green.  Shower in public showers next to village green.  Drink malted milkshakes at the Soda Fountain.  Drive back to camp and spend all afternoon on beach reading magazines and throwing rocks with little boys.  Watch as little boys watch sand sift through their fingers, mesmerized.  Throw more rocks.  Feast on leftovers.  Plan more trips with friends.  Snuggle little boys. Curl up in tents, smiling.

Tuesday:  Sleep in as friends quietly pack up and depart.  Wake up to have strong coffee with muesli and prepare for the best family bike ride of your life.  Ride to Spencer Spit and walk on the beach. Throw some rocks.  Ride by Horse Drawn Carriage Farmstand and stop for some sugar snap peas, arugula and radishes.  Stop to pick raspberries at Crowfoot U-Pick Farm.  Picnic at Agate Beach Park, laugh at river otter's antics and throw some rocks.  Ride to Watmough Bay Preserve and gawk at Mt. Baker framed by headlands.  Promptly decide to return to spend all day tomorrow at this beach.  Ride all the way back to camp to complete 35 mile circuit.  Celebrate with surf and turf dinner.  Snuggle little boy. Fall exhausted into tent, smiling.

Wednesday:  Wake up and drink strong coffee.  Smile as you watch your son sit on his father's lap sharing a bowl of muesli.  Drink more strong coffee at Isabel's.  Spend an hour exploring the Lopez Island Library, possibly the coziest library in the world.  Definitely decide to move here.  Buy fresh juice from Vortex Juice Bar.  Shop at Village Arts Craft Coop and fall in love with Brenna Jael's book arts.  Buy several things. Have lunch at Vita's Wildly Delicious cafe, which is, yes, delicious.  Drive to Watmough Bay Preserve. Miss turn, round a corner to see an unexpected and completely unmistakeable hulk of Richard Serra sculpture behind a large modern glass house.  Observe private property signs and wonder aloud who could possibly have a Richard Serra sculpture in their backyard.  Turn around and go back to beach. Inquire with locals to find out that Paul Allen has a house on the island and the sculpture happens to be his; the large modern glass house turns out to be only his poolhouse.

Decide for certain to move to Lopez Island to hang out with Paul Allen at his poolhouse.  Lounge all afternoon at Watmough Bay.  Throw many, many rocks.

Drive back to campsite and enjoy one last campfire.  Snuggle little boy.  Curl up in tent, smiling.

Thursday:  Catch early ferry to Anacortes, reading real estate magazines. Start planning return trip to Lopez Island.


Gold-Plated Phonographs

My favorite email to read each morning is from The Writer's Almanac, a transcript of what is read on NPR every day.  I loved this morning's description of a historic message from earth:

"It was on this day in 1977 that Voyager 2 was launched by NASA to explore the planets of our solar system and to take the first up-close photographs of the giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.  Just before the Voyagers took off, a committee of scientists, led by Carl Sagan, decided to put on board each Voyager a message from Earth in case extraterrestrials ever found them....The Voyagers were each equipped with a gold-plated phonograph containing a variety of earthly sounds, including a heartbeat, a mother's kiss, wind, rain, surf, a chimpanzee, footsteps, laughter, the music of Bach and Mozart, and the Chuck Berry song "Johnny Be Good." Carl Sagan said, "The launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet."

I started thinking about what I might put on a gold-plated phonograph to capture the soundtrack of my life and here is a partial list:

          Etta James singing "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve," our song from our 
          courthouse wedding

          My husband whispering "I miss you already"

          Xavier's giggle, his sing-songy coos, and him saying "uh-oh"

          My dad reading Good Night Moon to his grandson

          My mom's laugh

          A summer breeze rustling leaves on a willow tree

          A raucous gentoo penguin colony

          A humpback whale singing and exhaling on the surface

          Elgar's Cello Concerto

          Frank O'Hara reciting a poem

          Chet Baker on the trumpet

          "Lütfen" and "Teşekkürler" - Please and Thank you in Turkish 

          The pop of a champagne bottle opening

What sounds make up your life soundtrack?  What would you put on a gold-plated phonograph?


Book Crush: Heirloom Modern

"Porter and I incorporate vintage and junk store shopping into our daily rituals the way others work in coffee runs, gas refueling, or trips to the grocery store." ~ Hollister Hovey

Written by sisters Hollister and Porter Hovey, Heirloom Modern:  Homes Filled with Objects Bought, Bequeathed, Beloved and Worth Handing Down is a mouth-watering coffee table book published by Rizzoli that features their family treasures and flea-market finds.  The sisters describe their parents and grandparents' through family photographs and the souvenirs brought home to New York City and Omaha from travels around the world.  The first chapter features these heirlooms which now decorate the home shared by the Hovey sisters.  The following chapters walk through the houses and apartments of their friends, curated with equally gifted eyes and a full appreciation of family history.

I look around at the treasures in my home, some gifts, some found, some bought, all cherished. Reading Heirloom Modern makes me want to display my heirloom pieces better...it also makes me want to check out some estate sales and see what's been dropped by Goodwill today.

I have a romantic silhouette of a couple kissing over an elegant breakfast spread called "The First Breakfast" which I picked up when Christian and I first got married.  It hangs in our kitchen because it makes me so happy, and the bonus is I only paid $8 for it at a furniture consignment shop.  Other pieces are more valuable, like the chandelier my Aunt Cindy gave me one birthday and the Kashan rugs my Uncle Manny imports.  All the inscribed books I've been given as gifts over the years are priceless along with the mementos I've picked up on my travels, like the landscape painting from Vietnam and a wool scarf from Port Lockroy, Antarctica.  My grandmother's hatpin is cushioned in a jewelry box and my father's "flea weight" baby boxing robe hangs in my son's closet.   I have a dozen favorite family photographs in vintage frames, and more awaiting the right frame I have yet to find.

What are the stories behind your heirlooms?  Do you know how or why they came to your family?  If not, do you have a relative you can ask?  Do you display your heirlooms or are they locked away in boxes?  Do you use them or are they too precious?  How will you pass along the details of provenance to your children?  What special pieces have you found that you hope to pass along?  Heirloom Modern will prompt you to dust off your heirlooms and it might even inspire you to go treasure-hunting.


Park Bench Epitaphs

If I can time our daily outings to the park or the lake just right, Xavier will fall asleep in his stroller and then I get a little bit of quiet time to read, write or simply watch the breeze move through the trees.  We have a few favorite park benches in shady spots, perfect for a stolen half hour.  I "collect" the heartfelt memorials people dedicate to loved ones on park benches.  The succinct and personal epitaphs are so moving and  the plaques take on an appealing patina through weather and wear.  I always imagine a person pausing to think with pencil in hand, writing, scratching out and revising the words until it sounds just right, possibly shedding a few tears.  And then I imagine them coming often to sit on their special bench, smiling, remembering.  When I pause for a few moments on a dedicated bench, I can feel the love between strangers whom I'll never meet.

"I come into the peace of wild things....." I vaguely remembered this line as a fragment of a poem, so I googled it when I got home and rediscovered that Poet-Farmer-Man-of-Letters, Wendell Berry.  


When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

~ Wendell Berry