Friday, July 8, 2011

How the Other Half Lives

I'm on vacation in the Pacific Northwest.  I tell my Oklahoma friends that it's "the Seattle area", because that just seems easiest. In truth, I got up at 4 am Oklahoma time, flew all day and got into the Seatac airport at 11:30 in the morning.  My sister picked me up and we drove a couple of hours out West on the peninsula, across the Hood Canal Bridge and past Chimacum to Coyle road.  Then it was another 11 miles out in the middle of nowhere and nine acres of blueberries.  And a house and a shop and a really cool terraced garden. And quiet.  Lots and lots of quiet time.  Except that I downloaded the Angry Birds app on my iPad for my nephew.  All I can hear right now is the keyboard keys and the sound of electronic slingshotting of ostensibly angry birds.  Every once in awhile, I hear "Cool!"  That's too funny, if a little distracting. 

It was 54 degrees today, and a little drizzly.  I made arrangements to see two of my old friends from elementary school.  From fourth through sixth grades, I attended the local elementary school.  While my family moved away, one of my sisters still lives here and I've been lucky to keep in touch and occasionally rediscover other old friends.  Today was one of those rare days where there were no demands on my time.  I could sleep in, drink coffee and do my hair.  I painted my toenails and put on my cute flipflops and a pretty tank top with a light sweater in case it was chilly.  I left 104 degree heat for this and packed a little light. 

I met my friends, C and B, down at Linger Longer Bay.  They brought their children with them.  C has one little girl, and B has three little girls.  It was a gaggle of girls between the ages of 8 and 13.  We walked onto the beach, where it was chilly and windy, and I stuck a toe in the water.  Long ago, when we were girls, we swam on days like this.  The water felt warm by comparison.  If the air temperature was 54, then water must have been about 60 degrees.  All but the littlest kid jumped right in, splashing and screaming while the rest of us sat on the rocky shore and caught up on old times. 

B works at the local store, in our little seaside town.  The population is about 350, and since it's on the major road, a lot of traffic comes through in the summer to camp, enjoy the scenery and most importantly, drive on through.  "People ask me what we do around here for fun," said B.
C answered, "You told them about hiking in your yard, or playing in the bay or fishing or gardening and such, right?"
"Yeah," said B, "But it seemed to confuse them more.  They say 'but what about going out and having fun?' They just don't get it. This is fun."
I was trying to listen, to keep up, but I'd lost feeling in my pretty painted toes. I was shivering uncontrollably.  After twenty years of being gone, two in Las Vegas and twelve in Oklahoma, it's safe to assume that I am no longer acclimated to the cooler climate. Eventually, the chattering coming from my teeth scared the bald eagle that was flying overhead.  B asked if we'd like to just move our party to her house.  Yes, I'd love to come over to your indoor, not freezing and seasalty home.  Yes, please. The girls continued the high spirited, high pitched noise level. 

B and C are both life-long residents of our tiny town.  Usually, when someone thinks of the Northwest, they think of log homes and multi-millionaires, giant and sparkling houses built into hillsides with water views and pristine vistas, with yacts in the harbor.  They might think of Bill Gates, the Seattle Symphony, and Pike Place Market. Sophisticated stuff.  These days, the Northwest invokes images of that annoying, sparkling vampire. I don't know anyone who has one of those gorgeous homes or even one with a yact and I sure as hell would shoot any vampires that sparkle or otherwise go emo on my ass. 

B and C and all of the people we knew lived in houses exactly like the one I lived in- older and cluttered with barely controlled happy chaos.  There was powdered lemonade in the cupboard and popcorn and the kids knew where to get something to eat and something to drink.  And there was plenty of stuff to do.  I climbed trees and went swimming at Linger Longer Bay even when it was raining sometimes.  At B's house, it was the most welcome sight I have seen for some time.  It looked like three princesses lived there.  Three princesses who played dress-up and camped on the lawn in their tents and worked on a race car with their dad.  The oldest showed me her knife collection.  Two of the other girls practiced using a straw to make farting noises under their armpits.  Then everyone drug out B's big box of clothes and showed me all of the beautiful things she had made or bought for them to wear and play in.  A dog named Rocky meandered by from time to time and two cats made themselves known.  There was talk of a mouse living in one of the closets and a cat was set in front of the door.  There was none of this perfect brand-new furniture and museum-quality housekeeping.  How do you live in a house you have to fret over, anyway? I looked out the big picture window at the farm down the road and the bay a quarter of a mile off.  From my vantage, I could see the neighbors chickens and goats and occasionally, a car driving by.  A treehouse stood ready for playtime, the plants owned the place and I had to pry myself from my seat when it came time for me to leave.   C and B and their families are wonderful people, kind and thoughtful and I am so lucky to know them and to be their friend. 

I went home and we had leftover spaghetti for dinner.  I had to put on a wool vest and drank hot tea to keep warm.  My sister, brother-in-law and nephew talked about fishing and camping and what we did with our days.  They teased me about my cold toes and frozen hands.  I guess tomorrow we will have a seafood dinner- whatever my brother-in-law caught and smoked, and some crabs and oysters.  The tourists who come through town, who ask what there is to do- they just don't understand.  It's not their fault that they lack the experience of real living on the coast.  How do you explain how the other half lives?        

This is my vacation face


  1. What a lovely post, Mindie -- evocative of both the place and the gentler pace. I want to be the other half when I grow up :)

  2. It's hard to explain when they have no frame of reference--they're looking at their world through their window, their paradigm. They're trying to make the logic of your coastal town fit with the logic of their lives. If they're hungry, pop down the block to McDonalds. Bored, go to the mall. Target is two miles away for most of your needs. Starbucks every 50 feet. It would be like you guys visiting their cities and asking where they see nature or get some quiet and solitude. :)