Tried my best to get this down to 200 words and contact my friend for a photo. Neither happened.
Orion magazine has this lovely invitation to write about where you live. If you are a writer, you should do it.
I also learned the word “Zoomtown” today by finishing Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working From Home. It has left me thinking of where I live, how I cannot let go of words without an editor, and if I could write a love letter to capture this moment. I moved to this town from California. I am originally, as we say, from the East Coast. I fulfill all of the categories of the “Zoomtown” expansion, but truth be told, I have been trying to figure out how to retire in Bellingham since I was 27.
Here’s the thing.
Being priced out of this town is not shocking. Witnessing the changes to this tiny cove in the Pacific Northwest is something to see. When I am my most pessimistic, I think of ways to leave. As I have done many times from so many places. I can see leaving.
When I am at my most optimistic, I hope for better restaurants and bike lanes. The public library is superb. There is so much to love, and I feel lucky. I cannot see leaving.
If you can’t make the word count for Orion, by the way, you should write a love letter to where you live. Or where you are from. Write about your home.
I promise I will be a reader.
This is what I wrote.
Below the flight path of migrating snow geese, I live near a repurposed railroad trail. In the skies above the condominium I call home, the Mallard duck, the Great Blue Heron, the Barred owl, and the common gull fly east to Lake Whatcom. Uphill from where the land meets the Salish Sea’s tides. On the ancestral and current lands of the Lummi, Nooksack, Samish, and Semiahmoo people. Within rowing distance of the San Juan Islands. Within walking distance of Whatcom Falls. Within the crawling distance of old growth tree stumps.
When I walk each day along the trail, I say hello to mosses and ferns as I would a passing stranger. I worry about the waterfront and its tributaries when I read tide tables like lines of poetry with its warnings and watches. In the summer, I plan long sojourns into the forest. Gambling with days off work to not align with the smoke of forest fires. In the summers, I breathe the smokey air from provinces of our Canadian neighbors. I ride my bike close to the border of two countries.
Where a maple leaf of one national flag flies close to stripes and stars my own country’s claim.
All I see is ocean.
Where the summer heat waves now melt our glaciers. Where there are too many shades of green to count. Where we are blessed. Where we are cursed. Where we choose to ignore whether we are blessed or cursed.
Where a tissue mill that once sent plumes of polluted steam into the air; we now have a temporary park where people ride their bikes in circles. Near where people live in tents, cars, and RVs because they cannot afford homes.
When it snows, you can see the clear cut acreage on the nearby hills. We use phrases like “tree farm” as a friendly way to describe cutting down trees. To make ourselves feel better, we use phrases like “the mountains are out.”
The most optimistic hopeful phrase of the northwest. The mountains are out.
I like to imagine the mountain peaks choose when to let us see them. It is rare and completely delightful. On days when there is a sea of grey above our heads, you can hear the birds better. If you are still. Quiet.
In the winter, the days are short, dark. If you pay attention to the moment when the sun drops below the clouds, a change of the light turns into a celebration of colors. Brief far away light for minutes. You can miss it. Perhaps the sun is telling the global north a secret we cannot hear.
We live for the the long days of summer to give us back our lost light of winter. Hearts remain open as the in-between seasons pass quickly like windstorms.
Gale-force winds remind us that even the most experienced sailors may need the safety of a harbor. When the seas are too powerful you can find a cove in the City of Subdued Excitement and wait it out.