Hand-hewn signs from a previous visitor mark the split-rail fence above a beach at James Island, a marine state park four miles from our Center Island dock.
IT’S A DELICIOUS PHENOMENON that I can sit outside, laptop in my lap, in the old mahogany-stained Adirondack chair that my brother built, and tap out random notes about what I’m seeing and hearing.
I love this about our new life.
It’s the Friday after Labor Day and it’s as if someone clicked a Woolly Mammoth-sized switch that has stanched the flow of summer visitors to our island.
It’s delightfully quiet, but that doesn’t mean silent. As I lounge here on the deck outside Nuthatch cabin, I hear the murmur of waves on Lopez Sound, which on this sun-dappled September afternoon sparkles crazily through the trees before me. A breeze with a cool promise of autumn ripples the leaves of our big Canadian maple with a sound like playing cards gently shuffled. The migratory birds have heard a summons and embarked on their long haul, so the flippity-flippity of visitors to our feeders is less frantic. The wild currant bush clinging to our little cliff is plainer without the procession of regal purple finches or the goldfinches’ buttery schmear.
Still present and accounted for: the beloved nasal honk of nuthatches who, in cunning bandit masks, raid the endless supply of Amazon-delivered sunflower seeds that chips away at our bank balance. (We think they’re worth it.)
In the salal bushes, a spotted towhee whinges like a second-grader forced back to school.
I don’t even need to look up when I hear a haunting “wooo, wooo, wooo” that I know is the signature flap of a raven’s plus-size wings as it passes overhead, throwing a fleeting shadow across the sun.
There’s the occasional buzz of small airplanes, which come and go a lot to these islands (like the seaplane that carried our daughter home on Tuesday from a lovely Labor Day Weekend visit). Once in a while I hear the whoosh of a boat heading for Lopez Pass and homeward to Seattle. Up high, the faint and far-off roar of a passenger jet brings travelers home from Europe. (We once excitedly spied Center Island from a homeward flight on Icelandair.)Daughter Lillian boards a 10-passenger de Havilland Otter seaplane operated by Kenmore Air as she departs Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island after a Labor Day visit to Center Island.
I still have busy days when I work in my writing hut, do repairs to the cabin or fixes on the boat. But today Barbara and I packed a lunch, hopped in WeLike and buzzed over to little James Island, a marine state park 15 minutes away. In all our years of cruising the San Juans we had never stopped there. We found a picnic table with a splendid view of Mount Baker and passing ferries. This Friday after Labor Day we had the island’s craggy firs and red-bark-peeling madronas all to ourselves.
WeLike sits all alone at the James Island dock on this peaceful Friday after Labor Day.
And when we got home, I sat down outside in my brother’s old chair, read a book, sipped a beer, snacked on Thai Lime & Chili almonds (a Trader Joe’s bit of wonderfulness), and turned on my laptop for these few minutes.
I hope the stealthily approaching autumn sneaks some good things in to your life. For this week, that’s all the news from Center Island.