“Keep Vashon Weird”—That’s the slogan of the little island I’m on now. But I don’t know as I’d describe it as ‘weird’; the word has a pejorative feel. Rather, I’d nominate: “KEEP VASHON PARADISE!”
That’s what it seems to be to me, coming from the juniper-and-cedar-pollen zones of the Northern New Mexico desert. I’m thrilled I’m housesitting here for almost three months!
Vashon Island is, well, an island (37 sq. mi.) in the Puget Sound. There’s no bridge to it; you’ve got to take a ferry and there are two options: one to the south end, coming from Point Defiance in Tacoma, and one to the north end, coming from Seattle. There are no big chain stores—no Home Depot, Costco, Target, Penny’s, Sears, Sam’s Club, Staples, Office Depot, Chico’s, or Best Buys. No malls. There are no fast-food restaurants. (Oops, I lied. I passed a Subway the other day.)
If there’s none of that, what is there on Vashon you may ask? One historic lighthouse (just a mile from “my” house!) built in 1915, with an easy view of Mt. Rainer on a clear day.
What else on Vashon? Thirteen little churches that advertise in The Beachcomber. One movie theater whose marquee has unevenly spaced lettering. One red-painted, modern high school where the community holds concerts. A hardware store quite like the old, un-chained variety. A smattering of restaurants with “Great Good Food.” Assorted realtors, dentists, lawyers, insurance agents, hair salons. A tea store. Two grocery stores. A post office where service is very polite, a couple cafés and consignment stores, and plenty of art galleries and performance spaces—that’s what I really like. (This week the quilt store has an exhibit of quilts by four men. They’re stunning.)
Vashon is an island where people make their own entertainment. My first night here my hosts (the people I didn’t know before I got here, but for whom I’m housesitting) invited me to a song-swap. That turned out to be eight intrepid singers with mostly mediocre voice (like mine) who joyously sang together whether they knew the song or not, all sitting around someone’s dining room table.
My third night here I joined a small group sitting in a circle chant/singing the four powerful, miracle-producing ho’oponopono phrases: “I love you, I’m sorry, Please forgive me, I thank you.” My fifth night here I attended the Free Range Folk Choir Concert: you don’t have to audition for it, but you do have to learn by heart some elegant and touching folk songs from around the world. (I’ll join for the few months I’m here.) My seventh night here, I joined in the monthly First Friday Art Walk. My eighth day, I went to the Farmers Market and met some local authors. My ninth day was Easter; I attended an ecumenical sunrise service in the woods on a circle of logs about 100 yards from the water. (I’ll blog about that separately.)
See what I mean about people making their own entertainment?
Plus, it seems that everyone has a garden full of flowers and veggies. They can food, freeze it, dry it, trade it, sell it—and share it at frequent pot-lucks.
Vashon has hardly any industry, as far as I can tell. Apparently lots of people commute on the ferries to Seattle and Tacoma. Apparently before their internment during World War II, the Japanese planted and harvested large strawberry fields here. Apparently someone started importing and roasting coffee here—it became the Seattle’s Best Coffee brand and brought prosperity to at least some residents. (And unbeknownst to most people, that brand is now owned by Starbucks although it keeps its original name to disguise that fact.)
That’s some of I’ve gleaned about this quirky Paradise. And I’ll share a colloquialism I learned on day one with you: To go “up-town” means to go into Vashon’s small shopping area; to go “over-town” means to go off island.
So come on over and meet me up-town sometime. 🙂 I’m gathering more about Vashon to tell you and show you.