I caught a glimpse of Mt. Rainier recently. Not in a photograph, but in real life. Lucky enough to return to Seattle for the first time in way too long, I was blessed with the sort of weather that makes you fall in love with the PNW in the first place. Weather that puts the tallest mountain in the continental US on full, dramatic display.
Gone was any of Seattle’s infamous precipitation. In its place was endless blue, sunshine-y skies, which illuminated the snow-capped Cascades and Olympics to perfection. The highlight being, of course, majestic Mt. Rainier standing sentinel over them all.
And everywhere I looked there was color. From the deep emerald greens of the forests spread out in every direction to the bursts of pinks, purples and yellows on the flowering trees and shrubs that were just waking up after a long, dreary winter. Oh, and then there were the tulip farms…
I’ve always told anyone who asked that Seattle is most spectacular in July and August. But unexpected spring weather runs a close second. And, after a miserable (weather-wise) snowy week back in America’s heartland, this felt like a reward for my dogged tenacity to travel to the normally rainy PNW in April.
But I took my chances and am glad I did. Because something totally unexpected happened. I fell back in love with Seattle. I left all those years ago under less-than-ideal circumstances, certain the break-up was permanent. Donning the Island Girl tiara seemed like a legit trade-off. And it was. Still is. Besides, life is too short for regrets anyway, so I try not to have them. But that doesn’t mean feelings can’t change down the road.
And therein lies a universal truth about being an Island Girl. At least for this one. While you may be smitten with your rock of choice, there is usually another place somewhere else that pulls on your heartstrings, too.
And it is this constant state of tension – wanting to be in two different places – that puts you in a relentless state of uncertainty that is peculiar, I think, to island transplants. The uncertainty ebbs and flows, of course. Some days you can’t imagine living anywhere else but your rock. Others…well, I think you know where this is going.
An island friend of mine says island transplants live with our feet in two different places. We love where we are, but we also long to be somewhere else. And we are never quite sure where the right place is. Confusing, isn’t it?
Many Island Girls wistfully observe that the perfect arrangement is being half-time in one place (our island) and half-time in another (wherever it is we love that is NOT an island, preferably when the weather is exceptional).
For some it is a place with four seasons. For others it is where they will be surrounded with close family and friends. And for still others it will be some random place that captured their heart once and never let go.
But of course, such an arrangement is not always possible. After all, the cost of maintaining two homes is reserved for but a few retired and/or independently wealthy rock transplants.
The truth is that most of us are busy just living regular, normal lives on our adopted islands. Ones that involve jobs, obligations and bank accounts that are not always prepared to support such an extravagant lifestyle. Yes, we travel to visit new places or reconnect with more familiar surroundings. But that is often not quite enough to satisfy the quiet craving of wanting to live in two places at once.
And while visiting family and friends for the odd week or two here and there is a wonderful thing (especially if they are gracious enough to offer you a free place to stay), visiting is not quite the same as living, is it? Plus, you rarely stay long enough to really feel ready to leave.
Which is the thing about becoming an Island Girl that nobody warns you about. You will love every minute of your life on a rock, and often feel blessed with even the simplest things. The warm sun shining on your face. The chirp of exotic birds in the trees. The glint of sunlight on rippling ocean waves.
But all of these incredible moments will be tempered with the knowledge that there is somewhere else that also calls to you. And makes you question whether the path you have chosen is still the right one.
Of course, a smart Island Girl realizes that the grass is not always greener where she is not. After all, no place is perfect, and Seattle is no exception. The traffic is horrific, housing costs are exorbitant and there are far more grey days than sunny ones. After all, Mt. Rainier, the Cascades and Olympics do not put on such a spectacular show every day. I know this from experience.
So moving back would comes with its own set of issues, and I’d miss the laid-back island lifestyle anyway. Also being tan. I’d miss that, too. As another island friend reminded me, life is all about trade-offs. And some I’m just not prepared to make, no matter how much I love the mountains.
Which is why, although my affection for the PNW has been rekindled, I know that the right place for me is still my tiny island in the sun. And until I can make two homes a reality, occasional visits will have to do. Besides, it will start to rain in Seattle again soon. And I’ve never been particularly fond of the color gray anyway.
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