Whidbey is finally experiencing a day of summer. The clouds burned off. The sun dried the lawn. The windows and doors are open. It’s Saturday, and a fine day for feeling lazy. I’ve been so busy that I’m going to take this lazy man’s approach to today’s blog post and simply tell you what the last day’s been like living on island time.
Move to Whidbey, and probably other islands too, and you’ll hear about island time. Things get done, but they follow a different pace. It’s easy to assume things always move slower, but that isn’t right either. Most things move more slowly. Some of the most auspicious happen without warning.
Summer is the easiest season to see the difference between island time and American Standard. Year-round residents move along like diesels, steady and sure, and confident they’ll get to where they’re going. Visitors, weekenders, tourists, lost souls, raise the average energy. Horns honk. Car alarms wail. Harley’s rumble. Cell phones chatter. Sitting on my front deck I can easily hear conversations from five houses away. They, and this is an us and them thing, they have conversations in tones that would carry over sirens and traffic noise. There’s not much need for that when the loudest thing in the neighborhood is a flock of birds. All that extra noise and energy can’t sit still and a freneticism develops.
I live on the island. When I moved here I expected to head back to the mainland (aka Merika) at least once a week. Except for hiking, it’s become more like once a month or two. The culture shock is obvious.
Island time is not a philosophical choice. It is not an attitude imposed on the island by its residents. Island impose a lifestyle. Almost every road is two lanes with few passing zones. Pick the pace you want, but you’re probably going to spend a fair amount of time behind some vehicle that can’t go faster and that you can’t pass. Relax. You’re headed the same way. You’ll get there. Besides, it’s an island so to get really lost you’d have to cross a ferry or the one bridge. Where ever you’re trying to get to isn’t going anywhere. The ferries can be a reason to rush, but the chance for a speeding ticket usually isn’t worth getting to the terminal on time. There’ll be another one along shortly, or not at all. You can’t change that, and for all you know, the next run might be cancelled, or the lot is already full, or the schedule is slid because they had to steer around the whales. Leaving early to beat the crowd is a relative thing considering that the distance between any event and its parking spaces is less than half the length of any Merikan shopping mall. I will, however, get to The Clyde early (almost first run movies for only $6 + $1 popcorn), but that’s because I have a favorite writing seat in the back row.
Life on the mainland could work the same way, but there are competitive pressures. There’s always another lane to change to in the hope of getting ahead. Besides, cutting through traffic is weaving through strangers. They’ll probably never see you again. They’ll never know what they did to your blood pressure. Make your own career analogies.
Cut someone off on the island and they’ll recognize your car or your bumper sticker. It might even be news in the police blotter. Blue SUV with five bumper stickers and a fishing pole in back passed on the right . . . (Fictionalized for community harmony.)
Last night was Friday night. Downtown Langley had the Second Street Market where a couple of dozen artists, farmers, and shops set up tents in one block of the two main streets. They even had to post Detour signs. Gasp. I’d forgotten about it but happily stumbled into it on my way to meet with one media mogul (Hollywood style) and then had to walk through it again on the way to meet another media mogul (digital era). It was all relaxed and casual, running on island time, but it wasn’t lazy. The Market seemed to pop into existence, though I am sure someone was quietly working on it for a long time prior to it’s inaugural event. In that regard it’s probably like the Bailey Saturday Art Market that I helped initiate: a small idea kicked around for weeks or months that suddenly becomes established.
My two Friday evening meetings happened simply and easily. A casual encounter in a gallery led to an idea for the first. A chance comment amongst another group led to another. I’ve watched similar events occur back when I lived in Merika, but they were dismissed rather than emphasized. At the same time as those meetings I was missing out on another meeting that was equally interesting, but choices must be made and I only found out about the other one after commitments were made. No matter. It all works out. The one meeting was in a great coffee shop that turns into a BBQ joint at 5PM. The other was in the first sustainable tavern Langley’s had since the waterfront one shut down. The Dog House was great, but it’s tough to sell a bar on premium waterfront property. It would take a lot of beer to pay for that place. Instead we sat outside Mo’s (which doesn’t have a web site despite being across the street from the Center for New Media), a couple blocks back from the water, but right along two popular pedestrian routes. We sat there to organize one event (more later) but had at least a half dozen passing conversations with friends and with variations of “Hey, send me an email about that when you get home. I think I might have something that’ll help.”
Island time looks relaxed and casual, and it is at its artistic perfection; but it isn’t the different pace that’s as noticeable to me. What’s apparent to me is the acceptance of things as they are and awareness of common goals and complementary skills. There’s a recognition that fastest isn’t always best and may not get things accomplished soonest. Enabling is more time and energy efficient than forcing. There’s a frugality based on respect of time, limited resources, and impressive human talents. And what goes around comes around and that that’s much more obvious on an island where that return trip is pretty quick.
This morning I led a took a break from selling my photos at the Bailey Saturday Art Market because I was tour guide for the local land trust property called Hammon’s Preserve. Yes, it is possible to spend two hours touring a 9.5 acre ex-farm when the people in the group are actively interested in what’s happening in their neighborhood. That and it was free. Islanders can be easy to entertain.
Island time can happen anywhere, but the individual actions get lost in the crowds of a city. A city has all of the same possibilities and events as an island because both are inhabited by humans, a very social species. But at least here on Whidbey, it’s easier to respect each other because we get to know each other and because an action’s consequences are much more apparent. That can happen anywhere, and I’m glad I’ve found it here.