This summer I had a reunion with nine of my sorority sisters from college in the sixties. None of them lived on this island, or any island for that matter. (Unless you count Mercer Island, which has two floating bridges on it) Seeing them again after as many as forty years was amazing. Of course the memories came flooding back, and it took very little time before we were back to the same easy communication we had shared for four years of living together at the UW. Mostly their personalities seemed unchanged, and they probably thought the same about me. As they left after three days in a cushy B and B in Friday Harbor, two of them murmured to me how they “respected” or “admired” my lifestyle. I suspect that this had been a topic of conversation on one of their evenings or mornings without my company. It got me to thinking about how living on an island for almost 33 years had had its effect on me.
It didn’t take long for me to start collecting examples. For our first night at dinner we ended up at a local restaurant which I considered fairly spendy. To the contrary, my friends thought the prices were not expensive but ordinary, and they raved about the service. One sunny day we boated up to Stuart Island on glassy waters of perfection. I was pointing out that people live year round on Stuart, without electricity, land line phones, ferries, or any amenities. I got a question of, “Why would anyone want to do that?” And “How lonely that would be.” As an islander, I could give several reasons why but instead I thought about how much I personally would dislike living in an urban setting, commuting to work, and shopping at a mall. It is not that I do not shop. Few of them had turned to the internet and explored EBay to the extent that I had.
At my home, my friends seemed curious and delighted that I had several acres and a garden. My long, winding, and dusty driveway probably seemed like a backload adventure. I’m sure they had expected a much larger home than the scaled-down modular house that my husband and I love. He had spent the day mowing the large lawn so people coming to supper could enjoy the area around the pond and walk about as the day cooled down. Although our guests ate on our outside deck, they did not venture any further than the distance between the parking area and the front door. We had such a good time full of laughter, but I believe that if islanders had been our guests things would have evolved differently. They would have scattered all about the acreage, some eating on the grass rather than in chairs and many of them asking about the plants and trees and fish. They would have eaten a lot more dessert, too, I think.
Now that my college friends have gone, my good island dog that goes everywhere with me is much happier. He just hates a change in his routine. I felt a bit of a tug when their ferry pulled out, wondering when I would see them again. I couldn’t imagine feeling enthusiastic about their return drive south in traffic on I-5. My conclusion was that where we end up living does shape our interests and attitudes, regardless of our personalities.