Really seeing on Lopez Island

by Kim on March 21, 2012 · 22 comments

On the second day of our trip to Washington’s San Juan Islands, Brian and I load the dogs in the car and head to Shark Reef Park on the southwestern shore of Lopez Island.  The country roads are completely empty, save a flock of sheep and two lone horses munching lazily on hay, they halfheartedly raise their heads as we pass.  The parking area at the trailhead is vacant.  We joke about being the only two humans on Lopez.  Even the owner of the Lopez Island Garden Cottages, where we are staying, has retreated to Mexico for the month.

The empty roads of Lopez Island

On the short hike to our destination, the overlook of Deadman Island, I can’t turn my brain off. It’s a Thursday, mid-morning, and I carry the feeling that I should be doing something more productive.  You should be running or writing or working, my internal voice whispers at me.  What have you done to earn this pleasure?

There are times when I question the purpose of this journey.  What’s the point? I ask myself.  My heart is quick with a rebuttal: To see the world, to write and explore.  But why?, my head argues back.  What good will it do the world?  When your life is over, how will this time have mattered?  

We reach the lookout and sit down on an outcropping of rocks to enjoy the view.  We’d awoken that morning to gray skies and a steady drum of rain, but the dark clouds have thinned and a crisp blue sky is emerging.  We watch the black, slick heads of seals glide through the water.  A bird dives and emerges fifty yards away.  Brian explains the currants, the sucking and pulling of the water, and points to the place where they run together again.  The swoosh of a wave hits the rocky shore.  I close my eyes and let the sun warm my face.  A verse from a Mary Oliver poem floats into my head: Sometimes I need/ only to stand/ wherever I am/ to be blessed.

Shark Reef Park, Lopez Island

Deadman Island off of Lopez Island

I feel happy, simply happy.  Relaxed.  Calm.  Present.  This is the point, I think to myself, to really see the world.  Then, to take what I see and turn it in to something that matters, somehow.

I think, unexpectedly, of what I’ve learned of Jane Goodall studying the chimpanzees. I think of her in the jungle, naming the chimps, coming to understand the uniqueness of each of them, watching as they display affection towards each other, watching as they form bonds and use tools. I think about what Jane Goodall must know better than anyone, that in order to understand anything, it must first be really seen. In the beginning, you watch, and when you have learned to watch, you see.

An hour passes, maybe two?  In the distance gray clouds gather and we herd the dogs down the trail to the car.  Back at the cottage we settle into chairs on the deck, enjoying the last bits of sun before the afternoon storm rolls in.  I close my eyes again and tilt my head towards the sky.  The dogs snore at my feet. Sometimes I need/ only to stand/ wherever I am/ to be blessed.

I don’t know why and I don’t know how I will matter.  I don’t know that writing this makes any difference at all, or if it ever will.  But I know that being still and granting myself space to see the world is necessary. I know there is meaning hidden here in the branches and underbrush of this time I am giving myself.

Space.  Spencer Spit State Park, Lopez Island.  


Thanks to Radisson Edwardian hotels for making this post possible.  Radisson Edwardian hotels are a beautiful collection of individual hotels in London, Guildford and Manchester. Radisson Edwardian Hotels range from bijou boutique to 5 star luxury hotels.  



{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Maryjean March 21, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Beautifully said Kim. That is exactly why I am headed to Hawaii by myself. To relax and just be. And maybe more? 🙂


Kim March 21, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Thanks MJ. It’s that “maybe more” that keeps me peeking around the next corner.


Miel March 22, 2012 at 6:29 am

Yes, it will make a difference. All of it will. More than you know now. Most of all, you will be different. You will be changed. Many things around you will not change when you return, which will be challenging, but all part of the experience. This part of your life will guide now only what you do later in life, but more importantly, how you do it.

Enjoy. Each. Moment.



Kim March 22, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Thanks Miel 🙂 I know you know what you are talking about! I will enjoy each moment.


Sarahsomewhere March 22, 2012 at 7:44 am

Beautiful writing Kim! I am sure glad you listened to that internal voice of yours, as it has laready enhanced my life endlessly. Reading your words, being inspired by your journey, and not feeling alone in my own pursuit of happiness are just some of the differences you have made in my world. Thank you 🙂


Kim March 22, 2012 at 9:03 pm

You are not alone! We are definitely in it together… and there is a whole community of us out there.


Dana de Brito March 22, 2012 at 7:46 am

Great Post Kim – beautiful insight. And photos – I love the Pacific NW!


Kim March 22, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Thanks Dana. I love the Pacific NW too. I will miss it so much!


Carmel March 22, 2012 at 7:49 am

Your ears must have perked up, as mine did, last night when Cheryl Strayed talked about being completely present. It’s a good thing when you’re able to do it on your own terms in a wonderful situation rather than having living each day forced upon you with a tragedy. Those are the moments I truly cherish when I think back–the times I shut out the chatter and allow myself to be truly in the moment.

Ok, I’m booking that trip to the San Juans now.


Kim March 22, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Book it! And let me know when you do.

Yes, her who reading was really moving to me. I can’t wait to start her book.


Rhonda March 22, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Beautiful post.


Kim March 22, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Thanks Rhonda 🙂


Marina Reede March 22, 2012 at 10:02 pm

Hi there! I sooo applaud your thoughts and sharing with us your mini-struggle with those voices that tell us we need to do more! That is exactly why it will be lovely when you set off on your journey. When you travel, one of the best gifts I found is you truly get to know yourself. Ahhh. What more is there to life than that 🙂 As an aside thought, when you are older and doing other things, you might be like me and be soooo grateful you took all the travelling in when you did…now I’m a mom on my own so I’m “armchair travelling” for a while. Thanks for being part of my journey. (also though, i’ve been able to live in key west and miami beach and now ho-hum minnesota so i’ve been blessed :))


Kim March 24, 2012 at 8:41 am

Hi Marina, I’m so glad I can be a part of your journey (I first accidentally wrote “party” and that works too ;)). Thanks for the support. I know we won’t regret it. It’s amazing how the loudest naysayer can sometimes be your own internal voice.


Pamela March 23, 2012 at 11:54 am

It sounds like this trip has been a great way to prepare for your upcoming ‘life’ as a full time traveler. And, you are already making a difference by sharing your story.


Kim March 24, 2012 at 8:42 am

Hi Pamela. I was really approaching this trip as I think we will approach our future life as a full time traveler- not too many plans, no expectations, etc. And… if this mini-trip was any indication, our “real” trip will be amazing.


Cherina April 5, 2012 at 5:36 pm

What a lovely place! I love being by the coast and I always find that it is great for ‘clearing the head’ and getting some perspective. Beautiful post, Kim.


Kim April 15, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Thanks Cherina. If you can ever make it up to the San Juans I highly recommend them. Beautiful!


Bethany ~ twoOregonians April 9, 2012 at 7:21 am

Just catching up on your adventures, Kim! Yes, that “What have I done to earn this?” question…and the beauty in being blessed. So happy to hear your thoughts as you live out this dream.


Kim April 15, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Thanks Bethany- I’ve been loving following your and Ted’s adventure as well.


Amy May 3, 2012 at 6:58 am

I love your writing, it perfectly captures emotions.


Kim May 4, 2012 at 9:44 am

Thank you Amy. 🙂


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