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.