Setting: Orcas Island, My Home

The subject of setting has been on my mind the last few days and I've started thinking about the importance our very own settings, where WE live.  So I would like to introduce you to the place I live.  It's kind of a unique place...

Let me introduce you to Orcas Island, Washington.  We have about 5,000 full time residents here.  You really get to know everyone here, unless your a hermit, and we have plenty of those here.  Orcas is one of over 150 islands in the San Juan Islands. 

You can't drive here.  You take a ferry.
Orcas is located on the very northwest part of Washington.  I used to be able to see Canada every day from the beach at our old apartment.  I actually finally went to Canada for the first time a few months ago (well I walked across the boarder for a total of maybe 5 minutes... but still!). 

Even though we only have 5,000 full time residents, our population nearly doubles in the summer.  We get FLODDED with tourists.  And I really do mean flodded.  I try to avoid driving into town durring the summer at peak hours because there are so many people walking around and they don't bother to check for cars when they cross the road...  And the bikers think they own the road as well....  Anyway.

The weather is a beautiful average of about 75 degrees in the summer.  And you get sunsets like this all the time: 
I took that one myself ; )

There are no Walmarts or Walgreens on our island.  Not a single McDonalds or Taco Bell.  We don't have a single chain resturant.  If you want a burger you head to The Lower Tavern and our version of fast food is something from the deli at The Market.  That's right, we don't call it the grocery store, it's just The Market.

So if you want to go shopping, and I mean real shopping and not have to pay at least 30% more for everything, you go to "America", a.k.a The Mainland.  You check the ferry schedule, and plan to commit an entire day to going off.  Ferry's only run every few hours and as the state keeps cutting budgets the ferry's keep getting worse and worse.  You may have to wait 3 hours for the next ferry.

When you get off you make the rounds: Costco (the main one), Walmart, and for us Home Depot.  It depends on the individual but those are our main stops.  We go off about every 2-3 weeks so when we go off we generally drop a LOT of $$ and stock up.  And when you're ready to head back to the island, you'd better pray you make the last boat of the night at 9:00 or you're stuck staying at a hotel until morning...

Living on the island isn't easy.  People are weird here.  And I mean weird...  Most of you think real live hippies went out with the 70's but they didn't, they just moved to Orcas Island.  Eventually you start to miss civilization, start to hate that hour and a half ferry ride.  You have nights when you just really, really want fast food but there's no possible way you can get it.  You get tired of having to pay so much more for EVERYTHING.  You can't hide from people here, can't keep things a secret very easily.

But people care here.  You go into a resturaunt and it's one of your best friends who owns and runs it.  You go to the post office and people know you by name.  You have a baby or one of your kids ends up in the hospital and everyone you know from the island calls to see if there's anything you need.

You get a good hometown 4th of July where you go into town and watch the fireworks get launched from a barge out in the ocean.  And the highlight of the 4th of the July parade is to watch for Josh Groban (his parents live here and I've seen him every year since we've lived here!) in the crowd.  You get to attend the Summer Solstice parade and see all the crazies come out and love it!

      The only crime spree we've had that I've heard of is that of "The Barefood Bandit." 
        I don't worry about my kids being stolen.  I leave my purse in the car all the time.  If you go to The Market durring the day you can check the cars and I bet a third of them have the keys inside.  In the ignition.
        Our swiming pool is the lake at Moran State Park.

        Life is slower here.  You don't have the hustle and bustle of normal life.  I don't know that I'd be able to write like I do if I lived anywhere else.  Despite the hardships of living here, it's an inspiring place.


        Jenni Merritt said...

        Thanks for this post Keary. I have really been missing home, and this helped (though I am a Friday Harbor native haha)

        It is true. Those islands are inspiring. I am so happy they are inspiring you!

        The Mecham Family said...

        Thank you for that post (oh haha, i can see that Jenny just wrote that same thing... was my honest thoughts too) Anyway it really made me miss "home". :(

        Morgan said...

        Sounds like an amazing place. Almot convinced me that I should move up there or something. ;)

        Nicole MacDonald said...

        Keary I am moving over there you've totally convinced me *grin* NZ's a little shaky at the moment anyway ;p
        The Arrival, Book 1 of the BirthRight trilogy available now

        Rane Anderson said...

        Thanks for this! I really loved reading about your island. I love it! :) Now I can imagine you in your home setting!

        Orcas Island Lance said...

        Keary, you are one of the best ambassadors for Orcas Island I know! Great blog!

        Teresa Perret said...

        Great post, Keary! I live in Bellingham and was thrilled when I started Branded and discovered it's set right down the road from my Lake Padden area home.

        Thanks for your insight on island life. I have many friends on Lummi Island and understand their love of the beauty and the community but can't imagine living even on that easily accessible island. I'm glad Orcas inspires you and look forward to reading more of your works.