If you haven’t already heard the rumblings, or even if you have, I can confirm them for you here: this will be my last edition with the Journal of the San Juans. Call it early retirement or moving on to bigger things, it has yet to be determined.
As the reporter here for the last seven months, I like to think that I’ve had a somewhat different view of how islanders coexist then the casual latest arrival, through covering the debates that divide, to the events that unite.
Friday Harbor is by all accounts a small town. Fundraisers are held for residents in need, the photos and stories of the recently passed elderly are posted on the windows of Kings and Marketplace. Keys are left in the car while the driver goes about his or her errands with not much thought about somebody stealing it. After all, the ferry is the only way off.
And yet Friday Harbor also has a wider, world vision. It’s seen in the recent STEM initiatives at the high school and potentially the elementary school. The San Juan Islands Art Museum that features world renowned art for anyone to see for free, and the still relatively new, high tech hospital. It is clear through the variety and scope of the service clubs here that this is a community that cares deeply about each other.
Here, the citizens are not just residents of the town of Friday Harbor, but they are islanders, which in my mind is synonymous with resilience. Who on the mainland can make that claim?
The sheriff’s log is most often filled with loose sheep and miscommunications over a crab pot, every stranger is a friend of a friend and it’s common to take an hour at the grocery store for what should have been a quick trip due to how many people you run into.
That is not to gloss over the issues that are very much present here. The islands have very real problems with creating affordable housing initiatives, providing opportunities for low income families, focusing on conservation efforts and environmental issues, dealing with domestic violence and much more.
But what I mean to say, is that the good parts here far outweigh the bad. Whether it’s sunsets at Lime Kiln State Park, watching the winter storms come in off Cattle Point Road, being a bystander at one of the many parades, hearing a generational islander talk about the old days, this place is full of more good than a lot of places in the world, and that is something to cherish. It’s something that I’ll hold with me as I leave these islands, along with the islanders I’ve met and the times we’ve shared.
Thank you San Juan Island, Orcas Island, Lopez Island and little Shaw Island for the beauty in the past few months, and another thank you to the islanders that made it as fulfilling as it was.
The Journal welcomes Courtney Oldwyn as our new reporter.
Oldwyn grew up visiting her grandparents who live at Roche Harbor and spent many summers on the island working and teaching horseback riding lessons to island kids. Oldwyn has always enjoyed writing, was an English major at Oregon State University and has dabbled in journalism. She and her husband, a born and raised islander, moved back to Friday Harbor in 2009 and are committed to raising their two young children here.