Lessons from a caterpillar | Editorial

A caterpillar doesn’t just spring out of its cocoon a butterfly. As most transformations are, the phase between these two forms is ugly and painful. To gain wings, first, the caterpillar’s body turns into an incredibly vulnerable gooey mess.

In these transformational times, we could learn a lot from a caterpillar.

The last few years have been painful. Housing, jobs and lives have all been at risk. Food supplies have been rocky and humans have had to adapt to new ways of working, learning, and communicating.

Although the islands are isolated, change is hitting this little archipelago as well. There has been an influx of new community members. This is nothing new. The San Juans have had a number of population booms over the years.

The islands require a unique soul to live and thrive here. One must maintain patience with ferries and have acceptance and understanding that the services, options and opportunities available on the mainland are simply not accessible here. Locals are crafty and resourceful to make up for it.

However, a lack of housing is causing strain on businesses and infrastructure. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get a car to a mechanic, to find plumbers and electricians able to respond in an emergency. Restaurants are short-staffed and grocery stores are struggling to keep inventory in stock. The combination threatens to turn the community into a place where there is no middle class and people who work in the stores, restaurants and hotels or deliver the mail must live on the mainland and take the ferry to work. People who have lived here for decades are facing the possibility they may have to move, not because they want to, but because there simply isn’t a place for them to live.

That idea and quickly approaching reality is one no one wants. Those that do have not wrapped their minds around how services relying solely on outsourced labor would truly impact them. Restaurants needing to close at 7 p.m., for example, so waiters and cooks can catch that last ferry home. No one to rush over and fix a burst water pipe after a winter storm because the plumber has to boat over first.

Things feel bleak, in part because many of these issues have been discussed for decades. Housing isn’t a new problem. We have been discussing it for decades, it almost feels like it’s beating a dead horse. Still, here we are at the edge of a critical tipping point.

Throughout the county, however, locals have been concocting some ingenious ways to address these complex problems.

Nonprofits and government agencies are developing an array of housing options and supporting the agricultural industry. The EDC has been sponsoring classes in technical fields.

The San Juan Island Hospital District 1 bought Village at the Harbor in a groundbreaking move to support the elders of the community.

We need even more groundbreaking solutions though, and to act quickly if we are going to move through this gooey vulnerable phase unscathed and with wings.

The thought of learning to fly is exciting. If we do it right, this little island in the middle of the Salish Sea could inspire a world full of butterflies.