Somewhat separate from the madness of the rest of our country, the Pacific Northwest is a place of diversity, charm and power. From many parts of the state of Washington one can see from a single spot large bodies of water, lowlands, islands and snowy mountain tops. Unlike Montana, which brings out the mountain man, the cowboy and the explorer in many of us, the Pacific coastline in Washington can stir one in a variety of ways… the sailor, the fisherman in us can easily surface along the hundreds of waterways along the coast and around the San Juan islands. The timbered lowlands and sloughs along the coast call to the timber man and woodcutter in us, while the big mountain ranges of the Cascades and Olympics beckon us to come and dwell within their powerful walls as hunters, adventures, survivors.
Bogart & Bacall
These feelings of place and emotion have come to me over the past two years of spending much more time in Seattle and much less time in Montana. For me it’s a matter of letting my imagination fly with whatever feelings the present surroundings might pull from me. It’s kind of a game… like, what would I be if I lived here? What would be fun to do? What could I really get into here, what does this place offer, suggest, support??
Which (finally) brings us to the real reason for all this talk… the concept of one man’s paradise. B and I have just had the pleasure of spending a weekend in a beautiful, remote cabin on Whidbey Island, just off the coast north of Seattle. It was built in 1977 by Bill Burnell. Bill bought a great piece of waterfront property on Whidbey Island and decided to build a cabin, a vacation place, for himself and his family. And what a job he did!
Bill’s cabin is actually a two-story log home with a downstairs bedroom and bath, and an upstairs loft holding two extra beds. The ground floor is a combination playroom with a kitchenette, a workshop and another 3/4 bath. It is heated by a gas furnace, and has a fireplace on the main floor for additional wintertime heat.
Sitting in the living room, looking out at Puget Sound and the mainland in the distance, Bill’s dream of his own personal paradise becomes immediately apparent. For starters, it’s amazingly quiet on this end of Whidbey Island, nothing but the waves down on the shoreline and the wind in the trees… that’s it. Even though Whidbey is but a 15-minute ferry ride from the mainland, still there is a perceived remoteness here that is wonderfully calming and reassuring. From the living room, dining room or deck we can see the mainland, with all its busyness and industry, but are removed from it by a Puget Sound waterway that keeps us just far enough from it.
The views from the cabin are terrific… the water, along with the Cascades and snowy Mount Baker in the distance, are most pleasing to the eye and the spirit. And what, you might ask, does this special place inspire in me to dream of, and perhaps pursue? Why, sailing and fishing, of course! The waters of Puget Sound seem to call one to follow its waterways up to the Strait of Juan De Fuca, past San Juan Island and out into the open Pacific Ocean to explore far-away, exotic lands. At the very least, it suggests a day of fishing on a small boat in the Sound, or sailing up into the San Juans with no place else to go and all day to get there.
This part of the Northwest reminds me of the soft, almost tropical beauty of Southern California, before it was overrun by people and industry. Western Washington and its Islands have a healthy population, no doubt. But the residents of this part of the state realized long ago that some growth limits would have to be put into place if they were to hold onto the natural beauty that held them here in the first place. And sure enough, there is evidence everywhere of the conscious effort to preserve and maintain their natural wonders. Unlike SoCal, the Washington coastline can be enjoyed for its healthy
natural beauty as it pretty much was at least 80 years ago.
Bill Burnell was a turret gunner on a B-17 in WWII. He flew over 30 missions from England into Germany and survived, somehow, against extremely low odds. Bill died of Parkinson’s some years back. B met Bill and knew him, says he was a very warm and sweet man. Karen Hathaway says he gave world class hugs. I never met Bill, never knew him, but I know what his idea of quality, quiet and peace of mind look and feel like. I know what his concept of paradise is. And we thank Marge for allowing us to stay there from time to time… it is truly a magical Puget Sound Paradise.