A few weeks ago, a friend invited me for a weekend visit in Tacoma, about 75 miles south of here. The hesitation I felt surprised me, and it took me a day or two to identify the source — I had not left Whidbey Island in at least two years, and had not been to the Mainland in far more than that. Short day trips had taken me north, to Anacortes, or west to Port Townsend. Nothing had persuaded me that going to “America” (as we islanders fondly refer to it) was either interesting or compelling. Clearly, I needed to get outta Dodge.
The most surprising moment came when I went to the storage shed outside to get my small suitcase. As I picked it up, it occurred to me that it likely hadn’t been used since a trip to San Francisco for a family visit in March of 2006. Ten years. So I loaded it up, and hit the road last Friday morning — the first time I’d done freeway driving in what felt like forever. This was a huge step off some edge I hadn’t foreseen, and I thought steadily about my theme for this year of thoughtful pursuit of risk. This was a type that hadn’t occurred to me.
My arrival at my friend’s condo presented me with this spectacular view to the north and west, looking across the shipping lanes toward Brown’s Point. At this time of year too, it was a rare treat to have such a brilliant day, though there had been patches of rain on the way south.
For the next three days, urban life gave me people and experiences that were both new and sharply in contrast with my rural lifestyle and social occasions. A noisy neighborhood pub visit the first evening was hard on the ears, but an opportunity to meet and become acquainted with interesting, clever, funny people. Preparing and eating foods which I rarely even think of was a joy. Attending a large Saturday night contra dance — held in a splendid church hall — with three hours of great music and fascinating dancing was an entirely new experience, one which I loved. One element that struck me over and over was the shifting patterns of the dances — it occurred to me later that the ability to recognize those patterns is closely related to my approach to weaving.
We spent part of one afternoon driving through different neighborhoods of the city, discussing styles of houses and the evident economic or class differences that the architecture implied in the context of the city’s history. Part of that drive was along the waterfront leading to the port itself; we were just above the water level, struck by the utter calmness of the bay under the gentle rainfall.
It was a wonderful visit, an re-introduction to a world and a way of life which used to be mine but no longer is. Elements of it appeal to me greatly; others I’m glad to have left behind. Most of all, the decision to step out of my familiar, known community and daily life has increased my awareness that it needs to be done more often, that to stay safely in my insular world is not providing opportunities to stretch and see freshly.