Contrary to popular belief, there’s plenty to do on The Rock

I was at a friend’s house in the city recently. A teenager in attendance, learning I was from Vashon, asked, with a teenager look on her face, “What is there to do out there?”

For a moment, I wasn’t sure how to answer — so many possible responses to a surly question like that. 

Should I be honest, accurate, enlightened, educational or snotty? (I always feel like being snotty to teenagers. Why is that?)

It brought me back to the early 1920s, when I was a teenager. 

In small-town Minnesota, we had neighbors, and seasons: blistering summers on 10,000 lakes, winters frost-bitten in backyard igloos, spring on suddenly green baseball fields and brisk falls in dry leaf piles. It was poetic and quaint.

Last year, Vashon saw essentially the same temperature and precipitation level 10 months straight. It was the sequel to a Bill Murray movie: “Groundsog Day.”

I’m so not complaining — this is precisely what makes us think of creative ways to spend our time. 

I know what I do on Vashon: stare at my computer, walk my dogs very carefully and under full control in the Island Center Forest, drive incessantly, shop for groceries and previously owned clothing far too frequently and so much more.

But how, I wonder, do others manage this what-to-do-here quandary? So I asked four Islanders: a senior citizen, a teenager, a mom and a little kid. 

The 80-year-old: “Oh, way more than I can ever do! I take classes, walk every day, spend a lot of time reading, enjoy lunch with friends — but I broke a tooth last week chewing on a cracker, so that’s out for a bit. But my goodness, I could be out every night, several times on Saturday!”

Party animals!

The teenager: “Well, I’m weird. I dance and go to brunch with friends.” 

Urbane sophisticates!

The mom, excited: “Gosh. Biking, running, Saturday Market, be a volunteer fireman, work with Rotary, study upholstery, help at the food bank, apprentice to a gardener.”

She had several more coming, I could tell, but the little kid interrupted: “Mommy, say something that’s not like work!”

I inquired specifically to the youngster, who responded: “I want to build a play center in that big building nobody uses.” From the mouths of babes.

My final generalizing conclusions: Island moms are delusional and yet still optimistic, and little kids are entrepreneurial and green to the core.

This study is non-scientific — your results may vary.

For the record, I’ll tell you kids what not to do: Don’t hang out in that abandoned bus on Cemetery Road. It is rumored to be inhabited by a family of deer who are engaging in herd-ordered reconnaissance on the Sportsman’s Club. And they’re pissy.

And a warning to prospective mailbox smashers: That activity is not worthy of this Island’s peculiar genius. No, really. We’ve installed surveillance cams, have moles in your midst, and tar and feathers at the ready. 

And no, that was not the point of this whole article.

It’s this: In all honesty, it took me years to appreciate this place. And now that I do, I learn most about Vashon when friends and family visit.

My sister, her brain surgeon husband and their four kids come up from San Diego once a year. Their teenager actually screamed in terror and ran, arms flailing, when she saw a banana slug. Interesting. 

My mom, an urban museum- and theater-goer, once expressed concern that I was moldering here at the end of my quarter-mile driveway in the woods, and in what sounded like a threat, said, “Maybe we’ll move out there, but to Bainbridge”. 

No really, mom, we’re fine here, it’s all good, we’re here on purpose. And there’s plenty of the finer things in life here to keep us busy.

But for those still haunted by inactivity, I have a plan for the next several years, and you’re welcome to come along! It’s an artful, fun-and-games approach to pothole repair on my driveway. In terms of something to do, it’s the gift that keeps on giving! 

But I’ll let it go if you have a better idea. And if it’s building that play center, I’m in.


— Kevin Joyce is a performer, producer, writer and teacher who, along with Martha Enson, runs EnJoy Productions.  



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