A return to Island life reminds us of its richness

island life

A perfect storm took my wife and me off Vashon in early 2002 — some kind of collective response to Sept. 11, loss of a parent to cancer and the opportunity to make change in a neighboring community long suffering from civic neglect.

We set our sails for Bremerton — one of the least likely areas we would expect to spend the best years of our lives — and worked feverishly to turn the tide in this little town that had seen so much potential and so little hope. Months flew by, and before we knew it, our former life on the Island began to feel like a faraway dream that we celebrated in memory.

By the time we found ourselves back on Vashon, in September of 2007, much had changed. Friends who had added so much to the distinct flavor of Island life had passed on. Eclectic haunts like the Stray Dog had become the lush and indulgent Ferrara’s, then faded quietly away. Neighbors had come and gone. Big new homes pressed through the forests around every corner. Like they say, change happens.

Some unique “Islandy” dynamics had lingered, though. The ongoing drama within the fire station, a rather public pillorying of the school superintendant, the battle over the proposed public utilities district — all left us with our heads shaking. ”Will they ... ever ... move on?” we’d ask ourselves. Just another diversion from all the good things that locals take for granted here.

Nonetheless, we were delighted to find so much going strong, fearless, fully realized.

Vashon Household was putting finishing touches on some of its inspired housing projects. The Farmers Market was in full bloom, with more vendors and customers than we could ever remember. Voice of Vashon, just beginning as we departed the Island, was expanding its reach Island-wide. And lots of folks were thinking globally, acting locally and changing things for the better. While we were gone, things were certainly ticking on little Vashon Island!

Just around the corner at Café Luna, our first consummate mug of espresso gave us pause to celebrate Island life again. Ahhh, to be back on Vashon! The Hardware Store, for years a sleepy, rustic spot where we’d take the occasional chainsaw for repair, had become a vibrant, popular restaurant that captured the heart of the Island. Walking in for the first time was like coming late to a family reunion. Smiles and handshakes, shared memories, and stories you couldn’t tell just anyone flowed like old times.

It seems we had hardly settled in when we got a call from one of our dearest friends and neighbors, Tom and Rebecca, inviting us down for an evening bonfire. Savoring fresh greens from their garden, a good bottle of wine and an enduring friendship, we really felt like we had landed on the Island for keeps.

Many, many hours later, we found ourselves reclining in the middle of their horse pasture, watching the Perseid meteor shower shoot sparks across the horizon. It left us wondering why we had ever, ever left.

— Kyle Cruver is a member of the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council.

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