A One Hundred Mile Vacation At "The Ecologic Place"
Finding Simple Sancturary Within One Hundred Miles
I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journeywork of the stars ...and the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven. –Walt Whitman
A one hundred mile vacation at an "Ecologic Place" is heaven for me.
But, twenty years ago, new to Vancouver, BC, and burned out from jump-starting a coaching business there, I heard a radio guy ask, "Are you enjoying your long-weekend?"
Shocked, I realized that I hadn't known it was a long-weekend. Focused hard on my business, I had not taken a weekend off in over ten months. So I grabbed my clothes, laptop, and a map, and headed south. I was searching for a simple, cheap, and nearby place to get away from it all.
A wrong turn on Whidbey Island, Washington landed me in Port Townsend (PT, the locals call it. I fell in love with PT within the first hour. Twenty years later, I still love it. It has excellent dining, carefully selected movies, world-class jazz, tons o fart, 3 great bookstores, and bars, bakeries, and a marimba band that'll knock your sox off. It's great for romantic getaways. It's great for families. And it's within a hundred miles of my home.
Port Townsend is renowned for its many festivals. The Jazz Festival. The Country Blues Festival. The Writer's Conference. The Fiddle Festival. The Wooden Boat Festival. The list goes on. Almost every month of the year, there's a festival or two taking place in PT. Several times I've taken part in the Port Townsend Writer's festival, held at historial Fort Worden. I made great friends, learned a ton, and got to rub elbows with some of my favourite authors.
But, this first time, I was alone. My nerves were-frazzled. I wanted to relax, sooth my soul, and recharge. I wanted to find some quiet, out-of-the-way spot to kick back. Not too far from the madding crowd; close enough to PT to make supply runs, and drop in for a little bar jazz. So I kept looking.
South on Route 20, just east of Port Hadlock—on Marrowstone Island—I found Beach Cottages On Marrowstone—An Ecologic Place. Intrigued by the subtitle, I turned in. Although not much to look at back then, this rustic cluster of cottages nestled between a beach, a fir forest, and a salt marsh, and had panoramic views across Oak Bay of the snow-clad Olympic Range. This could be the place, I thought.
Jessica, the part-time manager, who looked more Haight-Ashbury than hotel school, showed me around the 10 weathered cottages (now modernized without any loss of charm). Before I'd seen inside the cottages, I felt at home.
I wasn't sure why. The view? Birdsong? Gently whispering sea grass? Jessica put words to my feelings when she said, "this is a more a get-into-it place than, you know … a getaway. There's so much nature here."
I agreed, booked myself in for a week, and have gone back every year since.
Truly, An Ecologic Place
Saved from development by a UW biology prof, the property is a haven for wildlife. The naturally landscaped 10 acres adjoin a 50-acre salt marsh, providing access to miles of beach, tidal flats, and woodland trails. Such overlapping ecosystems make it a perfect place to explore the biological richness that Buddhists call "the 10,000 delights."
Salmon and ocean-run Cutthroat trout migrate 100 feet from your deck. Deer graze in Madrona-fringed meadows. Herons stalk the tidal pools. Thrushes, song sparrows, and finches sprinkle avian poetry into the air. With luck, you'll spot a family of river otters dart from the forest, scoot across grassy dunes, scuttle down the beach, and slip into the bay. On my last trip, a hummingbird hovered at my bathroom window, inches from my face, pecking at something, and peering suspiciously at me while I relieved myself. I could hardly breath.
By booking 6 nights, I get a seventh free. That's eight days to decompress. I start by burning the restlessness out of my muscles. I hike the beaches and trails. I cycle the mid-island loop, stopping at the Nordland General Store for a muffin and latte. If I’m ambitious, I cycle to Fort Flagler, at the other end of the island to explore beaches, sandy cliffs, and remnant W.W.II fortifications. Other times, I'll cycle into Port Hadlock for an ice cream treat.
"I Found My Imagination on the Beach!"
Other visitors to Marrowstone kayak, fish, dig clams, hike in the Olympics, take in the Marrowstone Music Festival, or visit the island's artist studios and gardens. Families love Beach Cottages so much it often fills with multi-generational reunions. Playing in the sand, and building elaborate driftwood forts and huts, kids discover a media-free world.
One kid wrote in the guest book, "I hated this place at first. When I got here I thought I would die! No malls, no video arcade, no TV no Nintendo, I thought I was going to die, But after a couple of days of just playing on the beach, I started to get into it. Now I love it! I found my imagination on the Beach. — Eric, age nine.
You can’t watch TV, talk on a landline, or connect to email because the Cottages don’t have those links. They do have to-die-for Tempurpedic mattresses, cozy quilts, and modern kitchens. Wood stoves deliver delicious heat. Polite notes from the owners stress water shortages, and suggest short showers.
I like to write on Marrowstone. I wrote Simplicity and Success in cottage 11, and drafts of my two eBooks in Cottage 5. It is a perfect place to write. I push the furniture around, and make myself a little desk, using plastic milk crates and wood from the maintenance shed. I bring a desk lamp with me, and a special back pad to make sitting more comfortable. As I write, I can look out across the water, and up to the mountaintops. If I get stuck, a walk along the beach usually gets me energized and rolling again.
Almost every time I visit, there's another writer visiting. Evenings are spent talking about books and writing, and sipping good Scotch. I've been kicking back at Marrowstone so long that I sometimes get invited to baby-sit the place while the owners close up, and go on vacation. Now, that's a frugal vacation!
Mostly I go to Marrowstone to retreat. I go to relax, reflect, and recharge my soul. After a few active days, I slow down. I still get out for walks and cycling, but I putter more on the beach, and sit in the grass, my back against a tree, listening to the birds. I watch the saltmarsh fill with water, and then I watch it slowly drain away. I read. I jot in my journal. I let the sprit of the place ease into me. It's an easy place to just "be".
As the week progresses, I'm content to do nothing but sit on my deck, sip an organic beer, and feel the tide ease in, out, then in again. Often, I’ll sit all day, watching the sun rise over the treetops, work its way across the sky, then drop, spectacularly, behind the northern tip of the Olympics. Then, I'll cook wild salmon, local veggies, and wild rice, and sip rich Washington Cab, while I watch the stars flood the night sky, and listen for a distant coyote's wail.
I’m always sad to leave Marrowstone. It's become my sanctuary—the well to which I return to remind myself that I am nature. Drawing from that well never fails to calm my soul, revitalize my spirit, and ground me in the processes of life that sustain me—and all life on the planet. It truly is "an ecologic place." And the perfect place for a one hundred mile vacation.
For more photos, and info, go to: www.ecologicplace.com
For info about me, click my pic. Feel free to use the "Share It" button" below, and if you enjoyed this Hub, please give it a "Thumbs Up!"
Port Townsend Fiddle Fest Takes to Main Street
Good retreat reading!
Trade paperback version