Hello Stranger from Issue #71
“Back in Seattle, the sun is setting over the Sunset and Tractor Taverns on Ballard Avenue, over Puget Sound and the ferryboats motoring to the islands, over the Olympic mountains silhouetted in the western sky. It’s been an unforgettable nine years, sheltered beneath the sentinel that is Mount Rainier. But I hear Carolina calling.” So I wrote in the Hello Stranger column of ND #30, in the fall of 2000.
“When I made this same drive but in the opposite direction four years ago, it was with a hope that the change in the playing field would lead to changes in my life that, in fact, have happily come to pass. And yet, both my wife Lisa and I have felt the west coast calling us back for quite some time; indeed, that beckoning is one of the bonds we shared from the moment we met.” So I wrote in the Hello Stranger column of ND #54, in the fall of 2004.
Well, here we go again…
One could pick rather more proximate areas between which to repeatedly relocate than Washington state’s Puget Sound and the North Carolina Triangle. Such is our fate that the residential destinations we have chosen this decade have been about 3,000 miles apart. Actually 2,889, to be precise, door-to-door from our present home in Poulsbo, Washington, to our new place in Mebane, North Carolina. (If Google Maps is trustworthy, anyhow…)
This time our move has to do primarily with long-term planning. It involves, for my wife, going back to school, and also allows us to be nearer her family. It helps, too, that we still have many dear friends in North Carolina, folks we’ll be glad to see more often once we’ve resettled in late September. (If you’ve mailed something to the old address, by the way, not to worry, the Post Office will forward everything from Poulsbo to Mebane for many months past our moving date.)
And yet, as was the case seven years ago, it’s hard to leave the Northwest, again — perhaps twice as hard, because this time there are two of us who will miss the unparalleled natural wonder of this area. We pointedly took the time to visit some of the most beautiful destinations within driving distance of our house this summer, knowing it may be awhile before we get another chance to do so.
It was on one of these jaunts, a visit to North Cascades National Park, that we came across a singular character with a vintage camera, which led to this issue’s back-page feature (usually tagged Screen Door, but untitled this issue for artistic reasons, and thanks to my co-editor and art director for indulging the pet project, by the way). My wife wrote the text to accompany Bruce Turner’s photograph; our magazine reproduction hopefully does as much justice as possible to the care and deliberation of his art (happily, we’ve upgraded the paper we’re printed on this issue).
Lisa was moved particularly by Turner’s reasons for limiting his work to areas near his home. “I learn the light where I’m at,” he says, and in that wisdom, Lisa found a philosophy that applies to our coming change in territory. It’ll take time to learn — or, in this case, relearn — the light in the Carolinas, to adjust to the difference in the tones it imbues and the shadows it casts, to the way our everyday lives will swing with a different rhythm in the east than in the west. It’ll help that, for the first time, we have a home we can fully call our own.
But what we leave behind is something special, both in the geography of the region and the personalities of those who inhabit it. In explaining why he lugs a bulky vintage camera up to mountain vistas while all others around him are toting pocket-size digitals and picture-phones, Turner figures, first and foremost, “Because I’m stinking crazy.” Maybe, but it’s that kind of crazy which gives this place its color.
Similarly, when our British Columbian neighbor Carolyn Mark discusses, in one of this issue’s feature stories, how she found a hall so warmly adorned with wood that “it’s like performing inside a guitar,” and she concludes, “It’s a B.C. thing” — well, we know what she means by that, too. (I’ll tell you what, we’re sure gonna miss the heck outta getting a Canadian channel as part of our local TV lineup.)
Of course, it’s not as if the Northwest will disappear; like my hometown in Texas, it’s still only a plane flight away when we wish to visit. And, well, don’t be too surprised if you end up reading yet another column like this one in this space some years down the line…