Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I’d been on this island before, though it took me a long time to remember when. The “first” time I approached the west beach from the water with my not-yet-husband, it looked familiar. The old road and little bridge were over there, that tree was here…but wasn’t it farther back from the water? The shoreline had eroded—a lot--several hundred feet in one place. But yes, I’d been here before.

When I was very young, my father brought me here with Lummi and other tribal elders to look at shell middens. The middens are thick piles of discarded shells—the result of decades—centuries—of the tribes coming to the shoreline to gather shellfish. At one time, people were forbidden to build homes over the middens because of their historic, tribal and archeological value. My dad and his friends were trying to locate as many of the middens as they could in the hopes that folks wouldn’t build houses directly on top of them.

I remember the midden on our beach because one of the elders showed me how camas (Camassia quamash) had been planted near where the shellfish were gathered. When families returned to this shore to gather shellfish, the camas would be right there too, making gathering food a bit easier. The ten-foot-thick shell deposits are still here and so is the camas. However, the shoreline is eroding back so fast that I have been gathering the camas and planting it in my garden.

I’ve known my husband for a long time, though we were not each other’s type when we were younger. But we got older and I suppose we started thinking, “Hey, you’re not so bad after all.”

By the time he finally convinced me to marry him and move to the island I was decidedly not a young starry-eyed bride. And he was no Prince Charming with a castle. He had to offer: (1) a creaky old, dark, and uninsulated building on an island with no ferry service; and (2) an 11-year-old daughter. Oh joy, at an age when most women are thinking about retirement, I am about to move back out into the sticks and be a stepmom.

But still, I said yes.

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