Sunday, January 1, 2012

Suspension of Reality

We all need to escape our busy lives, especially after the Holidays, thus the barrage of ads seeking to lure us to "Relaxing Retreats" or "Exotic Get-Aways."

For those us of living in or near Skagit County, we can avoid shuttles and security and all the hassles of flying to far-off destinations while finding something even better:  a suspension of reality, offered by the Guemes Island Resort.

Guemes Island is a rural, sparsely populated residential island, edged by rocky and sandy beaches, littered with agates and pretty shells.  The relaxation process begins when you board the 22-car ferry that transports cars and people across the Guemes Channel from Anacortes to the island.

Anderson's General Store sits a block from the ferry dock -- a mandatory stop for a last chance to enjoy one of Yoserian's delectable paninis boxed "to go."  While waiting for the to-go lunch, one must peruse the artistic creations made by locals and others and sold at Anderson's.  Catching my eye were delicate luminaries made from recycled paper by artist Corena Chamberlain.  It was easy to envision burning the candle that night in the quiet darkness to celebrate my return to this island that will forever hold a special place in my heart.

My island destination this time was a new one for me:  my first-time stay in the resort first built in the 1940s by Charlie Townsend, who lived on the premises for years, as did his wife after Charlie's death.  Six original (but refurbished) cabins line the beach; three larger homes are available for bigger groups; and standing behind the six sentinels on the beach are two recent additions.  The newer Sucia and Matia Cabins are perched high off the ground on concrete pilings amid a protective group of tall pine trees, providing a physical sense of removal and privacy.  See the Guemes Island Resort HERE.

After settling in, which didn't take long, and then spending time standing at the fringe of the incoming tide, Guemes begins to weave its magic with every wave that rushes in to grab the rocky shore.  A high tide and brisk southern breeze forces the waves farther up the beach each time, re-arranging all the loose rocks and shells in their path.  It is a stunning place to stand, surrounded by a dramatic backdrop.

Matia Cabin would serve me well on this two-day suspension of reality; a studio cabin, comfortably appointed and simply perfect for my needs.  Absolute quiet prevailed, except for pleasant sounds of the breeze in the trees, the rain on the roof at night, the waves on the beach, and the crackling of the logs burning in the wood stove.

There are no traffic sounds, no voices of other people (the resort was thankfully sparsely populated); no intrusive TV screen glares at me, no music plays, no annoying ring of a cell phone is possible, the room even lacks Wi-Fi.  I was effectively sealed off from the outside world ... except for Nature ... which helps to heal jangled nerves, too-busy minds, and tired bodies. 

The Merlin-esque Bob-of-all-Trades, who was in charge of the resort that day, enhanced my welcome by warming the cabin with the portable heater and then graciously offering to build that first fire in my wood stove.  Wood is provided in abundance, but it helps to have a review of the simple mechanics of how to use the square black device for heat.

The warmth from a wood stove is different from other sources of heat.  It just "feels" better, in addition to there being something immensely satisfying about the handling, stacking and burning of firewood for warmth.

In time, peace drifts down like a fine mist.  It's easy to feel your heartbeat slowing, blood pressure easing, tension abating, muscles relaxing, with awareness that deep, involuntary breaths are taken, as you feel yourself drifting in a sea of timelessness.

During the first night the intensity of the wind rustled noisily through the trees, and rain from a passing squall battered the roof.  Few things feel more secure than to be safely cuddled under a down comforter on a soft bed, watching the flicker of light from the wood stove dispensing heat while listening to the wind and rain.  Sleep comes quickly and lingers long in such a safe, natural state.  Time is of no consequence.

When the rain stops, the beach again calls with its promise of finds reminiscent of Anne Lindbergh's Gifts from the Sea.  The morning was lovely:  calm and dry, with a sun-break and brief glimpse of blue sky.  The outgoing tide had already deposited its treasures on the beach.  Agates, beach glass, shiny delicate parts of oyster shells polished by continual tumbling in the waters of Puget Sound.

This walk along the shore, intended to be one of solitude, was briefly and pleasantly interrupted by Charlie, an older black Lab, who insisted (as only dogs can) that I repeatedly throw sticks into the water for him to retrieve.  Soon another pair of guests allowed Charlie to join them and their "matching" black Lab as they meandered down the beach while repeatedly throwing sticks for both dogs to joyously retrieve.

The resort is located adjacent to a small grassy public park, Young's Park, dedicated and named after a long-time resident, Gerald Young, an Air Force pilot of a Jolly Green Giant Helicopter during the Vietnam War.  Captain Young was a 1968 recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions to save the lives of others in November 1967.
Gerry, retired lieutenant colonel, in 1986, and the medal he received.

Gerry Young and his wife, Yadi, were my landlords in the home I rented on a bluff overlooking the channel and Cypress Island in 1989.  Gerry passed away in the Summer of 1990, but I went on to spend nine gloriously happy years in the rental that Yadi still owns.  I was the first resident, but it has been "home" for a parade of people after me -- including Mark Linnemann, photographer and owner of this lovely Guemes Island Resort where I sought and found refuge.

We live in such a small world where we are all so connected.

In the real-life game of Monopoly we play, I can highly recommend taking a "ride on the Guemes" and then choosing to spend three days at the Guemes Island Resort while others take their turns rolling the dice in their hectic lives and racing around the board of life.  The location is gorgeous, the accommodations wonderful, the staff outstanding, and the effects of suspending reality linger long after leaving.

This place has earned the Lady of the Slough's gold seal of approval.


  1. Thank you for sharing your experience and wonderful description of your visit to Guemes Island. It enabled me to be transported to a more relaxing place for a few moments. Sounds like a lovely place.

  2. Gorgeous! You live in and near paradise!

  3. What a beautiful place! And your days away seem to be just what you needed for a bit of reenergizing and recharging. Loved reading about it.

  4. that sounds like a wonderful place for a nice break away!

    Happy new year!

  5. Oh my's truly beautiful there.