Exhilarated by a morning swim with my lady mermaids Sophie and Sharon at the Langley Marina in 50° water, I am writing to let you know that after less than two weeks following our nine week road trip, it is good to be home. 

Bill Poss took this photo last August at Goss Lake. It is Kate, Gretchen who lives in Mexico, Barbara, Sharon and Sophie. We share a remarkable camaraderie. Apologies for poor lighting on this photo.

You may ask why is that?

It’s Whidbey’s touchstones.

It is swimming in water joyously in the winter with women who love the thrill of the chill, with Bufflehead ducks, a Kingfisher on a branch, a harbor seal peeping curiously at us, Sarah the Golden Retriever leaping in the water to join us.

It is the many moods of Whidbey.

Following last week’s snow, extreme cold and ice, we stepped carefully on the icy surfaces and drove with easy- to-install Autosocks to avoid sliding off the roads. We were grateful our power stayed on. 

Winter solstice greeted us with three-foot long icicles seen outside our kitchen window. Photo by Bill Poss
Our Ford named Ruby got around in the snow and ice by wearing Autosocks on her tires Dec. 21

Overnight Friday, Dec. 23, the snow miraculously disappeared with the rains and the temperatures climbed 20° to the mid forties. Driving to Langley on Christmas Eve, we watched the clouds, dark charcoal gray against a light gray sky. Saratoga Passage, framed by Camano Island and the snow-covered Cascade mountians, reflected a color of charcoal gray. Fir and cedar trees waved their tall arms in the wind. An eagle floated by at eye level.

At the marina we dropped a chicken carcass we had cooked earlier to make broth and meat, to the crab for their Christmas dinner. We admired the cormorants perched on an abandoned dock. We admired the high-pitched call of the American widgeons as they flew overhead in the flock. The colorful Boatyard Inn Hotel lining the waterfront. Our son Raymo texted that it was “So nice and green here,” where he and his partner Gino live in sunny and warm Laguna Niguel with their wonder dog Rogelio. I texted back “It is so nice and gray here,” and meant it. 

Cormorants, diving ducks, dry their wings at an abandoned wharf at the Langley marina.
Our son Raymond and his partner Gino on Christmas Eve. They are a couple who are happy guys. Photo by Raymo Poss

Afterward we visited another favorite touchstone, the Langley Library. There I was overjoyed to talk with excellent library assistants Karen Achabal and Rhianna McBride. Rhianna wondered, how, when the library contains “so many mindsets under one roof,” as the library does, that some small-minded folks complain the library has homeless people visiting. Sno-Isle libraries are the greatest democratic institution on the island!

Karen Achabal, a Langley Library assistant, brims with creativity and hosts the popular ‘Food for Thought’ book club, along with other fun activities. Join her Tuesday, Dec. 27 for a celebration of winter at 6:30.
Rhianna McBride, one of the excellent Langley Library assistants, poses by a replica of Darwin’s Beagle built by the late Ron Atlee and donated to the Langley Library

Christmas Day Bill zipped me into my thermal wetsuit. I added a silicone cap, a neoprene hoodie, and a thermal swim cap. We drove to Goss Lake, where tears formed in my eyes to be back to this touchstone lined with evergreen trees. I walked in and swam. Ice cold water flowed down the neck of my wetsuit and in less than five minutes I walked out of the lake, fearing I was losing my tolerance for cold water swimming. The lake’s temperature was probably 42°. Drove home to put on warm and dry clothes. Our friend Barbara MacCallum stopped by for hearty soup lunch, and a visit. Later we walked around Goss Lake, just missing the afternoon rain. We drove to long-time friends Joe and Sydney to drop off a Christmas gift in their new home. They were our neighbors for years and have moved to a one-story home in a great Freeland community.

Kate tries a swim at mystical Goss Lake on Christmas Day, but lasted less than 5 minutes in the fortyi-sh temperature waters. But it was beautiful. Bill Poss took this photo
This barn near Saratoga Woods has long been a touchstone in all seasons. Photo by Bill Poss

We were invited to celebrate with our family of friends with Roger and Sheila at their home. Claudia and Chuck, and our friend and neighbor Coleen joined us. Conversation and bonhomie flowed effortlessly as we ate delicious lamb shanks, mashed potatoes, fresh salad and apple pie and whipped cream. We talked of the future of Whidbey. Roger is brimming with ideas on how to guide Island County’s future with credible ideas for workforce housing, supporting our elected officials, maintaining community, and re-invigorating outmoded models of operation. He is overflowing with ideas to re-kindle the can-do community spirit that swept South Whidbey in the 1970s, where real magic and the connection of people resulted in pulling together and getting things done. I second that motion! Let’s come together and make happen the way of life we wish to preserve and promote for Whidbey Island.

Roger Cohen, Sheila Lamb-Cohen, Chuck Pettis and Bill at the Cohens on Christmas Day
Claudia Pettis and Coleen Aylward bring holiday cheer to a gathering of friends at Roger and Sheila’s home

So, on this Boxing Day near the end of 2022,  I ask, what touch stones matter to you?

Sitting on my lap Christmas Eve, our Ollie is a much-loved part of our family

Love, Cactus Kate and Bajada Bill

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