I went for a run this morning down to the gray sands of Double Bluff beach. In general I prefer running in the city to running in the country, for the same reasons I prefer running different routes every day to running the same route: I like to be as distracted as possible from the fact that I’m doing something as inherently unpleasant as running. The distractions of the country are broader and subtler and take more time to appreciate. A hawk perched in a tree, a barn owl swooping across the road, the varied architecture of the occasional houses and the varying purposes to which the yards have been put.
Whidbey Island, like New York, has its own eccentricities as well as its own beauties. Whereas in New York a front-yard vegetable garden merits a photo every time, here they are hardly remarkable though of extraordinary lushness and diversity. Chickens peck in many yards, wild blackberries are everywhere. On the beach, great slabs of clay shear off the gray cliffs, and little crabs scuttle in and out of the seaweed in the icy tide pools. You can leave your shoes at the beach entrance and no one will bother them. I saw a bird swoop out of the sky and snatch a fish out of the sea, then struggle to bear its prize to shore, flapping gracelessly as if it were trying to carry a heavy grocery bag that was putting up a spirited fight.
The farm. The family. The Shakespeare festival. I could be happy here. But it would break my actual heart to leave New York; I love the place near as well as I’ve ever loved a person.
If this were a romantic comedy, right, wouldn’t I have to choose (being the heroine, natch) between two men? One would be urbane, sophisticated, well-read and well-traveled, driven and restless, but fretful, high-maintenance, and self-absorbed. The other would be quiet and practical, more skilled with his hands than his mind, self-made and self-willed, artsy, and family-oriented. Of course, my understanding in these situations is that one of Our Heroine’s choices ought to be offering a much better financial match - and wait a minute, in these situations aren’t they supposed to be pursuing me? Alas! I may love places as well as I’ve ever loved people, but surely that is because with place, it’s no disgrace to love without being loved in return.
Then let us say rather I have two fine women to woo, neither well-dowered and neither especially interested in me, both beautiful and accomplished, one of an old illustrious family and one with no name at all. Each can be kind or cruel in their own way, neither can really cure solitude. Either would, I believe, give me a chance - if not to succeed, at least to love something worth loving.