In time I would know that each ferry crossing was magical. But the very first time, my body, my mind, and my heart had no idea what was happening. As the sun shone on the waters of Puget Sound, I felt my shoulders lower from what had become their permanent spot up around my ears and my lungs fill with fresh salty air. A tourist in my own neighborhood, I had driven my Jeep onto the ferry from Mulkiteo in hopes of landing on Whidbey Island for a weekend getaway from Seattle.
My job had been eating me alive. I’d lost myself in delivery deadlines, meetings, and long nights on the phone to India. I needed respite. I needed sleep. I needed water.
“You should go to Penn Cove,” one of the girls at work had said when I’d taken off my glasses and rubbed the bridge of my nose for the third time in a long afternoon. “Eat some muscles, pick up some stones, walk in the woods. You’d love it.”
That weekend when I wasn’t sitting in a chair watching the stillness of the water on the deck of my rented cottage, I was driving my Jeep with the top down taking in every inch of this delightful island. A tasting room with the most delicious viognier. A world store with artifacts from every destination under the sun and a kooky owner to tell me of his adventures. A dive bar famous for it’s terrible service and delicious bowls of muscles.
And just when I thought I couldn’t be more delighted, I drove by a simple mailbox painted in light pink with black letters that read “LOVE LETTERS ONLY.”
Highway 525 cuts Whidbey island in half from tip to tail. It is a blessing that keeps you from ever getting lost on this little slice of island heaven. All you need to do is turn away from the water and drive and you will find your way back to the highway. And there, on the side of the road at an otherwise unremarkable spot is the mailbox.
As I pulled over to get a better look, I realized that it literally didn’t go to a driveway or a house. It was just a mailbox for love letters. And so, I pulled a piece of paper from the tiny notebook in my purse and penned this one:
I’ve missed you so. I remember you. You are the girl with wild hair and a led foot. The woman who loves to play Clapton loudly and forget about what someone might need on Monday. I love when you sleep in the middle of the bed and don’t get up until you are ready. And when you drink the Viognier in a coffee cup by the water and the frown between your eyes smooths into peace, I feel you’ve come home to me. Thank you for bringing me here. Come back anytime you need to remember how much I love you. And bring only the people you love to this place. It’s magical. It’s ours.
I folded the love letter in half, hopped down out of the Jeep, and quickly placed it in the mailbox. Looking around sheepishly in case someone might see, then realizing I didn’t give a damn if I was seen. Love letters beg to be written. And most of the time we don’t bother. But this love letter, on this island, would remind me to come home to myself by going away to Whidbey Island.