Written and Photographed by Nathan Hadley, Northwest Photographer
One of my favorite pastimes while living on Whidbey Island three years ago was to run to Nature Conservancy’s Ebey’s Landing, taking a rural road north from the old barracks of Fort Casey. The road rises over a hill and drops down into a small farmed valley. The valley—which would make many inclined toward the earth want to quit their job and start farming—opens into Ebey’s Landing State Park, facing the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Along the shoreline, the bluffs drop down towards a small gravel parking lot and then rise again. The Nature Conservancy’s land begins as the bluff nears its climax to the north.
I hiked up that bluff recently, for the first time since my time on Whidbey a few years ago. It was a beautiful December day, splendidly dressed in thousands of shades of grey, earthen green and blue. The wind was as wild as I had felt it in awhile—louder and stronger than my last day climbing high in the North Cascades in early fall. It was invigorating. My friend, Joel, and I didn’t bother with talking. It wasn’t worth it, so we turned inward.
I was struck by the wind-stunted and twisted Douglas firs. It didn’t seem like they were the same species as those lining tall along many Pacific Northwest roads. Of course I knew wind could turn and twist trees in such a way, as I was a proper naturalist, according to myself. “Are you sure these are Douglas firs?” I asked Joel. He pulled a clump of needles to his face, examined some identifying characteristic I didn’t know about, and reassured me that they were.
I think it’s fair to say that the same wind that shaped these trees, shaped me as well, though only for a short time three years ago.
And yet, as I walked along those trees high on the bluff on that blusterous day, I felt the wind’s imprint and realized the course that it had set in my own growth.