Rockin’ A Hard Place: Thanks, Whidbey, for everything you have, every day

I know it sounds a bit Pollyanna-ish, but living here on the Rock does make me think it’s Thanksgiving every day. How could you not be offering thanks all the time to the creator responsible for all these tall trees, blue seas, clean air, rural vistas, historic stuff, sun-moon-and-stars and decent, civil people (well, except when they’re snarking on Facebook)?

Having that attitude complicates my annual selection of things to be thankful for on Whidbey Island at Thanksgiving time. But nonetheless here it goes, even as I continue to digest some delicious, Rock-produced turkey, potatoes, salad greens, pumpkin and squash.

1. As I gaze out my window at whitecaps all over Penn Cove on a windy and chilly afternoon, I am thankful for the golden leaves from the willows and alders that cascade by, offering a silent symphony in harmony with the evergreens all around. Autumn really is a beautiful time of year here.

2. I am thankful for Rockwell beans, grown only in Central Whidbey (as far as anyone knows). It’s a plump little red and white bean that holds it shape when baked for hours and has a creamy texture and taste that will make you forsake any other bean you’ve ever known. If you haven’t tried them, more’s the pity for you.

Thank you, Elisha Rockwell (1835-1910), a gentleman farmer on Ebey’s Prairie, for being the first to grow them here. Thank you, pioneer ladies of the Coupeville United Methodist Church, for saving and sharing your treasured family recipes for how to cook Rockwell beans. And thank you to the Ebey’s Prairie farmers who still grow them today.

3. Every time I take a hike on the Bluff Trail overlooking Ebey’s Prairie, I am thankful to those stubborn, devoted, passionate, undeterred few who fought so hard to create the Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve. In 2018, we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the signing of the legislation creating the reserve by President Jimmy Carter.

Next time you slowly walk out that trail past the Jacob Ebey House toward Admiralty Inlet, admiring the sheer rural majesty below you and gorgeous view all the way to Port Townsend, imagine what it would be if the reserve didn’t exist to protect it. Likely, you’d find condos, apartments and houses as far as the eye can see. Perhaps a water splash park right in the middle of Ebey’s Prairie would draw some tourists. Maybe a private spa for millionaires or at least a mega-mansion owned by a Russian oligarch would be situated right out on the bluff, blocking everyone’s view.

Without the Reserve, Coupeville might be just a Navy suburb with some old buildings. And Ebey’s Prairie — well, what Prairie would that be? I don’t see one. It’s enough to give me heartburn to think about it.

4. I am thankful for the younger folk I see moving to the Rock. Some really talented people in midlife are starting their “second acts” here, creating businesses and making things that add to both our economy and our island culture. And I’m glad to see at least a few millennials moving in. Technology allows them to work anywhere they are, and they have chosen wisely to live away from the stresses and strains of urban existence.

5. Finally, I am thankful for the growing foodie culture on Whidbey Island. I have eaten some of the best meals of my life at restaurants on the Rock. The number of chef-owned establishments has increased in recent years and the island is getting a deserved reputation as a place to recreate, refresh and eat extremely well. Add to that the growing number of wineries and distilleries, cheese makers and bakers, and you have nirvana for taste buds.

Now, I think I better unbuckle my belt a notch and take a nap.

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