“A walk into town” — sounds vaguely quaint, doesn’t it?
It’s the way we live on Whidbey Island.
The Highlands lies half a mile from the village of Langley with its grocery, movie theater, library, four bookstores and eight restaurants. It’s a walk so inviting that—well, why not try it? Just this once.
Your route is a quiet road passing a clump of towering second-growth firs, then a sprawling pasture, and the occasional country house. Ahead, just over the village, you see a blue ribbon of water—Saratoga Passage.
You’re not likely to meet any traffic. You’re more likely to come across other people walking. People you know.
You might also encounter a bald eagle. Or a red-tailed hawk.
And you’ll get an inkling of South Whidbey’s diversity. You’ll see a queue of quirky birdhouses. A string of Tibetan prayer flags. And yes, quaint, classic Americana: at least one white picket fence.
But really, why walk? It’s a two-minute drive from the Highlands, and Langley seldom presents a parking issue.
You know all about the health benefits of everyday walking. No need to repeat that.
The greater benefit might be that the walk eases you into something we might call the Island Mind.
This is an emotional state that’s unhurried, unhassled, relaxed and at peace. It’s not magic—Langley isn’t Camelot, and nobody’s ever absolutely free from the anxieties of modern life. But the very idea of spending ten or fifteen minutes walking into town instead of driving is a form of mental conditioning. It trains the mind to quit worrying about using every precious minute for maximum productivity.
As the fine American essayist Scott Russell Sanders wrote, time spent away from cities and their commotion “reminds me of how much of what I ordinarily do is mere dithering and how much of what I own is mere encumbrance.”
When people move to Langley and acquire the Island Mind, they often find that their thinking about time and productivity reverses from what it used to be in the city.
That the hours spent on the “must do” tasks at the computer or driving errands are, in fact, dithering and encumbrance.
And that the really important time is that unencumbered fifteen-minute walk into town.