Deep winter has settled into Whidbey Island, bearing some of the same seasonal challenges of every other address in the Puget Sound area.
Eight short hours of skinflint daylight. Long rows of overcast days punctuated by persistent drizzle. The occasional Big Wind bringing downed trees and power outages.
But Whidbey Islanders get through the winter with no greater difficulties than our mainland friends. In fact, there are compensations here that make the season brighter and cheerier.
When it snows, Whidbey newcomers realize rather soon that the island’s back roads tend not to get plowed. Then just as quickly, they learn that neighbors who have four-wheel-drive vehicles cheerfully volunteer to help with errands or rides to work. It’s just how people are on the island.
There’s a complete absence of holiday-induced stress here. No malls, so consequently no crowds and flaring tempers over traffic clots and parking shortages.
In place of power shopping, people on Whidbey tend to channel their winter energy into projects such as collecting and splitting firewood for islanders in need of heat for their homes. Several churches sponsor such firewood programs.
Whidbey Islanders also tend to see themselves as part of the larger community of nature. On sub-freezing winter nights, you’ll often see desk lamps rigged up on porches to keep hummingbird feeders warm. It’s tough for a tiny hummingbird to make it through a Puget Sound winter, and Whidbey Islanders treasure the hummers as much as they do our bald eagles and great horned owls.
The magnificent scenery that draws people to Whidbey doesn’t go away in the winter, and people don’t hesitate to enjoy it. Beach walks feature the added attraction of snow-capped Olympic and North Cascades ranges across the water. You might stumble across a frosty pond and bridge, a single wild rose dramatically persisting through the winter cold.
And for those few who really want to participate in nature, there’s the annual Polar Bear Plunge—yes, right into Puget Sound—scheduled for New Year’s Day noon at Double Bluff Beach. South Whidbey Parks and Recreation is expecting 200 plungers this year.
Thanks to modern technology—Internet shopping, satellite TV, and the trusty portable generator (Whidbey Islanders tend to have them)— winter on a Northwestern island is no more isolating than in a mainland city. But it’s a whole lot more peaceful.