This week’s photo challenge is to post a photograph of my favorite place, and then describe why it is my favorite.
This is a great challenge for me right now as I am extremely bogged down with work for the next few weeks – finishing up many hours of continuing education, jammed with tax work on my own and many client demands. I end each day feeling almost more buried than the day before. And, this time of year I really start to get spring fever and the itch to get away, to hit the road for some much-needed adventure and fresh air. So, the timing of this challenge is perfect. I can think about my favorite place to be and why I love to be there.
The Pacific Northwest holds a very special place in my heart. The sea air, the mild climate, and the green all simply make me happy. Growing up in the desert in El Paso, Texas there wasn’t much green; the air was always brutally dry and harsh, and well, spring was the time of massive dust storms. Then came the intense summer heat. So, the first time I visited the Pacific Northwest, I was in awe.
Taking a deep breath of the sea air was incredibly refreshing. My lungs were actually happy. That air is so clean and pure; it is simply invigorating yet also relaxing. I felt like I was home, really home. My soul seemed to be instantly contented.
Yet this challenge seems to call for more – a more specific place and more detail as to why. My favorite place is Port Townsend, Washington.
What is so special about Port Townsend? It is a small city in northwestern Washington without major highways or big box stores. It is not the home of any large multinational corporation. It is by most measures quite regular. So why is it my favorite place?
This little city makes me smile, inside and out. Oh, it has all of the typical Northwest charms – the mild climate, ocean access, stunning mountain views, and lush green vegetation. But, there is more. Port Townsend is a happy place. Just about everyone I meet there is smiling and happy. The shop keepers are relaxed. The city workers seem peaceful and happy as they go about their daily tasks. Free thinkers abound. Port Townsend embraces individuality, and it is evident everywhere. The people there are so accepting and accommodating in so many ways. Here you will see folks from all walks of life — commercial fishermen looking for adventure and a big paycheck, retired executives or teachers wanting some sea air and to have fun in their boats, young folks trying to find themselves and craftsmen who have found a home building sailboats.
In many places, including my current home town of the greater Salt Lake City metro area there are unwritten codes of conduct, dress, etc. Go to downtown and one must be properly dressed. Want a glass of iced tea in predominantly Mormon central Utah? Well, you are told that “we don’t serve that kind of drink here”. Want a beer! Yeah, right.
So I go to Port Townsend to live. I can go to the park down my the water on the main street (Water Street), and there is a festival on many summer evenings. Want a beer while listening to the live bands? Just ask, and you get what you want. What to wear? Whatever you want. Just be comfortable. The town embraces diversity and is so inclusive at the same time. The individual diversity brings a common bond. Since everyone is so different and diverse, there ends up being this commonality in the diversity. There is broad acceptance of just being you.
So, this little town seems to hit all the right notes. Of course it is not literally paradise. The Northwest coast winters are dark and wet; it rains most days. Being so far north, the winter days are short. The local economy is slowly transitioning into a more tourist driven mode, so there are a fair number of vacant buildings.
But, Port Townsend makes me smile. I love the rain and the way it makes the air smell so fresh. I love that the air is always so incredibly clean, and that I can see the Olympics (a very rugged coastal mountain range to the west) as clearly as if they were just across town. Or that sometimes the fog rolls in and the town feels as if it is the only place left on Earth. I love that I can go to the Public House (a wonderful restaurant in an old historical building on Water Street) on a Friday evening and get a table by the window. The waitress makes me feel at home, and takes the time to tell me about the town and her day. And, I see and hear local families just happy to be together. I love that people feel so comfortable that they are out dancing in the park while the band plays. And I love that the Washington State Ferry staff are so nice that they will refund your ticket if it’s too foggy to cross the channel. I love that in Port Townsend I am free to be me.