Some years ago I had a new neighbor and her husband buy the old schoolhouse next to the fire station up the road. Cute place, nicely restored by a glass artist friend who wanted to move to Portland to seek fame and fortune in the big city. Not that we’re the official Welcome Wagon of the South End, but we invited our newcomers over for dinner, got to know them over the following year and were surprised when we saw the For Sale sign on the front yard and their furniture gone. They had had grand plans for establishing a Tea Shop for her and a furniture shop for him on the island.
Okay, people come and go on the turbulent South End, for various reasons ranging from lack of health care in their proximity to the long and dreary winters. The grass is definitely greener here but folks get tired of mowing it. I get that. But what I didn’t get was these new found friends picking up and leaving without a fare thee well or a wave goodbye. Kind of makes a guy like me wonder if my judgement of folks is a waffle or two shy of breakfast.
Jump forward a couple of years and we’re on Orcas Island, wandering the tourist town of Eastsound when we pass by a little tea shop called, interestingly enough, Schoohouse Tea, a little too coincidental for my place in the cosmos, so naturally I want to go inside and see who’s behind the register. And yeah, it’s our old neighbor, more than a little embarrassed to be ‘discovered’ but after a few hems and haws and muted apologies over their fast escape velocity from the South End, she tells us the island just wasn’t spiritual enough for her tastes. Orcas, well, they’re basically refugees from the 60’s and she felt a kinship there she never got from us back on Camano, the island without a soul.
All righty, I guess the South End wasn’t her cuppa tea. We said good to see ya, good luck with the shop and your life, we got to catch the ferry back to perdition. Now the story might have ended here … except … a year later who should roll back into our little hellhole, the one without spirituality, but m’lady from the Age of Aquarius, building a house half a mile south of us. And better yet, she’d become a real estate broker!
I don’t pretend to be a guru of South End spirituality but c’mon, selling off our Paradise parcel by parcel, helping to clog our neighborhood with new traffic, cutting down the forest for McMansions, earning a living this way, trust me, that is not on the roadmap to Nirvana. And if we lacked soul before, I doubt selling used cars or real estate is going to bring us any closer to Shangri-La-La land. Money talks, they tell me, but not as loud here on the South End. That, I think, might be the key to our spirituality, what little we still have.