A few hundred yards from my comfortable perch on the shore of Bellingham Bay the sailboats look to be racing for bragging rights or microbrews as the sun nears the horizon and the mountains across the way take on a blue hue . On the lawn surrounding the coffee shop people throw balls to obsessed dogs that are willing to chase endlessly after their saliva soaked chew-friend. Other park visitors are grilling hamburgers while the young woman nearest the water just chills. She is lying on her back, her eyes hidden by sunglasses while her ear buds block out the dogs and people as she softly sings along with her music.
One of the best parts about this evening is that the lawn, park benches and even this fantastic coffee shop could accommodate many more people than are here. There is a feeling of comfort and peace with having the right amount of elbowroom.
Finding the right amount of personal space is like Goldie Locks looking for the right size chair; too much room and you feel lost, too little and you feel confined. With the right amount of personal space you feel “just right”. Bellingham Washington feels pretty good.
Although we bought a home in Bellingham eight years ago this is the first night we have slept in it. The initial plan was to retire here but before we made that commitment we wanted to do some long distance hiking, biking, foreign travel and see what it was like to live in Upstate New York and Williamsburg Virginia as well as sunnier, warmer and drier St. George Utah in the Mojave desert.
After four years of experimentation, discussion and soul searching you would think it would be easy to settle down in the town we thoroughly researched and that ticked all our boxes – it’s not. The last four years have primarily taught me that there are a lot of great places to live filled with a lot of great people.
No place in North America has a perfect climate twelve months a year but that can be overcome with good outer wear and fenders, having a variety of outdoor interests like biking and snow shoeing and a few indoor hobbies like reading, writing and swimming. Also if the area has topography that allows you to climb a couple thousand feet to escape the heat or find good snow or roads that allow you access to the drier side of the mountains then that brings it pretty close to perfect.
One characteristic that is difficult to describe and quantify is “the vibe” of a place. St. George Utah has a very clean, wholesome, safe vibe with only a few bars, no casinos and a drunk driving incidence that is less than half the national average. A comforting statistic if you like to road bike. Bellingham Washington has a younger more vibrant alternative-culture vibe. They eat more organic foods, are more gluten sensitive, embrace tattooing, believe bicycles are real vehicles just like cars and are working hard to change the status quo.
Another unique feature of Bellingham is it’s independent bookstore, Village Books. It is three floors high with a coffee shop that overlooks the bay and supports writers and hopeful writers more than any bookstore I have ever visited. Typical of the Northwest the city has numerous microbrew pubs and live music venues and this year Washington State began allowing the sale of marijuana for recreational use – not just medical. Fortunately they also have lots of off road bike paths.
So is this the place? I don’t know. But I like the elbowroom and it has a good vibe.