We anticipated the affair
we had with Orcas Island would disintegrate upon contact with our normal lives. We’d arrive back in Seattle with stories of misguided property searches or bullets-dodged. We could imagine saying, “Remember that one time when we almost bought property on Orcas. Phew, that was weird!”
But it didn’t happen. It stuck and Sachi was the glue. She became increasingly convinced that Orcas Island was a reasonable goal to have. Being our de facto CFO and chief party pooper, I often look to her for restraint. I propose dumb ideas to her often, and precious few make it through the Sachi filter. But this time it was different. She was now convincing me it could work, that we could afford it and that it could contribute to our happiness. While Sachi was 95% sure, I was slightly less so. We’d toyed with the idea for years and I loved the idea of island property, but was now the time?
A few weeks later, we were back on the island and driving around with the nice lady who originally printed out the flyers we sorted by the campfire. She is a longtime resident who plied us with island culture as we toured vacant land and tried to imagine the outlines of a future house among the trees. One of the quotes that stuck out was regarding the island’s ability to weed people out over long, dark winters. She said, “In the summer, it’s Orcapulco, but in the winter, some people think it’s Orcatraz.” We took note. The northwest winters aren’t for everyone, but they work for us.
Most of what we saw that day was a bit disappointing; pieces of land squeezed between two homes, overly steep slopes, difficult approaches. But we held out hope and saved a place on the west side of the island for our last visit of the day. It was priced similarly to most of the vacant land we were seeing, but included an unusual and intriguing house.
To find this house, we drove up a long dirt road and turned into a driveway between two huge cedar trees. After we parked, something happened I’ll never forget. Just as I stood up, a bat flew directly into the center of my chest. A bat! In the middle of the day! Was this a bad omen? Is this place haunted? It even left a little spittle on my shirt.
The realtor led us through the deer fence and to the light blue house with a conical cedar roof sporting an ecosystem of moss and lichen. The first thing we noticed walking in was a dated kitchen, a foul smell and a few rat droppings on the counter. This was that kind of house, we thought. In looking around, the true strangeness of the house was revealed. It was essentially circular; a fifteen-sided house with a conical ceiling that reached up to fourteen feet at the highest point.
The house was one big room with two pie-shaped bedrooms and a bathroom. And the bedrooms had no ceilings. Instead, the walls of the bedrooms were like cubicle walls that reached up to eight feet and stopped. Privacy was not a feature of this house. Thankfully, the bathroom had a ceiling.
With the exception of some appliances, it hadn’t been updated since 1985 when a family ordered the parts and built the house themselves. It was a “kit” house that might have lasted longer than expected. Plant-themed wallpaper from the eighties peeled off the bathroom wall, burn marks on the aged carpet told a story we couldn’t fathom and a mustard yellow refrigerator from 1977 hummed in the kitchen.