Life On Orcas #16: Remote Living

I performed this piece at a recent open mic at Doe Bay Café on Orcas Island.

Welcome to Life on Orcas, our 20-part series on living and thriving on Orcas Island. Section 16: Remote Living.

Thanks to advances in technology, a terrifying pandemic, and wealth inequality, Orcas Island has become the ideal location for remote workers.

Imagine: An emerald island with 100 megabit fiber internet, and housing prices just a fraction of those in Manhattan and San Francisco.  A digital nomad with several million dollars in cash could buy an Orcas homestead sight unseen.

And what would greet him as he rolls off the ferry in his Tesla? Perhaps the U-Haul of the family evicted from his new home. And a perplexing lack of people in the businesses, schools, and gathering places, that he will mistake as the way it’s always been.

His new home will have everything he needs: A Tesla charger, blazingly fast wi-fi, and a view, through the home office window, of the Salish Sea.

And as the sea fills and empties with the tides, he will settle into his ergonomic office chair, his mouth slack, his eyes blue-light shielded, his monkey brain tracking runes on two vast glowing monitors.

Yea, he has escaped the factories and mines of his forebears, but instead of the black lung it is his wrists that fail, his shoulders that ossify, his spine that compresses down, down, down like the sands of an hourglass. And he types away, as if the grains of sand are endless. As if his other yearnings can be met later. As if that future is safe in a bank vault somewhere, instead of so much morning fog on a dormant field.

And for the partner of the remote worker, opportunities abound… to consider her life choices in the austere, confining beauty of a small Pacific Northwest island.

She can take her malamute rescue pup to the dog park and find the place blissfully empty. And then she can spend thirty minutes patiently throwing the ball to Leika, enacting the positive reinforcement training she learned on YouTube. Throwing the ball, and thinking about her choices. Throwing the ball, and thinking about her choices.

What brought her to this moment? To this island, where every day has a kind of exquisite, grinding sameness. The pageantry of the Salish Sea winter unfolding as she stands oblivious, her gaze in some middle distance well outside this time and place.  To other paths, not followed.

And her friends say, judging by your Instagram you must be happy. And her friends say, We’ll come visit. But of course, they don’t.

And as she poses for a selfie with another outrageous technicolor sunset, she smiles with her mouth but the corners of her eyes are dragged earthward by grief.

And then she stops by the Co-Op, grateful that the price of broccoli can distract her by its sheer audacity.

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