My reaction to Carl Hanson’s very moving and inspiring memorial service is to wonder why I worry about all the stuff I worry about. If things get bad fast (or slow) it won’t matter if you have a fifty pound sack of beans, some gold coins, a thousand rounds of ammo, a garden or a water purifier. All those things might make life easier or safer or less stressful but unless you have a group of friends to help you and support you when times are tough all the other preparation you make will be worthless.
A community of thoughtful people will be our most important asset and we clearly have this kind of support on Lummi Island. We don’t all get along all the time (I’ve probably repeated Ed Scott’s description of Lummi a hundred times so far—”an argument surrounded by water.”) But an island, particularly a small one, makes for an interesting kind of club. There’s automatic membership if you live here. There’s associate membership if you have a connection. It’s the kind of place where people pull together very quickly when there is a need.
Carl was a guy who showed up when needed. It was always fun to see him race by on his tractor, looking straight ahead, focused on his mission. And, a couple years ago when he almost drove over the edge while mowing a neighbor’s bank it was no surprise to see his good friend Bill racing on an even bigger machine to rescue him.
Somehow the island draws people like Carl, people who you can like immediately without reservation. People who you sense are reliable and dependable, hospitable and helpful. Most of us aren’t as good as Carl but there are a lot of folks around here who come close, which makes me appreciate how smart we were to move here. I expect that being in the right place will make the future easier and better.
Carl Hanson was one of those guys who you think you know well even if you don’t. I certainly was on the edge of his life not having lived here that long. But we had some nice interactions and I particularly recall a sunny day on the beach where we found him resting up against a driftwood log watching his granddaughters play in the sand. It was easy to relax with him. It’s a nice way to think of Carl, basking in the sun and gazing across the water, chatting about kids and grandkids—the really important things.
Our last visit with Carl wasn’t as picturesque but was more memorable. We were on a walk a couple weeks before he died and came abreast of Westshore Farm as Carl was retrieving his mail. We stood in the road, as is the island habit, and talked. Cars slowed and pulled around or stopped for a minute to say hello. Carl had complained to me a week or so before that the steroids he was taking made him very emotional and as we stood together and talked he repeated his unhappiness with a drug that would make him burst into tears. We talked about other things, the apple trees and how they might need some pruning and what would happen to the place when he was gone. He wasn’t happy with the way he was feeling and it was clear he was ready to go. And I thought while he was talking that it might be important for a strong, competent fellow like Carl to be able to leave near the top of his game.
I’ve had a few chats like this with people who knew they were leaving soon. Some were ready (prepared…preppers). Others weren’t prepared and, as a result, had much more pain and inner turmoil. Getting ready for the big, final, GO does take some courage and preparation.
It’s interesting that many people got their first impression of the island while guests at Westshore B and B. We are lucky that this first impression came from our finest ambassadors, people who helped set the standard for how our community behaves. Because of Carl, and Polly, we are a community much better prepared for the future.