No, not the whales, but the island named, not after the whales of which 71 reside nearby, but a Spaniard of old.
Francisco de Eliza was one of the Spanish explorers who ventured to the Pacific Northwest coast and named the Strait of Juan de Fuqua, the San Juan Islands, and some of the other islands of the archipelago. De Eliza named this particular island “Horcasitas” in the early 1700’s. This name was to honor his patron, the Viceroy of Mexico: Juan Vicente de Güemes Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo, 2nd Count of Revillagigedo.
Then one hundred years later or so, the Brits came into the area. Brits, being Brits and not in love their Spanish explorer competition, shortened the name to “Orcas” on their 1847 charts. The shorter version stuck.
The derivation of the island’s name is now mostly forgotten. The Orcas (the whale version) became associated with the island. Even that was misleading. Early whale hunters had named the large dolphins “asesnia de ballenas,” which means whale killer, but then an error occurred when the translators flipped the two words, resulting in “killer whales.”
i will not go on a rant here about use and misinterpretation of words. After all, all of this above was just a sidebar to what i intended to write about here.
You see, i was sitting on the porch up on a hill Wednesday morning, early as is my habit.
The porch looks south toward Shaw and Lopez Islands. The home is about a mile nor-nor-east from the ferry landing (the only way you can get to Orcas unless you wish to fly on a puddle jumper), and about 8½ miles from the village of East Sound.
That is where i sat at 4:30 Wednesday morning.
Three white hulled sailboats glistened in the waters of Puget Sound, several miles away from the hill. Shaw Island and some smaller ones in the San Juan chain are beyond, lush green of pines and deciduous trees intermixed dominate. A mist wanders among the hills of the islands. The view is framed by similar pines and the tall broad leaf maples from the wrap around porch where i sit.
I frequently imagine getting away from it all…and i mean it all. My never-to-be imaginations mostly dream of an isolated cabin on Old Hickory Lake, which no longer exists, or 40 acres in remote Utah or Wyoming.
This Wednesday morning, however, i thought, “Cy figured it out fifty years ago.”
Cyril Vaughn Fraser, III, is one of my favorite folks of all time. We have been friends…no, more than friends, brothers for about ten years before that.
i don’t think i am special by the way. i don’t know of anyone who has met Cy who hasn’t immediately considered him one of their best friends.
Cy has always loved life. And, i think, life has loved Cy.
So, in a way, it is perfect Cy ended up on this hill overlooking paradise. Yeh, the winters are pretty bleak, not from, as you might expect, snow, but from the lack of sunshine from November until March.
I am here. I am here with friends, brothers and by the connections, sisters. In what’s pretty close to heaven. Here are some photos we took during our stay.
But even those photos or what i have written here can capture the magic of the mist over Orcas. I think old de Eliza would approve.
And then, just like that, it was time to go. i’ll never get enough of Orcas Island, regardless of how it got its name.
We left in the mist, that magic mist of Orcas: