No one has heard of this town because there is no real town. We are described in relation to other small cities: south of Bellingham, east of Anacortes. Bayview has no stores. Driving through, you wouldn’t know it had a name or was a place at all. But the neighbors invite each other over on Fridays for crab feeds, and meet each other at the mudflats on morning walks. We know we are called Bayview, that we all share this view.
Each day Padilla Bay takes her dress off, slowly slipping the sea over her shoulders. The ocean floor is mud and muck, admittedly not as easy on the eyes as the blue fill of saltwater. The smell got to me at first. With the retreat of the water comes the evidence of living, dying bodies in the sea: fish, salt, kelp when the wind is up. But the birds love this undressed body of the bay—sustenance at the surface and somewhat solid ground to stand on. They are freckles from here. I can’t count the flocks. With time, I have learned to love the trails and sheen of leftover water through brown ground where there was once reflection of sky. The whole cycle pulls on me.
Across the bay, two oil refineries make tiny cities amongst the trees. At night, they are aglow and obvious, a constant reminder of industry and energy and our need to drive everywhere because there is not a grocery store close-by. Some nights they are emerald cities, like the light in the neighbor’s window, lessening loneliness. We are not isolated here, from each other or from the heady problems of the world.
The framing of the bay by firs and refineries changes less than the waters. Our heads are always turned toward the breathing in and out, the picture show of light and shadow, the wind’s work on waves. Wherever we are, we face the water. The town of Bayview is a place you know by its relation to bigger places. And we, its constituents, are bodies of water defined by Padilla Bay.