Love of Life: Freeland couple publishes book of island photos

Sue Averett and Erick Westphal are in love with Whidbey Island.

A new photo book by Freeland residents Sue Averett and Erick Westphal is a visual journey up and down Whidbey Island.

Sue Averett and Erick Westphal are in love with Whidbey Island.

So much so that the Freeland wife and husband have compiled a multitude of colorful photographs that feature every nook and cranny of the island that they’ve captured since they became full-time residents in 2008. Their book is titled “Whidbey Magic, A quintessential photo collection of Whidbey Island life.”

“It wasn’t possible to put every wonderful thing into the book,” Averett said, referring to the wonderland she calls home.

So out of the hundreds of photos that they took on their old Sony Cybershot, they managed to choose those that create this self-published 124 page homage to Whidbey Island.

“We literally pinch ourselves everyday that we get to live in this beautiful place,” Averett said.

And they said they wanted to capture that certain magnetism that folks say draws them to Whidbey and makes them want to settle there.

“But also we just really tried to get the photos that  — well if somebody who came here for a week or two in the summer could see all the places they went,” she added.

When they came to visit the first time about six years ago, they knew they wanted to eventually stay.

Averett and Westphal hail from the San Francisco Bay Area where they lived and worked for the past 30 years, with an eye to returning to Averett’s Northwest roots. She was born in Seattle.

Averett works as a Reiki practitioner and teacher who owns Whidbey Island Reiki, which she operates from home. She also practices Reiki at the Reboot Center for Innovative Medicine in Freeland.

Westphal works as a youth advocate at the Hub After School Program in Langley, as well as working several hours per week at Timbuktu Java Bar & Gallery in Freeland.

But when the couple is not working, their camera is always with them, and “Whidbey Magic” is the proof of that.

“From our first journey here, Whidbey wove her magical spell, and after a few visits, she became home,” they write in the introduction of the book.

“We exhaled, and began to revel in the tapestry of artistic expression, activism, locavore eating, the constant embrace of nature and the spirit of ‘island time.’ There is a strong intention here to create a life good for all.”

Besides the nine-page introduction in which Averett and Westphal talk about their impetus for the book, and about what they’ve gleaned from living on the island thus far, it’s really just a very comprehensive visual look at every area of the island.

The first chapters focus on each town from “In and Around Clinton,” all the way up to “In and Around Oak Harbor,” with Langley, Bayview, Freeland, Greenbank and Coupeville’s stories shown in pictures in-between. In these town compilations, the authors include vibrant photos of all the famous signs, summer watering holes, cafes, stores, galleries, natural settings, identifiable sculptures, retreats, restaurants, natural vistas, festivals, trails, inns, familiar alleyways, family life, theater, 4-H clubs, the county fair, skim boarders, farmers markets and historical markers one can find on the island. It’s got a picture of everything one can remember attending, visiting, doing or shopping for on the island.

Photos are labeled with spontaneous tags such as “shoppers on a sunny day,” “an osprey tends her young,” and “tranquil Lone Lake is an angler’s paradise.”

Next follows chapters devoted to “Art and Culture,” “Fun and Adventure,” “Wildlife and Wild Places,” and “Retreats and Sacred Spaces,” with an “About the Authors” page and, finally, a  “rest in peace” picture of the couple’s laid to rest Sony camera. Nothing, it seems, was missed behind the lens of their faithful camera.

“We took the last picture for the book and then our camera died,” Westphal said, noting that although there are a few shots borrowed from other shutter bugs, 90 percent of these photos were taken by the authors on their trusty Sony.

Ultimately, the authors said, the book is a tribute to a place that has brought magic into their lives.

“We’ve discovered that people come here and rediscover themselves,” Westphal added.

“The magic is real here,” he said.

Finally, one of the most important pieces of the project, Averett said, is to show support for the whole island community; to bring the north, central and south ends of the island together.

“We hope to introduce people to some places they’ve never been before with the book,” she said.

To that end, the authors will hold book signings of “Whidbey Magic” from 1 to 4 p.m. on consecutive weekends at all points north, central and south: Saturday, March 17 at Llynya’s in Freeland; Sunday, March 18 at Lotus Tea Bar & Studio in Oak Harbor; Saturday, March 31 at Living Green in Langley; and Sunday, April 1 at Rob Schouten Gallery in Greenbank.

“Whidbey Magic” costs $29.95 after April 1 (the early bird sale price is $24) and is available at select locations on the island or at


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