When Elizabeth Guss first arrived on Whidbey Island, she felt that she was home.
Her affinity with the island never waned and Guss, along with friends Janice O’Mahony and Mary Richardson, has worked to preserve its natural treasures. Most recently the trio joined creative forces to pen a new book entitled “Whidbey Island: Reflections on People and the Land.”
In the book, the co-authors discuss the colorful history of various habitats and inhabitants of Whidbey from its Native American tribes and early pioneers to the current residents’ devotion to protecting the island’s luscious landscape and vibrant culture. O’Mahony discussed Lagoon Point, South Whidbey State Park, Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, Bayview and Greenbank Farm while Richardson addressed Three Sisters Farm, Double Bluff, Baby Island, Whidbey Institute and Maxwelton Valley. As for Guss, she wrote about Saratoga Woods, Deception Pass Park and Bridge, Dugualla Bay and Trillium.
Proceeds from the book will be donated to the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, a natural preservation organization. Guss has been the trust’s director of development since 2007.
“I wrote it in a way that I hope people understood how much I love Whidbey Island and what it means to me. I found that people really felt much as I did: they treasure it, they want to protect it. They want to share it, but at the same time they don’t want that sharing to cause the things that makes it so wonderful for all of us to be destroyed or disrupted in any way,” said Richardson in an interview with Don Porter, former news anchor for King 5.
The book was published by History Press and has received acclaim from individuals such as Estella Leopold, botanist, paleontologist, naturalist and professor emeritus of biology at University of Washington; Christine Gregoire, former Washington State governor; and Dyanne Sheldon, a restoration ecologist.
Of the writing and co-authoring process, Richardson explained, “Elizabeth, who was initially contacted by History Press, graciously invited Janice and I to join her. We had already formed a strong friendship through interest in writing, and many other things. Ours was a collaborative process, based on our mutual desire to learn and share.”
Working with Richardson and Guss was “a constant joy,” said O’Mahony, adding that each contributed equally in her own way.
“Elizabeth had the idea this was an important book to write. Mary had endless encouragement: ‘This will be interesting… we’ll learn so much.’ And I got to learn how to overcome the terror of the blank page and blinking cursor,” she said.
The authors’ dedication to the land expands beyond their literary work. For O’Mahony, this means financially supporting environmental preservation efforts and being a “determined recycler.”
“I pick up trash everywhere I go,” said O’Mahony. “I collect peoples’ plastic water bottles at meetings, usually letting them finish drinking first but not always.”
Richardson is also a member of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust and volunteers for several organizations such as Hearts and Hammers.
Richardson’s fondest memory of Whidbey is one she has the pleasure of experiencing repeatedly.
“Arriving on Whidbey, every time, having spent 20 minutes decompressing on the ferry crossing from ‘America’ as we call it, after hurrying to catch the boat. The island comes into view and the boat pulls into the dock at Clinton, the water glistens, seagulls fly around looking for that morsel to appear, and as you drive off the boat and onto the serenity of the Island, your heart soars, you take a deep breath, and you are home,” she said.
Much like Guss and Richardson, O’Mahony shares the sentiment that Whidbey is more than just a pleasant travel destination or place of residence.
“I love Whidbey Island,” she said. “It’s my home, my true home, having grown up as an Air Force brat and lived all over the world.”
Guss said that the significance of the book launch is more than just a personal success for herself and her co-authors. It’s important because of its ability to bring discussion of land conservation to the forefront of Whidbey residents’ minds.
“What I think is at stake is really the quality of life that is here on Whidbey Island and I’m not sure most people are aware of the significance of the impact that we have on the entire environment here.”
There will be a book launch party from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, July 10 at the Bayview Cash Store.