“I would like to live on that tiny island up ahead.” It was just a thought. It popped into my head while I was on the deck of a ferry here in the Salish Sea. I was on a drive to a friend’s house a few islands over and the ferry is part of our road system. I had driven off my own island onto another where we (me and Kai-the-dog) caught a ferry from another island and rode it past a few dozen other islands to the one on which our friend lives. I like the views on deck and Kai-the-dog likes the smells. The trip takes about three hours. The ferry has good hotdogs.
As we approached a narrow pass between upcoming islands, I saw this very small one up ahead. Suddenly the thought appeared. “I would like to live on that island. Alone.”
For a time I was a visiting pastor of a church on an island in Maine each year. They provided me a small house on the seaside in which my sister and I would read and steam lobsters. And wine was involved. Our deck looked out to a tiny island with one house on it. It was the home of Margaret Hamilton, the actress who played the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz. You might remember that the film was one of the early films that employed color – in fact it made a transition from black and white to color in its middle, to the shock and delight of crowds then as now. That witch, with her green face, put terror into the hearts of so many children and adults that the actress met screams and scowls everywhere she went in the years after the film. It got so bad that she retreated with her small family to an island – the very one I would stare at with my nightly scotch from my cottage on nearby Southport Island.
The creed of one Christian denomination begins and ends with the words “We are not alone.” And though that is true, sometimes I want very much to be alone, to live on an island with a dog and some nice snacks. And a wood stove. Ok, and some books. And did I mention nice snacks?
Because I was raised by alcoholics in a dysfunctional family, I often find humans difficult to manage. Not all of them. But some of them. And not because of what’s in them, but because of what’s in me. My programming can sometimes be a bit off.
There is a certain psyche to a person who moves to these islands off the coast of America. Many of us came here to lick our wounds and walk in dark forests and bright beaches – alone. And the islands do seem to have a mystical healing power to them.
Aware though I am, that we revere the early Christian hermits, I sometimes wonder if they were less super-spiritual than simply misfits unable to navigate relationships. But I guess I’m not allowed to suggest such things. It would mess with our iconography and hagiography.
No. I think not. I think I best not buy an island and build a cabin. It would not be good for me. And besides, I quite like people. I think the answer is that I need “island times.” I got the idea because it is the title of one of our newspapers for which I write monthly reflections on life. But the title gave me an idea. What if I had “island days” and “island hours” – times when I take the ferry to a remote island and simply walk the beaches. Or turn off my cell phone for an hour and walk the beaches of my mind and soul.
I do not sense that I need an island. But I do need “island times” occasionally. A retreat from the busy-ness-anesthesia so freely offered to us by our society and on which we are so often drunk and disorderly.