Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ahh, for the love of...islands!

Have to admit, as much as I love flying, I think twice about it these days. The “footprint” on the environment, to which each passenger contributes while flying, seems increasingly difficult to justify. I wrestle with this while at the same time knowing that there is only a brief window of opportunity to visit with family across the country. My hope is that we can try to balance this by spending at least some of the time in the air nurturing a heightened sense of appreciation for the planet, and vowing to do more in other ways. On this flight, I got thinking about, islands.

It was by good fortune, but mainly flight planning by the cockpit crew, that I was able to capture the image above - a “tropical-like” island, its soft and feathery outline amidst the blue waterscape of Lake Superior, 41,000 feet beneath us. In my mind’s eye, it was easy to imagine being “marooned” on this little island far below the cruising aircraft. I would, of course, be “marooned” with my co-adventurer, Joan, our sea kayaks, and our light-weight-ever-ready minimalist trail running gear. (Would a solar-powered notebook computer with satellite upload and download capabilities spoil the image? Nah.) Sooo...just think of it. Barefoot, on the soft, damp, forest floor amidst the lush, island forest, paddling in the exhilarating swell along sandy shorelines, preparing a simple dinner of gathered and foraged, nutrient-dense treats (this is now, by necessity, the “one mile diet"!), sleeping under the stars and refreshed by the prevailing “south Pacific” breezes. Mmmm... my day dreaming was gently broken by the waiting flight attendant patiently repeating her offer of a mid-flight snack...“Bits ‘n Bites, or cookies?”.

Not sure what it is about the nature of islands, but I’ve always been drawn to them. Lots of folks are. I suppose, in a sense, we all live on an “island”. We share what is very much an island in space but we all also live, work, and play on 'islands" amidst the earth’s great oceans - it’s just that some of these “island” land masses are continental-size. Having said that, it’s hard to imagine someone from Toronto, Winnipeg, Denver, Geneva or Berlin, saying that they just love living on an island when the island they live on is North America or Europe or...know what I’m sayin’?

I think that to describe one’s location as being on an island, there must be, first of all, proximity to the water. Second, there should be a feeling of at least some degree of physical separation by virtue of the surrounding waters. Third, when you are on an island, there is a time at some point during the day or night after which it’s not particularly easy to leave. Here on Vancouver Island, for example, all these conditions are met: wherever we live, we’re pretty close to the sea; we’re obviously “offshore” and refer to most of the rest of Canada as the “mainland”, (our two other island provinces excepted, of course); and after the day’s last scheduled ferry or flight, you’d pretty much have to paddle or swim (for a very long time) to get to the "mainland" of Canada. So yeah, we’re pretty much an “island”.

My own history is tied to islands. I was born on one, a large one in the North Atlantic. Growing up in Ontario, we had a rustic cottage for almost three decades on a little island (oddly enough, named “The Big Island”) on a lake in the Madawaska Valley. Trying to impress my future spouse, I told her in terms I considered very convincing, that one day she and I would sail away together to a distant island in the South Pacific. (I would have said anything to secure this relationship! We haven't sailed away to that island yet but we've done a heck of a lot of paddling.) Soon after we were married, we spent four glorious months living in a Newfoundland outport, with equally glorious people who taught us a great deal about warmth and hospitality – remote, it was almost an ”island” within an Island. As often as we could over the years, we travelled to the West Coast, to sea kayak amidst the Gulf and coastal islands. Twice, as a family and when our son was quite young, we launched our French-made Nautiraide folding kayak and cautiously enjoyed the otherworldliness of the Queen Charlottes, now known as Haida Gwaii. We have lived on this island for the past almost eight years and have every reason to believe we will remain on this island unless, of course, some immense geological event reconnects us to the mainland. Now that would be a bit of a “ride”!

Oh yes, and then there’s the island music... Having said that, great music comes from every place, nook and cranny on the planet. But island music does make you feel like summer and for a lot of us in the northern half of the northern hemisphere, we’re happy about that right about now.

Warm “Island” vibes, friends.


Image above: Somewhere over eastern Lake Superior – not the South Pacific, but a pretty sweet part of the country!


  1. Duncan,
    Being an island girl at heart, there is no better place to live than on an island, particularily this one!

  2. Thanks for stopping by, L. Yup, it's a pretty nice island!See you soon. D & J