Wednesday, March 23, 2022


 Looking back as a village elder, I can’t help but ponder on significant times that shaped the life I have come to know and understand.  

Today the fickle finger of fate has lead me to this place to deliberate on what islands have meant in my life.  This is an important topic, don’t you see, because at this mellow time in my life, turning 72 on Wednesday this week, I consider myself to be, in fact, an islander.  In my way of thinking, considering oneself an islander recognizes a very special relationship to place & spirit worthy of a closer look.

I can’t help but think the root of my thing for islands is their mythical quality steeped in the life of a Boomer kid from southwest Ohio.  Only island I really knew as a kid  was Island Park, a family picnic and summer Sunday concert destination nestled between the Great Miami River and the narrow lagoon that served as one of the few ice skating destinations in town come winter cold snaps.  

Coastal islands, so far from my landlocked home in the Midwest, were places only observed in the printed pages of National Geographic and Life magazines. 

At that time in my life when, in retrospect, I should have expected hitting my professional and personal stride — my early 30s — I was learning more about life and relationships as a junior high school teacher and thinking it was time to get working on the next pay raise by getting a graduate degree.  That’s when this islander thing got ahold of me.  

I am unsure how a master’s degree impacts the lives of most recipients, but I have to say, my Master of Humanities from good old Wright State University was a life changer for me.  Knew it early on, too, in that first year of grad study when I stumbled into an Emily Dickinson workshop recommended by my undergrad guru, Dr. Jim Hughes.  By the time that twice-a-week evening class concluded that spring, I was registered to attend the Audubon Ecology Camp in Maine that summer, and in a not so complicated process, fell in love with Ms. Emily.  

So much happened from that point on, a guy could write a book about all of it.  Just so happens, I did just that.  Should be out later this year: 

Nature’s People: The Hog Island story 

from Mabel Loomis Todd to Audubon

Not doubt it was Hog Island that got me hooked by whatever magic spell islands cast.  I mean, sitting on a rocky shore at dawn watching lobster buoys glisten in the morning sun was not something I was raised to appreciate back in the Birthplace of Aviation.  But in my early 30s I surely did.  

And then that seemingly flippant comment one of the instructors made that kept echoing in my head: something like, “Once you’ve slept on an island, you’ll never be the same.”  

Let me just say in no uncertain terms, by the time my two weeks were done on Hog Island forty years ago, my life would, in fact, never be the same.  By the time the academic dust settled, I had written a long paper on the founding of the Audubon Camp and when Friends of Hog Island organized some years later, I was a regular at their annual on-island summer meetings.  Ended up editing the organization’s newsletter for a few years.  No doubt, Hog Island inoculated me into an islander.  

And now there is Hilton Head Island front & center in my life.  Watching Cindy Lou blossom on the beach during spring breaks in Florida when we first got together got me to thinking I needed to get that girl to the beach way more often.  

Not many springs after, we found ourselves on Hilton Head the first time, and by the next vernal equinox, we had purchased timeshare points to guarantee us the perfect nest for a week on the beach. That was ten years ago this spring.  

We’ve never regretted our timeshare purchase since it brought us to another island of beauty and wonder.  Liked it so much, in fact, we bought a cozy two bedroom condo a year ago, just a short walk from the beach.  Spent the whole winter here, in fact.  

No doubt Hilton Head is very different from Hog Island.  Gotta’ take a boat to Hog, but my Outback makes it quite comfortably to HHI. Like comparing apples to oranges, really.  Both islands are very different, just considering the beaches, let alone the traffic & the Kroger superstore.

Still, these two coastal island destinations pull on things inside of me that make me want to sit, listen, be mindful, and try to tune in to whatever Natural message is present.  

Such is, after all, what village elders are supposed to do.  Being an islander just makes it a touch easier. 

Today’s elder idea:   

Exultation is the going

Of an inland soul to sea -

Past the Houses - 

Past the Headlands - 

Into deep Eternity - 

Bred as we, among the mountains, 

Can the sailor understand 

The divine intoxication

Of the first league out from land? 

Emily Dickinson