As Winter hitches up its britches and settles in for a spell by the woodstove, seems like a good time to share this:
I have no idea how I came across it – one of those things stumbled over and bookmarked. Saved because it said something that resonated in memory or something else. Usually I have no idea why I save things. This one, though, is a real gem.
A resident who was asked to serve as the town’s wood surveyor responded, “You can go to hell — that is, I respectfully decline.”
Islands are metaphors for many things. Our small town of Scottsville has less than 500 souls, and is very like an island surrounded by a sea of woods and corn fields. Isolation from a real town by a mere twenty minute drive is all it takes to feel like we live an ocean away. People treat each other differently here because of it. Different than they would in the suburbs, even, of a big city.
There are long swathes of the year when the only people you meet here are the people who live here. That lack of strangers changes your view of the world in rather dramatic, though subconscious, ways.
As a boy I visited Smith and Tangier Islands with my grandparents, and was immediately drawn to those places. More isolated than most inhabited islands in the US, they retain a sense of place stronger than anything I’ve ever experienced. These were, are, places unto themselves and distinct like no other.
The island didn’t get electricity until the 1970s. Residents couldn’t even have telephones until the 1990s.
The fact that so many islands in the Chesapeake have disappeared already, or will imminently, is hard to fathom. They are just gone, and these will be, too. But even islands in no danger of physically disappearing, like Isle au Haut in Maine, are still vanishing, the last residents washing out on the ebb of time. A way we once lived is draining from places like this.
A nation is a mental construct of an island, a race even more so. A continent is just a big island. The earth itself so much like an island in the stream of stars that flows across the night sky.
We all live on islands upon islands.