Island Thoughts

To dream of travel and to actually travel are only loosely related.



          I think that if I could only determine which direction I was trying to go, it would be much easier to begin my journey. We all think we know where a particular thought or character trait comes from in ourselves, but I think that most of us are mostly wrong, most of the time.
          I have never put my finger on the cloudy soup that has me constantly dreaming of moving off to some foreign land where the hedge rows are straight and pure, and the culture is clean and full of adventure, but then I never go. I ask why, and even the mixed feelings, that flow over me when I recollect the many times that some distant adventure never came to pass, seem turbulent, like the swirling mist rising from a hot cup of coffee in a cool drafty French farm house. These feelings take on little lives of themselves, coming and going like brief waves of fear or loneliness or anticipation of something about to happen. These swirling transparent waves, as they wash back and forth against the sides of my skull, all boil down to a general anxiety about the unknown. I never have known why these dreams of distance come so strongly for a moment and then fade away so smoothly that they really leave unnoticed. A singer once said that "if you understand, you know too soon, and there ain't no sense in trying," and it stuck to me many years ago when I was just crawling out from under the certainty that I knew everything and really needed to know it was okay to lie floundering in the dark as long as I was still looking for some kind of light. The key seems to be that we must keep looking.

The Island

          Some years ago, my wife and I had a friend that moved to a small island in the Antilles where she would write back to us with juicy stories of paradise. When the pictures arrived in the second letter we had already made plans for the disposal of most of our possessions. This in itself was a real task, in that we probably own enough valueless stuff to cover this poor tiny island. The animals alone, depending on how many we had at the time, could have easily grazed this little atoll bare inside of several hours. The pictures added greatly to our momentary determination. The place was easily as beautiful as we had dreamed. From the way this little place seemed to snoot up out of the ocean like a tree covered pig's snout, to the fairy tale like houses that were scattered in small groups anywhere the steep landscape permitted, this quaint island immediately became Eden to us both. We obtained detailed maps from the library, Liz found enough books on this small Dutch possession to cover the kitchen table, and we staked out a little plot of the island as if we were the first settlers. In our minds we were there basking in the warm breezes and collecting our meals from the beautiful landscape all around us. The place was perfect. There weren't any jobs as far as we could tell, and that in itself had its good points.
          This all took place in January and February, where, in the Northwest United States, we can assume the weather was cold and nasty at the time. Well, as would have it, about the end of February the temperatures warmed a bit, the sun came out, and that wonderful little reprieve from winter, that often occurs about this time, let me out of the cave long enough to trim a few fruit trees. I think Liz managed to engage herself in a bit of barn cleaning, and we both spent most of a week out and about our small "farm" puttering.
          Puttering, by the way, is one of those things I think of whenever someone asks me about my career. Puttering is also one of those things that is way up there on the "success chain". That is to say, that to be engaged in puttering is to be involved in something innately good and quite successful. There should definitely be far more puttering in our culture, what little there is of it, culture that is. In fact the character of American culture could be vastly improved with several centuries of conscientious puttering and a few random acts of kindness. Kindness may seem like a completely different can of worms, and it is to some extent, but there are some obvious similarities that may crop up later, but it is entirely too early to discuss these for the time being.
          At any rate, we had a very nice week or so dealing with the realities of our chosen life style. During that week we were much too occupied to plan much in the way of resettlement into the lush jungles of the Lesser Antilles, and by the end of the week we were planning a new chicken house and several other major changes around our own place. Needles to say, our migration just faded away like evening light, we resumed our local putterings, and we were fine until the next winter, when we began to get letters from the Caribbean again.
          It was cold, as usual, and the snow was actually pilling up. We hadn't made it out the driveway with a car for some time, and heavy stuff like beer was getting to be a real pain to bring in on skis. We really benged on the idea that we would truly pick up, sell out, and jump the next flying carpet headed for a dream. We even called our friend that time to tell her that we had finally decided to do it. Of coarse she encouraged us, and of coarse something came along to veer us back toward that peaceful way we drift through the brief time we have been allotted. Why we dream of the far off, I can only guess at, but those dreams seem to keep us going through the depths of winter.


Copyright 2007. Ed Gnaedinger.