Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Islands

We can see a lot of islands from our environs: Little Island in our cove; Monroe and Sheep behind it to the northeast; Vinalhaven behind them (and the three turbines of Fox Islands Wind are up now, just barely visible and more so at night when three red eyes wink at us); Fisherman with its two lonely buildings straight out to sea; Ash if we walk down to Ash Point, where we also can view the lovely chain of Muscle Ridge Islands off Spruce Head. I've discovered recently that Maine Coast Heritage Trust has been working in this area, on Vinalhaven, of course, with its marketability, but also on small and pristine Monroe, one of the first examples of an island given in trust, in 1973, to the state, whose easements were further strengthened a few years ago by MCHT; and Ash Island, where it's working to raise the million dollars that will convince the owner to tear up the hundred-year-old zoning that theoretically would allow the construction not only of houses but a hotel. So why? not why would MCHT want to preserve such a lovely spot as Ash Point and Island, but why would anyone want to build on an island separated from the mainland by just a few hundred yards? Don't build your big house for all to see, crying "I'm islanding!" If you're going to be isolated, do it right.

The appeal of islands is obviously strong, but I confess I don't fully understand why. The beauty is compelling, but it implies the desirability, the need for isolation. The rich apparently need to escape the pressures and importunities of the business and professional worlds just to stay sane, but who would want that life the rest of the year? Regular folks need to get away too and I understand that (retreating and escaping is a character flaw), and an artist's need for solitude I get, but think about it: once you've retreated to an island, to a hotel room for a weekend, or a cottage for a few weeks, or a house in retirement, where else can you escape? It's just the ocean, brothers and sisters, and that is an environment hospitable only to water-breathers, sailors and other irrational beings. I'd rather be on the edge of the land, escaping just enough, keeping my retreat options open.

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