Casting Off, 2010
I’m going to be on vacation for the next week or so. Since these missives take more thinking and planning to conceive and pre-load than I have the capacity for at the moment, there’ll be no new posts while I’m gone.
We’re going offshore to an island. It’s not all that exotic. They speak our language. They have food we’re familiar with. The people are friendly, especially at this time of year when you’ve chosen not to be one of the more obnoxious “summer people.” You drive on the right-hand side of the road. Still, there’s enough sense of separation that when islanders go to the mainland some refer to the trip as “going to America.”
We’ve been going to this island off and on for thirty years. It has its charms and its inconveniences. The towns are all walkable and each has its own personality. Some can be crossed in a matter of minutes with even a slow amble. The western end of the island is mostly rural, with dense forests and open fields dotted with sheep that extend down to the shore (the fields, not the sheep). Unlike the Mid-Atlantic coast where I live, where the great glaciers ground down to sand when they met the water’s edge, the terminal moraine archipelago where we’re headed is still very rocky.
Everything costs more over there. Even toilet paper. So you bring things with you that you wouldn’t normally carry on vacation. Like pickles, gin, high fiber cereal, pasta, peanut butter and toilet paper. Oh, and let’s not forget the Rose’s gimlet juice this time.
A lot of vacations involve driving long distances, followed by a stay in an impersonal hotel, or at least in an unfamiliar bed. But this trip’s a little different. For one, the long drive ends with a ferry ride. It’s only forty-five minutes long. On a clear day you’re never out of sight of some land or another. But if there’s a good fog and the wind’s blowing from the northeast, as it’s wont to do this time of year, or it’s dark, as it’ll be when we get there, you can’t see a thing and you could as well be crossing the English Channel or the Bosphorus Strait.
No, we’re not going to Anatolia. But the effect is the same as driving from England to France or from the European Continent to Asia. You drive the car into the ferry on the mainland, where people are one way, and disembark on a little island where the mood is different, in this case more friendly, relaxed and socially progressive. Along the way you might see a pod of whales, a flotilla of sailboats, a celebrity or two, islanders coming home from a weekend off island or just other visitors anxious to leave the silliness of the mainland election season behind.
At the end of our long drive and ferry ride is a house we’ve gotten to know well. We know where the electrical sockets are, which beds are most comfortable and how to climb the steep stairs to the second floor late at night without waking everyone in the house. It’s like heaven as long as we’re there.
I’ll see you when I get back.