Notes from the Island
June 1993

(Appeared in July 1993 Islander)


While I was a caretaker at Sycamore Island, a few people asked me if I felt like Robinson Crusoe, king of an island in the middle of nowhere and sometimes I did. When I arrived in the morning, I would tour the island with my loyal (because I fed him) companion, Fred the Cat. I looked for provisions and discovered pretzels in the kitchen. Outside I found mulberries that tasted ripe only towards the end of my two weeks as a voluntary castaway. When large parties invaded, I used Peter and Holly's apartment as my fortress.

However, unlike Robinson, I was not completely isolated from the rest of the world. Each day I ferried at least one visitor onto the Island, although some days my own guests, not Islanders, were the only people I talked to. From the fortress window facing the canal I could see lots of others: They were bikers and walkers and fishers, some were duck-feeders, bell-ringers, picnickers, feet-in-the-water-danglers. From this window I observed my first oriole, whom I recognized by the flash of orange as he whisked by. Another evening, while waiting for a friend on the ferry, I spotted another oriole, and on the trip over to the opposite bank I noticed a beaver enjoying an evening swim.

I envied the Island canoers who took advantage of the boating aspect of the /island, something I couldn't do without neglecting the cowbell. I did get time on the water by hanging out on the ferry in the middle of the river. I held on to the rope with one hand and reached out to the geese that paddled by with their gosling families. None of the geese ever let me approach too close, even on land where I shook the mulberry tree for them. I noticed that they liked to eat the berries, and they left evidence of this preference all over the Island: on the swimming and canoe docks, on the ferry, near the water's edge.

Other than the geese, there were a few people who frequented the Island often. The Captain dropped by eight days in a row and either worked on the Island or canoed. A woman with her daughters came over for a swim every few days. Various people would arrive and soon disappear in canoes with their fishing rods. My parents brought me dinner a couple of times [thank you]. Unfortunately, I had never been a frequent visitor myself, even though we were members of the Island during high school. While I was the caretaker, I realized how wonderful our hidden Island is, what a marvelous place it is. The Island is more fun than belonging to a pool, it is closer than the beach, it offers an escape from crowds and traffic, and it preserves our appreciation of the river and the environments it creates for us to live and play in. I plan on visiting more often by myself and with friends, and I hope that a lot more people will too.

-- Louisa Winer, Substitute Sycamore Island Caretaker