Notes from the Island
It is funny things can change. One day we are outside being amazed at
how nice the weather can be, and suddenly we are overwhelmed with how
everything is different. How did this happen? Why did we not notice.
Did it happen all at once? How did this sneak up on us... especially
when we thought we were paying attention? It seemed the bush in front
of the screened porch developed leaves in three days!!
One sudden thing is how fast the walls of our world has come rushing
inward. The line of sight vistas are fast disappearing... there are no
green leaves on the trees yet... but just the buds and other assorted
non-green things being exuded from the trees have hidden walkers on the
path coming down the hill. One more week of this and visibility from
the side windows in the Caretaker's quarters will be reduced from half a
mile to five feet.
Certainly March has been a time of unrelenting high water. The Island
has been closed 16 of the first 24 days this month... and substantial
rain is still expected. The gentleman who came to check and certify our
fire extinguishers lives on a mountainside above Harper's Ferry and
reports that the mountains are saturated... have been all year... and
that any water that falls runs directly into the river. The high water
of March 5 was interesting because of the enormous amount of sediment
deposited by the receding waters... almost two inches on the lower level
of the wooden walkway. This is interesting because one can see many
places on the Island where the two floods of last year scoured the
topsoil off the surface... exposing networks of small fibrous tree
roots. It will be interesting to track the ebb and flow of sediment.
The narcissus are in full bloom and the bluebells are blue but have not
yet raised their heads. If you have not seen them when you read this...
drop everything and rush to the Island. Everywhere shoots are exploding
upwards. The Caretaker has continuing disappointment at not being able
to walk the Island at night while fragile plants are emerging.
Big fish... let me say this again... BIG FISH... have been seen jumping
during this time that the insects are emerging. The Caretaker wishes
to be cautious about saying just how big for fear of being embroiled in
any "big fish story" dispute. But during late dusk with his own eyes he
saw a dark body so large come from beneath to take something off the
surface that one can only hope it was a fish. You can imagine the
internal anguish about whether or not such a sighting should be
reported. It is not as though the problem is one of credibility... such
as a UFO sighting. Rather, the Caretaker imagines hordes of Members
descending on the Island... bait at hand... fuelled merely by the hope
that the report "may" be true... driven by Spring Fever and that
peculiar quest for "The Big One" that seems to be come upon certain
people the first time they grip certain fishing poles.
Once the Caretaker imagined that having a hook, cork, and bamboo pole as
an excuse to explore nature, to sit and do nothing but examine one's
internal dialogue... or doze in natural surroundings. But then the
Caretaker had a favorite camping buddy (now a Member who shall remain
nameless) who went off on his own one day and returned with that 1000
yard stare when recounting his virginal fishing experience. Thereafter,
all camping sites were selected for proximity to prime fishing, and in
the spirit of fellowship... a small investment was made in fishing
apparatus. Yet this did not turn out to be the bucolic experience
originally imagined. Indeed, the friend approached the experience with
the single-minded determination of the true predator. And just when
lamentations seemed to be in order for lost souls... an experience even
more consuming than this addiction took over the friend: Parenthood.
And thus he was lost. Not that the two are necessarily connected...
except to note that there are more compelling forces than addictions.
But if you ask your Caretaker how the fishing is and he hesitates...
know he is measuring the possible impact on your sanity and his
privacy... and if he answers that the fishing has been terrible... be
As the season changes new birds are appearing at the feeders and on the
Island. Wood ducks are about and it is strange to see ducks sitting in
the sycamores. House finches have arrived and our only nuthatch now has
a friend. The piliated woodpecker can be seen still using the same hole
in the same sycamore. Two doves are shyly using the feeder... one is
never seen without the other. And the robins are everywhere on the
grass... running and pausing... alert for the worms which are in
profusion and in all sizes in any turned spade of dirt.
-- Doc Taliaferro, Sycamore Island Caretaker