Notes from the Island
November 1998


A steady drizzle of leaves has commenced, and the bare outline of winter vistas yet to come grows more real day by day. The continuing dry weather and fallen leaves makes it impossible to walk quietly through the woods, and sounds of frolicsome critters can be heard from every quarter, as if they know there is no sneaking about in these conditions. Even the "airplane creep" does not seem to work. This is the practice of moving about the Island only when aircraft are passing overhead. It is so difficult for large animals like caretakers to move about quietly, that I have adopted the practice of sneaking only when the noise in the air masks the noise on the ground. One stands still and silent between overflights, and then moves from place to place only as the overhead noise peaks. In this way, for instance, it can take "4 airplanes" to move from the end of the canoe shed to the table at the lower end of the Island. A certain smugness must be confessed to when this was figured out. Great fun was had for days... trying to sneak up on all sorts of tiny neighbors. But the results were not all that had been hoped for... the quarry always seemed to disappear before the last approach... even when I was sure I had not been heard. And then it was made clear one day... in a way too humiliating to relate... I was late to the game! Every critter on the Island uses "airplane creep!" It is like musical chairs out there. Sometimes the whole Island can be a riot of movement on the ground to the rhythm of passing aircraft. And the continuing lesson seems to be how often human "smugness" can be revealed to be just another sign of human ignorance of the natural order of things.

We are so fortunate to have the calm refuge of the Island in the midst of our busy lives... a place where one can come and be alone... or at least pretend to be alone. The recognition, acknowledgement, and appreciation of beauty can more often happen as a private experience, if only because it is more often something felt rather than seen. To say that "one night the reflection of the moon on the water reached out and became fireflies" is a poor allempt at describing a visual phenomenon because in fact it describes something felt as well as seen. Sometimes I feel as though little children should be required to be left here alone for an hour so that they will have an inner experience of "the natural order," instead of the frenzied and constant man made stimulus of the external human order. Especially for children, the Island offers a type of experience that is increasingly difficult to come by. For us older folks, it is easy to imagine the Island experience as invoking feelings of past times, when the world was less crowded and less modem. But children living in the present need to be inoculated with experiences of "the natural order" while they can. Already too many children spend more time in cyberspace than in natural space.

And thus we come to the topic of our responsibility to preserve, protect, and nurture the Island experience. The very concept of "stewardship" implies responsibility to the future. Who can remember the picture of devastation after the floods of '96 ? Contrast that to the spiffy place we have now. Consider not just the repairs that have been made to return the island to usefulness after the floods... like a new canoe shed, a new kitchen floor for the caretakers, a refurbished brick floor for the screen porch and men's locker room, etc. Consider instead the actual improvements that have been made just this year: 1) the new Captain's float to sit on, 2) the new paint job upstairs in the Clubhouse, 3) the new wooden swimming float, 4) the new paint job on the exterior of the Clubhouse, 5) the new lights and wiring both upstairs and down, 6) the new fans, 7) the new hard wired fire alarm system, 8) the new picnic tables, 9) the new fans upstairs, 10) the refurbishment of the wood stove system, 11) new chairs for the Island, and 12) a new table for the deck... this is quite a list. But what is more amazing than the list of improvements on the island is that most of it is the result of the efforts of a few people.

Certainly it is always true that in every organization the efforts of a core few carry the many. And this includes those who meet and labor behind the scene to keep things together, no small task. This is not fair. There are now approximately 300 families that have access to the Island. To some Members the Island means only a neat place to have a party once a year or a cheap picnic park alternative to Mohican Hills swimming pool. But to those of you that know the Island to be something special... come to the Workfest!! Give something back. Bring a dish for pot luck and help George and Marcia Loeb with the feast. Bring your children... where else in this world can they experience something akin to a community barn raising. An effort should be made this year especially to incorporate the inclusion of children in the Workfest. We have lost treasured friends and valuable leaders of the "Old Guard" this year, but we should not lose the values they worked for or forget the examples they set. Never has it been more important for new blood to step forward and get involved... to contribute.

Folks on the waiting list should make a special effort to come, to meet other Members, to get involved, to experience that one thing normally denied... a fun weekend on the Island. The Island is in good shape this year and there is not much to work on in the way of major projects. Therefore this year, at this Workfest, we can take time to work on that other fun and important thing: a feeling of shared purpose and community.

For that... you only have show up on November 14.

-- Doc Taliaferro, Sycamore Island Caretaker