Notes from the Island
October 2004


This past month has been full of variety. It started with superb swimming and fishing conditions and it was great to have the river warm and clear for such a long stretch. Two hurricanes later the river has turned big, brown and ugly. The cool weather has hit too and now itís time to break out the gloves and brace for our third winter out here on the Island. Thankfully, the hurricane season seems to be winding down. I feel so fortunate that we suffered only some minor flooding during this recent wrath of storms. It seems like those perfect days of summer and swimming came to an abrupt end and the signs of fall are creeping in with the cooler weather.

The flooding river can be a hassle but it can also be very exciting at the same time. It may be some kind of primal instinct, but my heart begins to race at the thought of a rapidly changing environment. (To others the rising water is a windfall. Sunday, I watched a sharp-shined hawk snatch up toads and insects along the waterís edge as they were forced out of their once-dry hideouts.) To me the news of an eminent flood is similar to the anticipation of the coming winter. Although I may be filled with a passing dread and in my weaker moments might wish to flee the Island completely, there is always something beautiful and rare that reminds me of why I stay and why I love living here so much.

Living on the Island has made me so much more aware of the passing seasons as well, not only because of the greater consequences of the colder weather, but also because of a growing closeness to the rhythms of nature. I love that I now notice the changing position of the sun when it breaks over the trees and shines in my window or that I can predict the arrival of the wintering birds. Iím learning so much, but the more I learn the more mysterious everything becomes. Like how did the squirrels learn that they could leap from the high branches of a sycamore tree thatís growing on the mainland, land safely in the river, and swim to the Island? And why would they go through the trouble? Why do I see raccoon prints everywhere on the Island; yet Iíve seen the coon itself only once? Why are most of the jewelweed flowers on the Island yellow and the ones along the canal orange? And why do the Owls make so much noise at night? It may take many winters on the Island to understand some of these things, but thankfully the Island is a very patient teacher.

Reminder, if the gauge at Little Falls reads above five feet the ferry will not be operating, thanks. [Read the gauge at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/md/nwis/uv/?site_no=01646500]

-- Joe Hage, Sycamore Island Caretaker