Notes from the Island
December 2005

You might think that we are pretty isolated down here surrounded by water. In some ways that is very true; but in other ways I feel less isolated here than I did living in our rambler in Silver Spring. It's true we don't have any next-door neighbors that we can visit; but we do have neighbors up the hill and, since we live by the river, the great thing is that our neighbors come to us. We've met so many nice people -- from the joggers that greet us as we walk up the hill to the bus stop in the pre-dawn light to the Olympic kayakers that sometimes take their boats out at our landing. We have bicyclists and hikers and dog-walkers all stopping to say hello. Back at the cul-de-sac it seemed we only saw our neighbors when it was time to rake the leaves. It's interesting to see all the different people that are drawn to the river and all the different reasons that they come here. Once, early last spring, I watched as an old couple sprinkled the remains of a loved one into the river and then unceremoniously walked back up the hill. Coincidentally, or magically, the very next day a bagpipe player showed up in his kilt and played his bagpipes along that same stretch of river. We've seen backpackers and marathon runners and more than once I've seen patients or families of patients from Sibley hospital stopping here for a respite from their problems. And of course we have all the great members of Sycamore Island who know better than anyone the many reasons to come down to the river and the C&O Canal.

It's been another super month down here and as we look forward to the Winter Solstice. I just can't get over how wonderful this autumn weather has been. There have been so many warm and sunny days and, more importantly, the river has been forgiving and has remained within its banks (of course the river is supposed to rise to eight feet as I write this). I learned early on to never take a gentle river for granted.

We had great weather for the Workfest. Even though the need to rake the leaves from the field was questioned I think the workfests are important, if for no other reason than to get the members together for at least two days out of the year. The perfect weather allowed me to take a small group of young campers for an overnight on Offutt Island, a trip I highly recommend. It made me feel like one of those hearty Sycamore Islanders from 75 years ago (Sycamore Islander October 2005).

There is a bit of breaking news. The new bell that you read about last month has been broken. A tree, floating by on the rising waters grabbed the bell rope and pulled the whole thing down. The ground hogs have undone all the work I did on the floor in the screen porch; they never give up, do they? Some exciting bird sightings this past month. We've seen cedar wax-wings, winter wrens, bald eagles (courting and in nest) and a loon.

-- Joe Hage, Sycamore Island Caretaker