Notes from the Island
March 2006


I own six headlamps, two superpower flashlights, and there is also a collection of a dozen other flashlights on the Island at my disposal. I always try to keep at least one light in the van just in case, but somehow on this particular night, I was without a flashlight. This was important; not for walking the trail so much, but for seeing the numbers on the combination lock that holds the ferry; swimming was not an option. Another item that I didn't have, one that really helps a lot when it comes to seeing tiny numbers in the dark, was a pair of reading glasses. I turned forty over three years ago and my eyes aren't what they were when I first moved to the land of ferries and combination locks. I made one more search through the van and although I didn't find a light as I emptied the glove box onto the floor, I did find a small magnifying glass (Naturalist keep these kinds of things in their cars). Armed now with my magnifying glass and the light of my cell phone I jumped out of the van and slammed the door. Oh [deleted]! I must have put my keys down when I emptied the glove compartment and now my keys were locked inside the van.

Now what? If I can't unlock the ferry I'm stuck without a car and if I do get on the Island can I get into the house? I have extra keys to the van in the house but I know the emergency house key is also locked inside the house. But wait, maybe my house is open. I left it open earlier because there was a large party on the Island and they needed a bathroom to use. The so-called "warm bathroom" in the men's room wasn't working and I told Star Mitchell that she and her guests could use mine. (Fifteen degrees above zero was too cold for the pipe that feeds the toilet out there). With all this going through my head I brace myself against the wind and start down the trail. I'm really hoping that Star didn't lock my front door.

There was no moon, it was well below freezing, and the wind got stronger as I got closer to the river. Things could get very grim. I arrive at the ferry landing, pocket magnifier in one hand and cell phone in the other. I don't want to take off my gloves but off they came as I tried to hold the phone and the glass with one hand and turn the numbers with the other. My stiffening fingers slowly work on the numbers as I adjust the distance of the magnifier. It feels like life or death as I concentrate on not dropping anything into the river below. I turn the last number and the lock pops open.. I quickly put my gloves back on and pull myself across, still full of uncertainty. Blowing into my gloves I rush up the boardwalk to my door. It's open. I'm happy. I locate my car keys and immediately put the extra house key in its hiding place. All's well that ends well.

-- Joe Hage, Sycamore Island Caretaker