**Summer has sweet ways to refresh our souls. So, this week’s blog I’m sharing some summer thoughts from a post I wrote last August – on island life. I hope this post refreshes you and reminds you of long, hot summer days, the feel of sand between your toes and salty breezes blowing through your hair – carefree days that are less about doing and all about being. God bless your summer days, friend!
I am a newbie island girl.
For the past four years my husband and I have lived life on a long, thin island, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, ever a ferry ride away from “the mainland”.
Yes, I actually refer to the continental United States as “the mainland”, as it represents a different world to me. It represents my former big city life, big city traffic, big city shopping centers, of fast food and fast life.
Island life is different to be sure, and I am different for living on an island. I’ve changed, I’ve morphed, into an island girl. I may not appear ‘greener’ – no seaweed growing between my toes (though you may find sand in my shoes and shells in my pockets), but my mindset has altered. My viewpoint has bent, my pace has slowed, my expectations with it. There is a calm, that settles in the soul of one surrounded by water and beauty.
Today I’m sharing five things that I have learned living on an island:
1) I am small.
My size in comparison to the universe is like a grain of sand on the beach.
I see miles upon miles of ocean surrounding me and hundreds of acres of forests – cedar trees and alder reaching 60-80 feet upward into the sky. I get perspective. I feel my size – small.
Civilization on the mainland, particularly in the city, looks different.
I understand mainland life, as I lived and participated in mainland life for over 48 years. When we lived on the mainland, we lived in a housing development – which formed our view – a type of mini McMansion, with similar style houses that were painted in coordinating color schemes to our home.
Orderly rows of streets, in grid like patterns formed our neighborhood. Plaid lines of concrete delineated paths that formed the structure of that world. Neat postage stamp front yards were highly manicured, boasting bright green grasses that in mid-August nature does not naturally produce. Artificially maintained – watering on a timer, chemically treated (like my ever blond hair during that 20 year season of life). Here man rules. Man is in charge with nature playing 2nd string to man’s view of what nature looks like.
Not so, on my 5 acre island plot. Here, surrounded by 60 foot cedar and alder trees, with a fenced orchard and sloping once green grasses now deep and golden brown from the dry hot summer heat, nature rules. In the country there is more dirt than concrete, more field than grass, more wild chaotic nature, than order.
2) I am not in control!
I am ever aware, here in my island yard – Nature Rules.
I am reminded of this daily, as I struggle to “control” (slightly effect, would be a more accurate description) small things. One area my husband and I have attempted to “redirect” nature is in the form of controlling wildlife, through a series of fences and screams (mine – as I chase wildlife from my back patio). We are attempting to ‘convince’ the family of deer that live on our property to move homesteads – perhaps, consider our neighbor’s yard, or the nice field and forest behind our place. I am not in charge, it is obvious to all.
Life here is less convenient – more planning is required.
Grocery stores close at around 8p.m. The pre-made convenience food of the deli inside our grocery store, close at 6p.m. I found this out quite by mistake, when one day at 6:02p.m. I walked towards the back of the store where the deli was located, and to my surprise, noted there looked like there had been a post nuclear disaster clean-up in the deli section. Not a crumb of food occupied the entire corner of the store where the deli was located.
Being a former Health Department employee, my immediate thought was there was some type of serious bacterial contamination. I practically ran to the front check out counter, intent on making my frozen purchases (surely they were safe from the contamination?), and asked the check out person “what happened in the deli section?” Her calm response cued me in to my overreaction – “It closes at 6p.m. ”, she was shaking her head at the ridiculousness of such an early closure. I agree. I must plan. Convenience is not a priority here.
Getting “there” takes time.
Perhaps a piece of the lack of control comes because of being subject to a ferry to go to the “mainland’. Ferries do not run 24 hours a day, there is a six hour period with no ferries running. I was very conscious of this fact as I awaited the delivery of our first grandson and hoped, that I would be able to attend the blessed event (ferry schedules and commute withstanding). And, ferries can be crowded, wait lines can be long (in the mid summer season on a sunny Friday, up to 3 hours wait!), and so, your plans can be waylaid and delayed. Get used to it!
The boat is what makes the delineation between “mainland” and “island” life. It is the geographical distinction between isolated island life and the mainland. It is inconvenient – yes – but it is also the means to the end. A life somewhat set apart. A slower pace. A slower life. The guarded ferry gate leads to the treasured lifestyle. The cost – a ferry -a wait – a line – is what maintains the treasure.
3) Live Life on the Edge of Expectancy.
On the beach several days ago, I overheard a group of 4 industrious young children with their buckets and shovels, digging holes ferociously around themselves. The girl in charge loudly announced to the others –
“We haven’t found the treasure! Why can’t we find it?”
That is how life is approached on an island – with expectancy. Looking for life’s treasures. Islanders live with their eyes open with expectancy. Treasures are everywhere.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve been approached while on a beach walk by someone with wide-eyed wonder who says “Did you see it?” and goes on to point out the eagle on its nest, or the whale out on yonder sea. There is a sense of awe. A sense of wonder. A sense of shared appreciation.
My eyes are widening, too. My gaze is becoming more expectant – more open to wonder.
“The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders!” Psalm 65:8
4) Appreciation for the Rhythms of Life – Ebb and Flow
There is a unique rhythm to island life. An ebb and flow.
It follows the continual cycle of the rhythms of the waters that surround an island. It includes an appreciation for nature’s changes – the seasons are noticed. Nature comes alive differently in each distinct season and islanders wait and celebrate each coming and going.
Our lives, too, follow larger seasonal patterns – rhythms of busy gusty waves of young families to the lull calm and season of slowing with empty nesting, and, later, retirement. Seasons of life. God’s design. God’s plan. His touch on our lives.
I have noticed, Americans struggle with seasons of unproductiveness.
When nothing is getting done, we feel something is wrong. We must produce! We wax, we wane, we struggle to get back to our game – our normal output of social life, service life, work life. We see life as producing. Not being.
On an island, I am reminded, life has an ebb & flow.
I think people struggle less with seasons of rest on an island. Rest seems right. Good. There is a recognition of life’s ongoing rhythms and perhaps it gentles our spirit into acceptance of the various waves in life. Sometimes we experience 50 mph winds and crashing waves upwards of 6 feet, exaggerated blows, carrying pieces of driftwood and ravaging all in its path. But, after the storm, there is always a calm. The seas slow, the waves cease, you can almost forget the stormy seas that hit.
“You rule over the surging sea;
When its waves mount up, you still them.”..
The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth..” Psalm 89:9, 11
5) Island’s are places that you change a lot.
(this is an excerpt from “How to Live On an Island” Sandy Gingros).
**I’ll leave you with an island blessing: May your shoes be filled with sand and your pockets with shells this summer. God bless!