We've been on Beaver Island for a full week as of today. It is good to be home, and yet there's something skewed about it--or about me. It is not something I'm noticing for the first time; it is only that it is stronger each year. There comes, with growing up, a shedding of the veil of innocence, which everyone goes through, to some extent. But it is almost as if the Island has also grown up while I was away, and not only do I now see the sometimes nasty truth behind the shiny veneer of things, but that truth has itself shed some of the innocence it once held. It seems then that the shift is not only in the observer, but also in the observed. John Works, who I used to work for in high school, told me the other day "The Island isn't the same place you grew up," and he was right.
So what does all of this have to do with coffee and a fire? Only that I am sitting here this morning in my wife's grandparents' cabin on the harbor, a mug of hot coffee at my right hand, and a roaring fire in the fireplace. The day outside is gray and cool--the mercury still dawdling below the fifty degree mark, and I can see already that I'm going to have to split more wood before lunch. Today is my day off. I have plenty to do, here in town as well as out at our property, and here I sit, musing about how my home town has tarnished over the years.
I should point out that, even though I grew up (for the most part) on the Island, my parents have since sold their place, and so for a while I was relegated to being a visitor only. My beautiful wife and I bought 12 acres a few years back (though we're still paying for it), on which we hope to build a home and a pottery studio. I'd like to live here year round, but work--good work--is especially scarce here. CMU has a biological station where I could teach summer English classes, but I'd still have to go back to Mt. Pleasant to teach in the fall (which I'm doing now anyway). I also considered teaching at the high school here, but the time demands are more than I could stand for long.
So I am a summer person--that peculiar breed of folk I was always vaguely suspicious of as a youth. Right now we are in town, but that will only last a few weeks more. Then it will be out to the mosquitoes and mice. We brought Frodo, my gimpy old cat so hopefully this year the mice will not be as much of a problem as they have been. Our "cabin" is a one-room, 8' x 12' structure with a small loft. We bought it from a carpenter friend who built it out of left-over building materials which had begun to clutter up his barn. It is sturdy, tight, and well-insulated, and we love it. Last year I built a ladder and made a kitchen counter and shelving area. This year I plan to install a gray water system so we can use the sink for dishes and baby baths (we don't have a well yet--we were going to get one this summer, but we got a baby instead. Go figure!). I'll also be putting in a window in the loft and a screen door downstairs for improved ventilation in the heat of the summer. I'm also hoping to sort out our solar power situation, so that the mini-fridge will keep the beer and milk frosty cold (as you may have guessed, we're off the grid too). On top of all that, we have the old 20' sail boat my father-in-law gave us, which we're renaming Ol' Snaporaz after Marcello Mastroianni's character in City of Women, among other films. It needs to be cleaned, repainted, and partially re-rigged. I've been reading up on sailing so maybe this year we'll actually give it a try.
Apart from the Island stuff I have planned, I have to get a proposal ready for Arcadia, and now it appears that I'll be working on a separate book with the Historical Society. I still have to finish my syllabi for Basic Writing and Fiction Workshop as well. Oh, and I'd hoped to have a rough draft of my novel done by fall. So it looks to be a busy summer. And sometimes all I want to do is sit down in front of a warm fire with a hot cup of coffee and a good book. But I really should get to work on those last few chapters of my novel...ah well, maybe just one more cup, and I'd better throw another log on the fire. Be well.