Monday, 8 February 2010

Island Life: If Once You Have Slept On An Island

At the edge of dark this afternoon, I was in the little office at the back of the cabin, trying to decide whether it was worth lighting an oil lamp, and researching an unknown (on this side of the Atlantic anyway) poet and novelist called Rachel Field - of whom more below - when I heard Lynn's voice coming from the verandah. She was yelling with some urgency at Eddie, to stop and come back; and then she popped her head round the front door and told me, with equal urgency, to drop what I was doing and come quickly.

By the time I got outside the show was all but over. Apparently Eddie had spotted an otter on the foreshore beside the jetty, and had gone to investigate. Despite following Eddie's stare, it was only when the animal moved that Lynn had been able to see it at all, and apparently as Eddie got closer it made for the water and disappeared. As we watched, it surfaced for a moment on the other side of the jetty, and then was gone, with a flick of its tail and the kind of splash a bar of soap makes when you drop it in the bath.

Back in the office, I returned to Rachel, conscious that the battery in the laptop would give me only another fifteen minutes of internet time. I learned that she was born in 1894 in New York; that she had been married to a literary agent called Arthur Pederson and had spent several summers in a beachfront house (above) on Sutton Island, Maine in the 1930s, writing children's fiction and poetry; and that she had died at the tragically young age of forty-eight from pneumonia, following major surgery.

Like Islandmore, Sutton Island (top) has no access other than by boat, and was inhabited then and now by what New Englanders call 'rusticators' (I must tell Lynn she's a rusticator).

Anyway, what prompted me to look up Rachel was a letter from one of our oldest friends Morag, with which she enclosed a Rachel Field poem she thought we might like:-

If Once You Have Slept On An Island

If once you have slept on an island
You'll never be quite the same;
You may look as you looked the day before
And go by the same old name

You may bustle about in street and shop;
You may sit at home and sew,
But you'll see blue water and wheeling gulls
Wherever your feet may go.

You may chat with the neighbour of this and that
And close to your fire keep
But you'll hear ship's whistle and lighthouse bell
And tides beat through your sleep

Oh, you won't know why and you can't say how
Such change upon you came,
But - once you have slept on an island
You'll never be quite the same!

Rachel Field (c.1935)
blog comments powered by Disqus