Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Half of Me

Last week, I finished a collection of short stories by Alistair MacLeod. I'd read his book No Great Mischief two summers ago. While in New York, I found this collection, called Island, at a bookshop near my friend's apartment & immediately snapped it up.

No Great Mischief made me cry & Island got me pretty close. I actually wish I'd had the chance to write this post after I finished the book, when I was all wistful & misty-eyed & close to the moment. However, life, as always, got in the way & I'm writing about it now.

In the past, I've written about how much Prince Edward Island means to me. I just checked & I've written 21 posts (this included) about PEI in the time I'd had this blog. Since my total number of posts is around 330, that's a pretty decent number.

Much of MacLeod's work is about Cape Breton Island, but the populations & landscapes of the two places are very similar. Both were populated by Scottish immigrants in the 18th, 19th & 20th centuries and both have leaned heavily on fishing as a way of life for many years. These two elements undergird many of MacLeod's stories & enhance their resonance with me.

I've been spending summers on PEI since 1982, i.e. every summer of my life. I've always been in love with the Island & very, very happy during my time there. Throughout MacLeod's work, there are the memories of dogs and salt water and boats and lobster traps and buoys and lighthouses and sandy roads and Scotland and family and history and a sense of place. These things are exactly what I've experienced on PEI & the honest, yet profound way that he writes about them sometimes takes my breath away.

My first love was a boy from PEI. Well, in truth, my first love was probably PEI itself, but T. came along pretty early in my life, too. I met him when I was thirteen (nearly fourteen years ago!) & I was smitten from day one. I always saw myself marrying an Island boy. It occurs to me now that I must have hoped that a boy from the Island would understand how I felt about dogs and salt water and all the rest, that he would understand better than someone from the city or from the States.

In my daily life, I surround myself with reminders of the Island. In my bedroom, I have a large map of my township (Beach Point) & its environs over the mantel and a 8x10 photo of the view from our cottage on the wall near my bed. In my office, I have a small print of a PEI scene, a map of "shipwrecks & lighthouses of PEI," and an aerial photo of our cottage & its environs (that I took myself!). I stay in pretty regular contact with my friends from the Island, though most of them are living out in Calgary now.

The picture above (also in my Blogger profile) is a somewhat odd photo of me. It's basically just half of my body, sitting on a beer cooler at the beach at night. You can see the sand beside me & the black summer night beyond. I love this picture because I appreciate the reminder that half of me is
always on the Island, sitting on a rock by the lighthouse, gazing out to sea. :)

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