Guest Blogger—WHY WE’RE CARETAKERS
We have now volunteered on five islands for a total of more than two years. Each has been an adventure, sometimes hard work, and endless fun. A new island is on the horizon.
What makes island caretaking so fulfilling? Partly, it’s living in the moment. We sometimes slip out of the present and into the future but it’s a limited time frame since none of our stays has been longer than four months. Mostly, we live day-to-day, focusing on the task at hand, listening to the wind and birds, or marveling at the 360-degree beauty. There are very few outside distractions.
We enjoy greeting visitors and making new friends. Indeed, welcoming those who arrive by boat is one of our most important tasks. But, we enjoy nothing more than the solitude, peace, and meditation of having the islands to ourselves.
Four of “our” islands have lighthouses which guarantee world-class views. The fifth, the one without a lighthouse, was no exception, situated offshore between the Straight of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.
We are always keyed into weather and listen to the forecast on our VHF radio or download it with our limited internet. Fog (sometimes triggering the fog horn), strong winds (blowing down trees and branches), downpours (creating sand slides), and sunny forecasts become an obsession. As I sit writing this, we await a gale gusting to 60 mph with rain, hail, and thunderstorms over four days. We once weathered a storm lasting more than a week with constant 70 mph winds, gusting to 90. Bad things on land are always worse at sea, however, and, as sailors ourselves, many are the nights we’ve been gratefully tucked into our comfortable caretaker houses.
Caretaking isn’t for everyone. I wouldn’t want to do it by myself and Lynne is the perfect companion. We find joy in each other’s company, day after day. R-E-S-P-E-C-T is the key and we try to reach a consensus on most decisions.
Lynne possesses endless reserves of joie de vivre. Her incredibly eclectic choices in reading reflect her approach to life. She enjoys everything from Marcus Aurelius to Isabel Allende, often focusing on books about the area where we are staying. Similarly, she undertakes endless and varied projects and her skills range from imaginative cooking to weaving to wielding a chain saw. In short, Lynne is the best caretaking companion I can imagine. She never gets bored.
We learned the following dictum from some fellow caretakers. Every day we try to accomplish three things: do something for the island, engage in creativity, and exercise. There is always something to do for the island: mowing, clearing trails, small engine maintenance, building simple furniture, hosing off seagull poo, painting, and on and on. I have no problem with the second because I practice two or more hours a day on my electronic keyboard. Number one often takes care of number three but on those days when I can’t kill two birds with one stone, there is always hiking, swimming, or jogging.
We share our islands with more permanent residents. In Alaska, we marvel at whales swimming sixty feet offshore. In Tasmania, wallabies hop all around us, penguins cry and whistle half the night, and dolphins dance in the coves. In Washington, we spy on napping seals and watch forty bald eagles watching us. And, in Maine, we listen to lobster boats grumbling through the thick fog.
We’ve been doing this off and on for ten years and I’d like nothing better than to do it for ten more. That said, we’re looking forward to coming home.