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Day One – Island Hideaway

August 11, 2009


In deep, dark February, I booked a two-week stay at an island hideaway–a retreat located on the Toronto Islands, not far from home. Amidst the ice and 4 p.m. sunsets, languid late July seemed like a place I would need a time machine to reach. And, looking forward to my stay was fraught with knowing summer would be almost over by the time it arrived–wishing for the island also meant accelerating winter, spring and most of summer, with autumn next in line.

When my check-in date arrived, a municipal strike was suspending island ferry service, creating along with transportation challenges an incredibly secluded space I never dreamed I was destined to stay when I made the booking. I struggled with bags of groceries, writing material, books, clothes, and a lingering city tension, all of which cramped my shoulders into dreadful knots. First, there was a taxi ride from home, then a long, hot wait in the waterfront sun. Next came a boat-ride across the harbour to the island’s tip, where a second, smaller boat carried me through a network of channels and lagoons to a slightly grungy dock. Invisible to the naked eye, my shoulders dropped this much. Then a bit more. A quick struggle through the bush and there it was–my wee little bedroom and adjacent studio with a view of a choke-cherry bush. Modest accommodations; a perfect temporary home.

I’ve been back in the city now roughly five days, and am shucking off the culture shock. Over fourteen island days, I slid from taking my shoes off at the beach, to taking my shoes off at the beach and then walking partway back to the lodge before putting them back on, to carrying my shoes once I got close to the beach, to stowing them in the cupboard. Each morning, I fixed myself a lattĂ©, carried it to the water and drank it with my feet in the waves. My jeans became so filled with sand there was never a shortage of grit between my sheets. I wrote while lying on my belly in the midday heat, and sunburned a perfect white underpants-shadow onto my bum.

The best way to describe the state of affairs in Writer’s Studio: 4/5 was “feral”. As I step back into real life, people ask for stories and details, descriptions of what I accomplished, who I met, where I stayed, what happened through that string of days. The short answer is: nothing. Nothing happened–I worked and slept and behaved like I was six. I wore my swimsuit under my clothes just in case, ate and napped and did as I pleased. Used poor language and wore no shoes. Wiped my hands on my thighs and avoided email. Cycled places then dropped my bike on the grass, one wheel spinning as it lay on its side and I went off to do other things. The long answer is: everything. Everything has changed. And, the wishy-washy answer is: I don’t really know what to share just yet.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. looka permalink
    August 12, 2009 7:34 am

    A wonderful feeling, no? What you are taking with you from there.

    The last paragraph just reminded me of a (emotional) moment like the one you described. THANKS!

  2. Amanda permalink
    August 12, 2009 8:04 am

    Ah, Simon, thanks man. Stayed tuned for days 2 through 14…

    : )

  3. Carrie permalink
    August 12, 2009 11:24 am

    Sounds right to me. I'd like to go to an island now. Would I get work done? Maybe some unfettered thinking.

    Looking forward to the rest of the run-down.

  4. Amanda permalink
    August 12, 2009 11:28 am

    YES. Your accomplishments will include (but by no means be limited to):

    1. transporting kilos of sand from beach to bedroom

    2. developing tough feet

    3. mastering the art of making your own espresso

    4. composing endless wads of awful short fiction

    5. composing endless wads of dithering non-fiction

    6. composing a modest quantity of well-crafted essays, short-short stories and character profiles (for your future children's story), and at least 15 pages of letters to me (in exchange for the letters I wrote you each morning)

    7. acquiring a fantastic suntan whether you want one or not

    8. fine-tuning your dog-paddle

    9. drafting a not-to-scale map to an imaginary island populated solely by people under 15

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