Of Paradise Terrestre, Two Years Hence

Next Monday — Bastille Day — marks two years since I packed up and moved north to San Juan Island. Much has changed in my life in the ensuing two years, but much that is important to me has stayed the same. Indeed, I feel increasingly as if I live and belong here, at long last.

Each spring, as I have for years now, I re-read Lawrence Durrell’s Reflections of a Marine Venus, whose opening page speaks so directly to me:

Somewhere among the notebooks of Gideon I once found a list of diseases as yet unclassified by medical science, and among these there occurred the word Islomania, which was described as a rare but by no means unknown affliction of spirit. There are people, as Gideon used to say, by way of explanation, who find islands somehow irrestistable. The mere knowledge that the are on an island, a little world surrounded by the sea, fills them with an indescribable intoxication….But like all Gideon’s theories it was an ingenious one. I recall how it was debated by candlelight in the Villa Cleobolus until the moon went down on the debate, and Gideon’s contentions were muffed in his yawns; until Hoyle began to tap his spectacles upon his thumbnail of his left hand, which was his way of starting to say goodnight….Yet the word stuck; and though Hoyle refused its application to any but Aegean islands….we all of us, by tacit admission, knew ourselves to be ‘islomanes.’

Lawrence Durrell, Reflections on a Marine Venus

As I said, though the island provides constancy, friendship, and an abiding sense of peace and belonging, much has changed. I now travel down to Seattle on a weekly basis, to work at Gridnetworks and the UW campus. I gladly spend time in Seattle when it means I can see friends, family, and most especially T.

This weekend, in celebration of this anniversary in my life, I’ve invited friends and family to come up to the island, mingle with new Island friends, and eat terrific food and drink good wine. July in the islands seems to call for outdoor living and dining on the deck, as well as greater-than-ordinary culinary efforts. So I’m smoking and grilling a whole wild boar, from Broken Arrow Ranch in Texas, Cuban-style, and serving it with cuban black beans, rice, and fried plantains, accompanied by good rose, Chablis, and various red wines. I finished the fire pit for the boar roast today, and I’ll post pictures later this weekend. More soon.


3 Comments so far. Comments are closed.
  1. Julie Woodruff,

    will do! i have met a few people up there and i am teased about my “need” to hang with the locals. so, you can feed that need a bit more! i’ve been camping at county park for over 10 years and am an avid sea kayaker and yes, in love with those black and white “fish” that swim by. i study hormonal correlations of social behavior in an argentine rodent using fecal samples but have had the pleasure of collecting orca poop as well… there’s a possibility i will assist the uw student in september who is leading the study. it would be great fun to meet you and alex and charles. i am curious about your pig spit!

    thanks for sharing stuff both academically and san juan islandally! you’re a good writer. julie

  2. Mark,

    Well heck, next time you’re up on the island, let me know in advance and we’ll have to be introduced, along with Alex and Charles — I met them online as well.

  3. Julie,

    ahhh… so you have named my affliction or at least given me a group to belong to, the islomaniacs! however, i think that the san juans are the only islands that affect me so, at least for now. sadly, i only visit but hopefully will join those of you who call that wonderful place home. i stumbled on your blog along with alex shapiro’s through the website of ian byington, where i keep up on the news of “my island”. i, like you, am a returning student and am working on my phd in biology, animal behavior, at berkeley. i’m not sure yet how i will use that degree in the san juans, but i know the island has been calling to me, louder every year, and i can’t ignore it much longer. enjoyed the post!