No man is an island. I live on an island. The edges of an island are washed everyday by different tides. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to walk the perimeter of an island – maybe Ireland, or Kyushu or the island in Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book where the little girl and her grandmother get up to such mischief. Or maybe Great Britain, or one of the Cook Islands.
Two summers ago we went to Santa Cruz Island – one of the Channel Islands about an hour’s ferry ride from Santa Barbara. We had heard that there were many species of plants and animals that lived only on that island, nowhere else in the world. Some plants, a type of jay, a fox the size of a small cat.
Our day on the island was incredible – we saw dolphins and a whale on the ride over. We hiked up a ridge for stunning views back towards Santa Barbara and saw the shapes of the other islands in the haze. We saw lizards and munched on trail mix. There were no cars on the island, only foot visitors. All day the air had a different feel – as if the clarity held and transferred sound differently. We saw kayakers and amazing birds, interesting plants. No foxes.
We spent the last part of the day on a rocky beach – full of rounded stones, large and small, that graduated to sand and then the shallow waters of Scorpion Anchorage. The kids made a bridge of large round stones they collected from the rocky part that extended from where we sat on the dry rocks to the water. They tried to walk on it from our backpacks to the water, not touching the sand. I sketched what I saw with coloured pencils.
Before the return ferry arrived, we packed our bags and were waiting in the shade on a bench. We were full of sun and air, tired from the day. My son said he was going to take a little walk, the rest of us stayed in the shade, waiting. About 5 minutes before the ferry was to arrive, he came skipping back, a big smile on his face: he had seen Channel Island Foxes!
I wished desperately we could have all run and seen the foxes, but we couldn’t afford to miss our ferry back. He showed us a few photos he had snapped – he really got very close! It was his private triumph, one of his favourite moments of the whole summer.
Although I would have loved to see the foxes, too, today I take comfort in the thought that my son was present and saw something rare and precious that I didn’t. It gives me hope for the future.