I’m an Isle-ophile. Are You?

St. Martin Island, West Indies.

St. Martin Island, West Indies.

An island doesn’t have to be very far away from shore or very big to accomplish its true work: to surround you with imminent water, and to unhitch you from the grappling hooks of your own life for a while. – Minnesota Author Bill Holm, Eccentric Islands

I love islands. I’ve known of this affliction for quite a while, even before I heard the term for it: isle-ophile. Some of my most intense experiences have happened on islands. I like how islands make me feel and how they make other people behave (unless they are deserted islands, then it’s not so pretty.)

I first got a feel for islands when my parents took us camping. I have hazy young memories of Mackinac Island in Lake Huron; Prince Edward Island in Canada; the U.K.; and Madeline Island, Stockton Island, and Isle Royale in Lake Superior.

My exposure to Isle Royale led me to work there during college for two summers at the rustic resort. Then there was Grand Manan Island off New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Gero Island in Maine, Cumberland Island Georgia, Key Largo Florida (and eventually all the keys), Puerto Rico, Catalina Island in California, Ludlow’s Island in Minnesota, Orcas Island of the San Juan chain in Washington, St. Martin in the West Indies, and Brigantine in New Jersey.

Each place has provided intense experiences — unlike those a person can have on the mainland. Islands have offered: opportunities to form and intensify friendships, crazy experiences with animals, cold refuge from storms, hot refuge from heartbreak, family vacations, work conferences, romantic vacations, and immersions in local culture.

Islands force people to depend on one another more than they do when on the mainland. Usually, you’re more at the whims of nature because you’re in the middle of a body of water. Communication with the outside world is sporadic and takes more effort (although it’s a lot easier now, with computers). You’re living on the edge, but that edge is defined and it’s hard to get lost.

I’m irresistibly drawn to islands. Are you?

Here’s another reason to ponder about why islands draw people, offered by Mr. Holm:

In one way, all islands are female, surrounded by female water. John Fowles, in his book, “Islands,” says, “The domain of the siren had been where sea and land meet; and it is even less for nothing that the siren is female, not male.” Islands are secret places where the unconscious grows conscious, where possibilities mushroom, where imagination never rests. “All isolation . . . is erotic.”


7 thoughts on “I’m an Isle-ophile. Are You?

  1. I love islands too, though I haven’t spent as much time on them as you have. As a child our family lived in Maine and I’m familiar with Prince Edward Island and Deer Isle. My parents took us to a lot of fun places.

  2. The island of Maui. It is much more than sand beaches and palm trees. Rent a car and take the road to Hana. It is a trip full of beautiful scenery, waterfalls and hairpin turns on a narrow road. It is a trip you will never forget. The faint hearted might be better off taking a tour rather than renting a car.

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