Whoop of a buoy somewhere out in the channel. Twittering of finches. Distant crunch of surf. Chug of the ferry, and its horn announcing arrival and departure. Keening of gulls. Buzz of a fly and drone of a bee. Hoarse honking barks of Canada geese passing between marsh and sea.
We’re sitting at the rear of a cottage on White Head Island, separated from the sea only by a bank of wild flowers (they seem to grow all at once out here; wild rhododendron flowering at the same time as fireweed, for example) and a scattering of the white rocks that give the island its name.
It takes a ninety minute ferry from Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick, to Grand Manan Island, passing the other principal Fundy Isles of Campobello Island and Deer Island, as well as the three islands that make up The Wolves (so called not because they’re inhabited by wolves, but after a Glooscap legend), and then another ferry ride, this one a half hour, to get to White Head.
It’s an Eden, this little island, with a year round population of less than 200 that swells increasingly and ominously in the summer, ominously because of the fear that it heralds a changing character from working community – a ‘real’ community – to summer retreat, out of economic inevitability and necessity, maybe, but sad, nevertheless.
I tried to tackle the subject in Defiant Island, borrowing from White Head’s geography, and some of its work and social characteristics, although the novel is definitely not ‘about’ White Head Island.
Here’s my favourite Defiant Island blurb:
A gentle, moving portrayal of the deliberate, perhaps necessary, political destruction of a community . . . A story about independence, and preserving independence against various forces – the vicissitudes of love, and of economics, and of old age . . . A story about love . . .
That’d be not just romantic love, and love between old friends, but also love of an island.