Bustins Island is that for me. It brings me into a world with no worries and the ability to do anything that my heart desires. If it’s lunchtime or midnight, I can still go swimming in the cool ocean water. Even though it may be the middle of July, I’m still able to make it Halloween or Christmas. Being an islander — for the few months of summer that I am there — gives me the privilege to let my imagination run wild.
The thing about islands is that when you are part of a community of islanders, it’s like you are at a big family reunion. From the square dances to Tuesday’s Bingo Nights, you are always meeting and reuniting with the people around you. Doing this you create lifelong friendships with many islanders. Without Bustins, I probably wouldn’t be friends with people that live in distant places like New Jersey, Ohio, and even Colorado.
The thing about islands is that you get to experience lots of things that only islanders experience. The restriction of common technology (iPhones, television, computers, iPods, and, yes, WiFi), has given me more knowledge than I would have ever known with a laptop in hand. I’ve figured out how to drive a boat, find constellations in the sky, and make a bee sting antidote without any of the electronics that one usually needs for such things. This alone has opened up a new world for me. It has made me realize that entertainment can be found outside a screen.
The thing about islands is the nostalgia that goes alongside the fun. Last winter, just prior to spring, I was longing to see Bustins Island with all its beauty and grace. But the ferry was up for the winter and so were the docks along shore. There is no way to see the lonesome island during the cold months of the year, so my mother and I walked along the peninsula off Freeport, Maine, just to see the little island. Nearing the end of the trail, I contemplated whether to close my eyes at the sight or to gawk at the beauty.
Well, I gawked.
While I stared at Bustins Island, I noticed something. A feeling started in my toes and crept up into the rest of me. Then, it wailed inside me like a banshee. It hurt so much to see this island, less than two miles away, but unreachable. One tear slid down my cheek and I met my mother’s eyes.
“I miss it.”
The words barely slipped out before I broke into tears and uneven sobs. My mother embraced me and I cherished her warmth, but I still missed my island life. I missed the feel of bare feet against wet rocks, I missed the smell of the evergreen trees and low tide, but most of all, I missed the people.
You see, the island people are all over the place. Many live in my town and lots live near me, but seeing them at home and seeing them during island life isn’t the same. People are themselves more on an island and aren’t quite as uptight. On the mainland you see people, but on an island you see them. You see their true selves.
That’s why I cried. I missed the island life I have in the summer. During winter part of me is missing. A part that can only be cured by a boat ride and a jump off the wooden swings, a pat on the back by the ferry captain, or the luxury of a real shower after days of island ones. The island has a past and a future, but the present is a whole new day of adventures.
The thing about islands is that it’s shown me calm. Being at peace with everything around you, feeling like you could do nothing and everything at once. The island is like being under a spell. It’s practically impossible to be mad at someone.
The thing about islands is the self-discovery that comes with it. I conquered something daring with my sisters and our close family friends, the Morrisons. Being a jittery twelve-year-old, I had procrastinated until now to do this. Though I had been wanting to do it for a long time, something itched at me, telling me not to. It was as if my conscience was telling me that jumping off of the rope swing would result in death. But today, I felt something was forcing me to do it. So I followed that little voice in my head.
I climbed the large rocks that lined the shore of the little Maine island; foot by foot, step by step. Reaching the summit of the rocks, I grabbed hold of the knot at the bottom of the rope. I pulled myself on top of it and waited for the moment that the wind swept my ankles and I let my feet leave the ground.
I swung. As I was flying through the air, the world seemed to slow down around me.
“Ellie, don’t wake up from this dream. Please,” I told myself. “This is my passion. Bustins Island is my passion.”
With that one last thought, I let my grip from the rope go and fell. The cold water hit my feet and then engulfed me whole. That’s when I realized: this isn’t a dream. This island isn’t just a figment of my imagination. It’s real.
The thing about islands is when you step on one and learn about its culture, you are one with the island. You move with the tides and play with the wind. When you are on an island, you are the whole of the island. Sometimes, when I step onto Bustins Island, I think about how blessed I am to have this place of wonder and curiosity.
And I smile, because I’m here.
Elizabeth Ralph is 13 years old, and her passions include writing and going to her island house in the summer. Besides these two things, she likes to ski and play softball. This year she is looking forward to starting eighth grade and writing lots more in the upcoming school year.
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