Thursday, January 25, 2007

The man who loved islands

There is a story by D. H. Lawrence about a man who buys an island in order to escape the pandemonium of city life.

The island has a manor house, cottages, tenants, animals and gardens. Maintenance and improvements begin to deplete the man's fortune. Even so small a society makes emotional demands. At last, the man sells his island and moves to a smaller one with only a modest house and a few servants.

He soon becomes snared in the small pandemoniums of his reduced circumstances. Again, life becomes more complicated than he can bear. Seeking still greater simplicity, he moves to a craggy rock in the sea, with only a hut, a few sheep and a cat.

He sells the sheep. The cat wanders off. Winter comes and snow blankets the tiny island in featureless white. Alone, neither happy nor unhappy, the man at last achieves the perfect simplicity of --death.

I came here to this Bahamian island a dozen years ago looking for a life with less hustle and bustle than New England. And, indeed, for a while I found it. Just me and the wife and a few geckoes. Sun and sea. And a creaky internet connection to the outside world.

But the island changes. A lot of noise next door as new houses go in where before there was only a derelict shack. So, thanks to the generosity of a friend, I have been taking my laptop in the mornings to a tiny hut on a tiny island reached only by a footbridge. A chair, a table, no electricity, no plumbing, just the lap of the sea at the shore. The computer's battery lasts for only a few hours, but, never mind, that's about as long as my brain lasts anyway.

Maybe a place like this. A hut, a few sheep, a cat. . .

No way. I need civilization to charge my batteries -- the computer's and my brain's. A flush toilet, yes, that too. My wife would refuse to forego her internet connection to the New York Times. Still, as I sit in my borrowed writing hut I remember Lawrence's man who loved islands and just for a moment I think...