They drove me to the island. The discordinate voices in their clanging and jarring discord crowded me into a corner, isolated from time and space. We drove across the causeway with the Currituck Sound on our left and the marsh on our right, arriving on the island, which had known my family for generations. Grandfathers upon grandfathers found it a gaming paradise replete with fish and fowl and solace. When I came to my grandfather’s haven as a boy it was to learn the secrets of being a man and to still the gnawing hunger of my soul. The water didn’t help. When I lay awake at night with the full brightness of the moon bespeckling the gentle waves I was aroused with the need for furious adventure. The water provoked me, seduced me, and called to me in my dreams. The one luminous orb set against the stars haunted me, knocking at my door and beckoning me to lose myself in reflection. She was remote and beautiful, suspended between my world and the sun. She shone on me with the care and concern of my mother but the distance of an unrequited lover. She made no demands yet she refused to let me be. She reflected the hot rays of the sun onto the cool waves of midnight diffusing a sympathetic fog inviting me to escape in the night neath the shroud of her effervescence.
What choice did I have? This was my grandfather’s world, this was his island. I did not come to North Carolina to find him, though in many ways I find myself in him. No, I came to catch the big fish then release it before the hackers came to pull out its innards and make a trophy of my pain. I came to write, I came to the island to forget. I came to disappear and when appearing again to be composed. I came for the quiet, the rest, the discipline of waking early and the hope that things could be different. His island was one of the few places in my young world where hope grew undisturbed by vandals. There were fences to keep the varmints out, there was a scarecrow to ward off the vultures, and there was a rifle for the wolves. My garden, my fields, my trees, my poems, and pictures and songs lived there in the safe alcove tucked between two realities neither of which appealed to me. It was the distance between them where I found myself and laid my head down.
The day came when I had to say good-bye. Grandmother with tears in her eyes and grandfather with chest swelling in pride. I had learned on his island the rigors of self-reliance and the comfort of accomplishment. I saw how to turn the blade, sharpen the plow and drive home the point in a well-executed thrust. I learned of goals and gleaned generations of wisdom as I sat under grandfathers’ branches and I unearthed a direction, misguided though it was, to point my energetic yet recalcitrant foot.