Inspired by a distaste for the materialism
of city living and a faith in the idea of wilderness, in 1974 Liz
Arthur and her first husband, Bob Gathercole, went to live on an
island in a remote Canadian lake. Island Sojourn is their story,
as Liz remembers it.
They planned to stay forever, and
so they built their house to last, carrying the materials piece
by piece up the hill to the site they had chosen. In building, they
learned what it means to make a mark upon the earth, to master tools,
to create not a rude cabin but a home in which beauty - a Home Comfort
stove, a cathedral ceiling - takes precedence over efficiency.
As they built, they explored the
wilderness that surrounded their three-acre island, exhilarated
by the sense of freedom unknown in cities. In their explorations
they came upon abandoned cabins on other islands; the lake with
its unknown depths and uncertain moods, sometimes threatened; the
beautiful house was nearly burned. But they shrugged off the signs
of danger, even as they began to realize that like the Indians who
were their nearest neighbors, they would have to work for some time
in the town to obtain what they needed to complete their creation
- to live in the wilderness.
The second winter began well. Free
at last from the demands of building they were snug in their island
home. When storms cut them off from the Indian villages on the shore,
they were not displeased, for they had come to the island seeking
privacy and the sense of self-reliance that goes with it. But time
passed and the storms howled on until, on a day no different from
the long days that had preceded it, they turned on one another with
a violence that shattered the wilderness idyll. They knew then that,
although they would return often to the wilderness, the one thing
they could not do was stay.
As much as this is the story of an
island sojourn, it is also, then, the lyrical self-portrait of a
young woman who moves within from innocence to knowledge, from a
desire to escape the world and stop time to an acceptance of the
world and the inevitability of change.
Book excerpt will be available
when e-version of Island Sojourn is online at Hollow Tree Press.