Somewhere in Aloe House I have one of those little gift books that's titled, "How to Live on an Island." It's not exactly advice, but more of an inspirational thing about living kindly, etc., because our worlds are small.
It's easy to shrug off something like that as marketed sentiment - perhaps it could be called "Chicken Soup for the Island Soul" - but lately I've been encountering the truth of it. It's just that the definition of "island" is a matter of perspective.
When I say "island," I most often mean North Caicos. It was my home for 4 1/2 years, and I continue to love visiting it and hearing all the island news via my friend Lynn Rae McLean, another American ex-pat. Now that we've taught her how to use email, I get regular reports on what's happening in the old 'hood, from who got bit by a dog to the ripening of tomatoes to how the car rental business is doing. I love getting all these details that make me still feel a part of the life there.
But I have other islands as well. I live in Richmond, Va., but not in all of Richmond. Instead, I have my own island within Richmond, an area that roughly includes the Shockoe Bottom, Church Hill and Shockoe Slip neighborhoods, plus Carytown and tiny sections of downtown and Manchester. Sure, I'll occasionally go outside these boundaries, especially to visit restaurants, the art museum and botanical gardens, but there's an entire area known as the West End that might as well not exist, as far as I am concerned. I live in an island within a city.
Then there's East Taino Island. This is a totally fictional place that exists only in my head and the pages of my novel. Yes, East Taino looks a lot like North Caicos, but I see and have created distinct differences. Z's, the bar in Fish-Eye Lens, is neither Pelican Beach Hotel, the Barracuda Beach Bar nor Josh's (all real North Caicos places), but a combination of them all, plus the memory of a couple little spots I remember from Great Harbour Cay, St. Thomas, Bimini and Nevis. "Building" my own bar out of real ones I've experienced is part of the the fun of fiction for me.
You might even say that my own household is an island, population 4: Tom, me, Daisy and Kit. There are many days when these are the only people (and cats) I see in person. Such is the new reality of the Internet and social media.
I suspect I'm not alone in having a number of such islands in my life, either among writers or among ... well, everyone. Wherever you live, either physically or mentally, is "your" island, and you probably have several islands as well.
So perhaps the sentiment of that little book does have larger significance. We all live on an island; islands are small, fragile places. So be kind and gentle for a happier life.