My Island is not in the Bahamas where I lived 40 years ago. I enjoyed Nassau. I was 25, born in Brooklyn, raised in Queens, NY. Vacationing in Nassau during Spring Break of 1972, I fell in love and came back to stay. Island life so appealed to me at that time. I learned to snorkel, sailed to the Exhumas in a small Trimaran, slept under a starry sky on Rose Island, and was in love with a wonderful guy. Then we got married and needed jobs.
So we sailed the 25 foot Trimaran, “Marisol”, to Key Biscayne, Florida. Florida had many of the island aspects that we had loved in Nassau: the beaches, palm trees, sailing. But it had many more job opportunities for a young teacher (me) and a talented architect (my husband). We worked during the week and sailed on the weekends. Then we needed to buy a house; sold the boat for a down payment; had kids, took them to the best beaches, took them camping, took them to Disneyworld. As time went by, many people discovered what we liked about Florida when we were young and foolish. It got very crowded. With people. With shopping malls. With condos on the beaches.
So we retired to Upstate, New York. Upstate New York! Are we crazy? After 40 years in the tropics!! How will you handle those WINTERS? – they asked us down South. Haven’t you got it the wrong way ’round? – others up North queried. Our answer: we knew just what we were doing. We planned it. No regrets.
“Our Town”, Cambridge, New York is reminiscent of the play by Thorton Wilder. Our Main Street includes The Village Store, an old fashioned general store; Hubbard Hall, a 19th century Opera House that produces Broadway-worthy performances; the Food Co-op where the farmers from nearby Battenkill Creamery bring in the fresh milk in real glass bottles (return for deposit, please). And the Battenkill Bookstore, can’t forget my favorite independent bookstore. Owner, Connie Brooks, attracts local authors such as Jon Katz and Megan Mayhew Bergman who write eloquently about the things I love about living here, and who inspire me to want to write about “my island”. On my island in Washington County, there are no palm trees. But my favorite tree is the tall, white birch outside my bathroom window. It always has a story to tell. It is my morning weather station. Today it sprouts the first tiny bits of green which will blossom into lovely summer shade for the Japanese Garden created by my son, Robin. This tree attracts bright bluebirds and richly red cardinals to the feeders that my husband, Ray, keeps filled.
Of course, the colorful leaves that fall from this tall tree in autumn will tell another tale. And in winter this old birch will present a dramatically different view of the garden it shelters. Up here on my island on a hill facing the Green Mountains of nearby Vermont, there are only crowds of daffodills, but if I want to mingle with some of the most creative people I’ve ever known, all I have to do is take a five minute drive down a most enchanting country road into a place that inspires and enriches me: Cambridge, New York, Washington County, U.S. of A.