I was born and raised in New York, but as soon as I was independent, I moved to my first island — Long Island. It’s really an extended sand-spit off the coast of New York. When I was a kid, it was mostly potato farms down the middle and out on the eastern end. Interspersed on the hilly northern side that borders Long Island sound with some of the most expensive mansions in the world. Those are the places you never see homes,  just gates. The houses are deep inside the grounds so we plebes never see them.

At Loch Gill, with the Isle of Innisfree behind me

At Loch Gill, with the Isle of Innisfree behind me

The north shore of Long Island is hilly and lovely, the south shore faces the Atlantic, where the soft sand beaches are. And of course, the Hamptons. And Jones Beach where I burned my feet on the asphalt and torched my too-pale hide in the sun until one fantastic year they invented sunscreen and life got a lot better.

Martha's Vineyard beach stairsI left Long Island in 1978 and went to Israel … not an actual island, but in some ways, very “island” in its world-view. When you are surrounded by hostile frontiers in every direction, it’s hard not to feel like as if you are island-bound.

When I came back to the states in 1987, Garry started toting me off for summertime fun on Martha’s Vineyard which is a wonderful island that glories in its island-ness. It is a world of its own with an old carousel in the middle, the Flying Horses. We summered there for more than a decade and only stopped when Garry and I were no longer working and could not afford it. After we moved to the country, it somehow seemed unnecessary to “get away from it all.” We were already living away from it all.

John Donne, an Elizabethan poet of renown, said:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

It’s a famous poem. Oft quoted and misquoted, and set to music too. Elegant.

The music of poetry notwithstanding, I believe all of us are islands. No matter how much we share in common with others, in the end, we stand as individuals, we are responsible for ourselves, for our actions. For what we do and fail to do.

However involved we are in the fate of mankind, we can’t escape being individuals with business to take care of. Humanism doesn’t give anyone a pass from personal responsibility.


Categories: Personal, poem

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30 replies

  1. Great post, Marilyn. Had to ‘get off the island’ to lug in water. Well man coming on Monday. Know you can relate… Living here is much like living on a beautiful island too. Nice to get out and about, but great to get home sweet home. Have a wonderful week on your island! 🙂 ❤


    • I love having a well, but it really makes us very … well … island-ish. If our well dries up or goes bad, we are in such huge trouble. So far, so good … but every year when we aren’t getting the rain we need, I’m scared. Good luck with your well guy.


  2. I saw this one a couple of days ago and forgot to comment. Love the glasses you are wearing on the photo – they don’t do them like that any more.


  3. I definitely agree — we are each of us islands with our own languages and customs and notions of “normal.” Once in a while we meet someone whose language and customs are harmonious with ours. Sometimes our language and customs rub off on others and vice versa. Sometimes other islands put up familiar looking flags, but turn out to be alien territories. I’m sure Lamont and Dude have something to say on this, but they already exhausted their voice for today. 😉


    • And that was the totality of my philosophical inclinations. I’m not sure how I got up that much mental energy. Phew. If there weren’t a gazillion moths out there, I’d take my camera for a walk, but it’s pretty nasty. So I’ll just … look.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for sharing. Always interesting to learn more about your life journey. Sorry for being morbid but I have always felt that it is important in life to have connections with other people. A key point to being alive, you might say. But in the end, we all face that final step at death very much by ourselves.


    • I’m all for connections. I’m equally for personal responsibility. No amount of human connection give anyone a get out of life free card — which seems to be what all the kids these days feel. Whatever is wrong, it’s someone else’s fault. It bothers me.


  5. I have never been on an island before…. though I guess a lot of people from the Midwest can claim that. Not many islands here…


    • I always feel strange when I’m landlocked with no water near, but don’t you have the Mississippi sort of in the vicinity? That’s a pretty big body of water. Here, we are not an island, but there’s a lot of water. In Jerusalem, I often felt an urgent need to drive to the sea. Fortunately, the Mediterranean was less than an hour away. I grew up near an ocean. I need water. And anyway, I’m a Pisces, so I REALLY need water.


      • The river is long but not particularly wide. During a drought, you can walk all the way across it. It does have islands along the way, but I’ve never been on any of them either. When it comes to bodies of water, the couple of Great Lakes I’ve seen are the biggest seas I’ve ever set sight on…


  6. Im always surprised by the book-less house. No magazines, no books open on the couch, no half read novel on the counter…I do know people who are voracious readers, but you never see a bookcase or a book displayed anywhere, even partly read.
    I have stuff on the walls, on the shelves–things that interest me, amuse me, or photos we’ve taken. Books everywhere, there are never enough shelves for all of them.

    I think the closest answer to the conundrum of the turtle in Discworld is how Terry Pratchett describes the turtle as swimming through space on a very long journey. Just finished the series and, lacking the last two, went out and found them finally at Barnes and Noble. Im a bit wary because they were written near the end of his life. But this being Pratchett Land, Im prepared to forgive a great deal…


    • I like that image. Swimming through space … I’m working my way through the series, though not in order. I was following Sam Vimes for a while, but ran out of books in which he was the central character. Now I’m reading all the ones with the witches. I started the last book, but it had me crying by page three and I was not up for a heart wrencher at that exact moment, so I will go back to it. When Terry wasn’t funny, he could tear your heart out. He may have been failing, but it doesn’t show in his writing.

      I’ve been in houses where there are no books, no pictures, no “stuff.” Places where they have lived for years, yet you’d swear nobody lives there. Weird.


  7. Love your photos Marilyn- and of course the famous poem. Interesting how now your home is your own little island of sorts. I like that


    • I think everyone’s home needs to be a very personal island. It’s our retreat. It’s the place from which we stage our life. It is our stage set, too. It reflects us, projects us, and is our dream scape. It is the place that expresses our hopes for what we can be. We show so much of ourselves in how we furnish it, decorate it, and how happy we are to be there. I’m always suspicious of people who have nothing decorative in their home. No pictures, no art. What do blank walls say about us?


  8. Hey Marilyn, unless you were born outside 4 of the 5 boroughs of New York city, Manhattan being the main one, you were always on an island. The Bronks is not an island. I was born in Brooklyn and though some folks do not relate, Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk are all a part of Long Island. We lived in a series of Islands including Staten Island. Hey! we’re Islanders every one. Now I’m in a freakin’ desert, still an island, of sorts, but surrounded by sand instead of water.


    • Well, then, I was born on an island too. I think of Manhatten as an island, but not Brooklyn or Queens. But you are right.


      • I didn’t think of Brooklyn or Queens as an island either until one day I looked the whole thing up and was very surprised. The East River seems so small and narrow that you just can’t imagine it part of the water way that separates Long Island from the “mainland”. That plus the Hudson does the same thing to Manhattan. Then the East River becomes much more expansive as it heads north and forks west into the Harlem River, the second fork turning east heading for the Little Neck, Manhasset bays and on into LI sound which dumps into the Atlantic beyond Montauk Point. I really miss being near water that is not a “man made” lake, so prevalent out here.


  9. Well said…. found an echo of my thoughts..


  10. Very profound, too much for me today. (I’m a island to myself weeding the garden.)


  11. Your photos are just lovely. I have been reading the Outlander series, and have been intrigued by the lands of Scotland etc.



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