Herron Island: A Chapter Ends


Looking back should be an exercise in restraint.  It’s about bringing the sweetness forward, and letting everything else bathe in it for awhile.  Otherwise memory is clouded with “what ifs”, “should haves”, and regrets.

I have never had a glorious head of hair.  The hair I do have used to have plenty of friends.  The friends departed.  I have made my piece with that. Toupees and bad combovers are for guys who get caught up in regrets.  Life is about making the best of what you have, and reinvention.

Our Herron Island refuge is gone. We said our tearful last goodbyes, and then got called back to dig a trench for the septic guys.  No tears the second time around…just Herron Island clay beneath our fingernails.


Donna was turning 50 when we first set eyes on the piece of property we’d eventually call “The Island”.  It was love at first sight for Donna. For me it was, “I’ve got to run my numbers.” 

Donna woke me up at 5 AM the next morning to tell me she could really, really see me on “The Island”.  “It’s your place!  Imagine the crabbing, and clamming! You’ll have to get a boat!  I can see you there!”  My response was, “I can’t see anything until I run my numbers.”  I felt my father’s stern gaze peeking out of my face.


So, we bought an unfinished pole building with a three garage bay bathroom, and a view.  The only running water was in the toilet and the outdoor faucet.

For the first few years it was indoor/outdoor camping.  Washing dishes and taking showers were outdoor adventures.  We bought a stove, a propane fireplace, and an absolutely brutal hide-a-bed for the small portioned off inside area.  Donna started sketching plans.

We hired Dick, a local handyman, and he quickly discovered Donna’s working method.  She’d consult with him, and then leave sticky notes everywhere.  Dick started calling her “Shorty”.  He’d shake his head and grin every time he saw her.  “Geez Shorty, fifty sticky notes?”  “Yup!”  Then Donna would show him her new color coded supply.

That’s how we turned an unfinished pole building into a second home.  A home where deer ate out of your hand.  A home with a boat parked in the garage.  We found the best spots to throw out crab pots.  Dick turned us on to the “Honey Hole” where you could scoop up five clams at a time with your fingers.  There was the glorious squid haul with Cecily and Jon. One weekend Donna caught and released several dogfish.  Another weekend a dogfish popped out of the crab pot just as Donna was pulling it up.


There were kayak adventures, weekends with kids and grandkids.  The two of us spent long quiet weeks there with our dogs.  Ahh…the bittersweet! Tava and Sally spent their final days on Herron Island.  Sally’s last morning wander.  Tava’s last cursory swim.  It was one of those things we imagined, but never really planned.  The reality was a tough thing of beauty that stops me cold even to this day.


The last hurrahs were family gatherings.  We dug clams, caught huge rock crab, made beans, and potato salad.  The kids wrestled and whooped it up. Grandma Donna swirled Oscar and Linus around in the water.  Bats arrived inside the house causing shrieks and panic.  As we waited for the ferry home Oscar and Rachel explored the beach.  Linus and I sorted rocks.

When the Hale contingent arrived a few weeks later things took up where they left off, without the bats though.  Ayla, Damon, Eliot, and Paul turned a tent with a blow up bed in it into a bouncy house. Raynee, and Evelyn soaked up “me time” with Aunt Martha, and Grandma Donna.  Frozen yogurt was made and beaters were licked.

The next day, with a glint of delight that rivaled sweet half-wild Tava’s, Eliot took after a deer with a whiffle bat.  Aunts, Uncles, sisters, grandparents, and cousins smiled in familial recognition.  Looking around the tent dotted compound we acknowledged Eliot’s glint as a shared thing.  Another generation was prepared to kick up its heels.


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“The Island” served other purposes too.  It was Donna’s creative outlet.  What emerged on “The Island” was Donna’s vision come to life one sticky note at a time.  It was also the only place Donna totally let down and decompressed.  Islands have their own sense of time and place.  You can’t fight it and win.  You catch your breath, and slowly release it.


So, why sell the “The Island”?  One of the Arts of Living is knowing when to let go.  Knowing “when” allows for a semblance of grace.  Holding on never helps anyone move forward.

Other dreams await.  In the ferry line together for the last time we conceived of a plan to return to Iceland for Thanksgiving, stop in Denmark to connect with Donna’s ancestral roots, and then head to Rome for Christmas.

Will that plan come to fruition?  We turned an unfinished pole building into a comfortable home away from home.  All things are possible!


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