Kate Torpie got in touch with FOHI after reading the Fall 2001 newsletter. Her fond memories of a night on the water at Hog Island moved her to write a poem some time ago, which has been reworked into this essay.
I’ve lived in Europe, driven all the way across this country, and even spent a week on a camel in the Sahara. I’ve seen incredible landscapes, but have never felt the magic that was so pervasive on Hog Island anywhere else. There was something more that I could feel. The pure breath of something untouched, maybe. Since I was younger than most of the campers (only 20), during my week there I bonded with the counselors and was often included in their escapades. Of all my memories, one night stands out.
We listened to the tide crackling in and out on the rocks and shells beneath our feet, and the sound of the wind trying to tell us secrets through the trees.
Two counselors and I walked cautiously hunched over, tiptoeing through the midnight forest. Everyone else had long since gone to bed. When we reached the shore and straightened up, I was surprised to find that each tree had taken on a presence that was both curious and singular against the blue-black sky. The night was no longer dark, but truly glowing.
I was totally taken aback as we stood still and closed our eyes. It was one of the most intimate moments I have ever shared with anyone. It was like sneaking into church, feeling that cold scented air, with no one knowing we were there except us and the spirit whose home we had welcomed ourselves into. We listened to the tide crackling in and out on the rocks and shells beneath our feet, and the sound of the wind trying to tell us secrets through the trees. Above us, gaseous nebulae tumbled the sky gold, purple, and mother-of-pearl.
We snuck out on a boat to listen from out on the water. I shivered in my sweatshirt. Turning to see how far we’d come, I noticed the trail of gold shivering too, in the bay behind us, phosphorescence kicked up by our oars. I felt safe. That trail, the pines strong as buttresses on the island behind us, their stance slightly interested in what we were up to.
When I need to remind myself of what really makes me happy, of what direction I should steer my life, I recall the stillness my soul felt as we sat there: slight watery rhythm lulling us deeper, our train of gold fading into memory, the word home repeating in my mind. I won’t forget that feeling, nor Hog Island. Somehow, I like to think that if I returned, the island would remember me, too.