We are all islands, so it may be that we love them because we identify with them. (John Donne had it wrong, but he was trying to make a different point. Decide for yourself when you put yourself to sleep tonight.)
I loved a Canadian island my family visited on vacation for 16 years when was young. I can close my eyes and call up a recollection of everything from the sparse grass in my grandfather's yard to the awful chunk-chunk-chunk the primitive electric pump made in its cupboard in the bathroom (I purely hated to flush the toilet there when I was little). To the junior survivalist in me, one of the coolest things about the place was that everything, from the exotic cereals with labels in two languages to the sand on the tiny beach, had been hauled in by boat from the mainland almost a mile away. It felt really independent.
I loved looking at a tiny island about a hundred feet from my grandfather's dock, too. About the size of a suburban corner lot, it had sparse grass, a single cottage and a few pine trees. My adult judgment says that what it didn't have is storage space, but as a child, I had an answer for that -- I dreamt that the island was just the top of a deep-tunneled complex of laboratories and living spaces for -- for what I don't remember. I was reading too much of Tom Swift. It seemed like the ultimate in independence then.
We had probably the best view on our island, with the well-groomed little satellite on one side and the mainland way beyond. I was fascinated by the people who owned the other island -- just as it's human nature to be island-like, it's human nature to want to connect, but I never saw them that I can remember.
Being a 15-minute boat ride from shore made us and our neighbors a tight little community. I played with the neighbor girls every year, and I remember them as tall and exotic, coming from Quebec as they did and speaking *two* languages. I was was a bright, awkward gosling slowly metamorphosing into a prize turkey by time I saw them last -- I guess that's why I remember the rocks and trees better; I was more comfortable with them at the end.
I am no expert on islands. I've seen a few more. Long Island has too much of connection and too little of isolation, and there's little to see from its shores. Islands I admired in Alaska had too much of isolation: Thick with spruce and dark in the rain and mist, they were forbidding. A tiny, untenanted island in the Adirondacks made a wonderful memory for me and my wife. Block Island made a sad one as the scene of our last trip with my mother, then on the edge of her slow tumble into Alzheimer's.
Maybe we love islands because they're not plentiful. I'm still looking for more. -- P.