Thursday, August 26, 2010

For Prince Edward Island

This is the last time I'll lament our time on the Island...promise...

On the last day of our PEI summer holiday, my son gave me the gift of time and gratitude. The sun sparkled on the bay while gulls glided with the breeze. It was the kind of afternoon that seduces us into staying just a little longer. Instead of running around the yard, Kieran asked me if we could sit on the porch swing. I cast a reluctant glance at the cleaning and packing awaiting me in the cottage, but I agreed. We climbed up and snuggled in.

We rocked for over an hour. Certain he'd fallen asleep, I checked him several times but he just watched the sea. As my gaze followed his, I thought of our days spent on that shore-- playing in the sand, swimming with cousins, searching for starfish--and I realized the importance of place.

Prince Edward Island isn't my home--at least it's not my childhood home. I read the entire Anne of Green Gables series as a girl and I always vowed I'd one day live there. I didn't actually go until I was twenty-six after meeting my future husband, who happened to be an Islander. Since then, we've returned together every year, save one. Last summer, our son was too unwell to travel so we couldn't go. Sitting on that swing, I realized how much the island is under my skin and how it has been a place of healing for our family.

Missing a year made this homecoming more profound. Cousins were that much taller, the sparse raspberry canes along the shore now flourished, and the beaches had become even more alluring. There are things about the place that I would recognize were I suddenly dropped there blindfolded: the fresh energy of salt air, the applause of birch leaves in the breeze, the squawk of a blue heron at sunset.

Both my husband and I have travelled. Travel invites us to know ourselves and to understand others. We return changed and inspired. But it's just as important to be home every now and then. Home allows children to perceive the nuance of place--trees grow, shorelines erode, people change. Home reminds us of who we are and grounds us before we move on.

I thank PEI for all those things that bring us home. I thank PEI for the brilliant contrast between green grass, red sand, and blue water. I thank PEI for the primroses and moon snails. I thank PEI for the taste of mussels and blueberries-- just not together.

Most of all, I thank PEI for family and friends. Because, while the landscape pulls me back, makes me want to plant myself in that now familiar soil, the people both welcome us and bid us a farewell with the promise that we always have a safe place to land.

Maybe Kieran wanted one last chance to take it all in, this place that has become such a part of him. I needed that as much as he did.

Thanks again, dear island.

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