My brother, along with four partners, owned a home on Dog Island, which is located off the coast of Northwest Florida. The house was sited in the narrowest portion of the island; so within a few steps of the front door was the Gulf of Mexico and a short distance out the back was St. George Sound. Without air conditioning, the house was warm during the day but cooled at night by what often felt more like a hurricane than a breeze. Without a bridge from the mainland, the only way to get to the island was by boat and my brother stored one at the Carabelle marina.
My friend Dan Hicks and I were looking forward to spending a long weekend with our wives at my brother’s retreat. I had been to Dog Island the previous month and had to coax my brother’s old boat to make it to the dock behind the house. To say it was in a poor condition would be an understatement; it was a wreck. So I was surprised when the marina delivered up a brand new boat. Remembering the struggle to get the old scow to run, I was delighted that my brother had gotten off of his wallet and purchased a new boat.
When visiting the island, I loved to fish off the dock and that’s what we were doing, when I spotted a boat headed our way. As I heard its engine sputtering, I wondered if the captain needed help. When he waved at us, I enthusiastically waved back, motioning him towards the dock. Over the sound of the dying engine, I could hear but not make out what he was yelling so I shouted, “You can tie up here and we will get help for you.” As he got closer and I could make out his words, I realized that he was criticizing our ancestry, insulting our mothers and promising to have us jailed.
There was something familiar about his boat: the partially collapsed windshield, the hull that needed painting and a cleat standing straight up. Then I understood that the marina had made a mistake, and the approaching boat was the one that belonged to my brother.
The guy piloting the boat tossed us a rope and when he jumped to the dock, the first thing he said was, “I’ve called the sheriff’s department and I’m going to have you arrested; but I couldn’t wait for them, so I got the marina to loan me this piece of junk and I want my %%$$# boat.”
It took two beers to calm him down to the point where we could explain that it was an honest mistake. When he finally believed us, he laughed and got in his boat to head back to the mainland. His last comment before starting his engine was, “good luck in getting back to land in that old bucket of junk!”
We had a great weekend: the sheriff didn’t put us in jail; we were able to coax the boat back to the marina and we had a great story to tell.
When I think of Dog Island, I long for the warm days, cool nights, and long walks along the beach. Even more so, I crave the solitude of an isolated island. There was no television, only sketchy radio reception and no phones of any kind. Removed from the everyday world, it was a retreat that forced you to relax.
In this world where we suffer from a continuous cacophony of distractions, it is a rare to just be quiet. The chance to do so, provides a valuable opportunity to listen to the inner voices that guide the decision-making process and to spend time truly communicating with friends and loved ones. Such quiet time may take place on an isolated island but quiet time can be an hour by yourself at home—wherever it’s important to take time away from the everyday world.
“What do I want to take home from my summer vacation? Time: the wonderful luxury of being at rest. The days when you shut down the mental machinery that keeps life on track and let life simply wander. The days when you stop planning, analyzing, thinking and just are. Summer is my period of grace.” -Ellen Goodman