10 April 2012

All Men Are Islands

What is it about an island that so captures the human imagination?  Nothing erases the cares of the ordinary world so much as crossing a small channel of water and wandering around an unfamiliar landscape, bumping into the sea in all directions.  Lately, the stress of daily life has been weighing quite heavily upon me, so we decided to spend the long Easter weekend on Kangaroo Island.

My anxiety began melting as soon as we pulled out of the drive way, aided by the warm evening breeze drifting through the open windows as a nearly full moon smiled upon us upside down, which should look more like a frown, but it didn't.  The sea was benevolently calm as we drove onto the ferry at Cape Jervis.  The Sea Lion 2000 glided smoothly across the dark passage, the froth off the bow boiling blue in the moonlight.

Sitting on the bluff outside our hotel, we sipped beer and swapped stories as small penguins made amorous overtures beneath us.  I felt more energized than I have in months and had to force myself to go to bed to recharge for the day ahead.

The morning was glorious!  Sunny and warm - for about 20 minutes - then the wind shifted and the sea became a roiling flurry of whitecaps, the breeze flavored by the blue ice of Antarctica.  But the chill weather could not cool my spirits as we headed along the southern coast of the island, a loose itinerary in mind.  We suffered our first pair of casualties at the base of Prospect Hill - a 503 step staircase to a stunning view of the island.  One was my calve muscles, the other was the wiper on my rear windscreen, which saved Kevin from skinned knees and elbows as he careened across the pea gravel, so a worthy sacrifice.

By the time we pulled into Little Sahara, the wind had reached gale force speeds, dashing my plans to surf the fine white dunes.  I nearly turned the car around, but adventure caught the better of me and we decided to climb the dunes despite the excruciating exfoliation courtesy of the howling sands.  And I am so glad we did!  It was one of the most surreal and exciting experiences of my life.  Climbing steep face of the dune, we were in relative shelter, but as soon as we reached the crest, the wind assaulted us in the most ferocious manner.  I am sure my dentist will comment on the lack of enamel on my front teeth at my next visit, but I couldn't help but smile as I leaned deeply into the wind, searching for the steep angle of repose that allowed me to relax and not fall forward.  The sand swirled and curled over the ridges, simultaneously erasing and rebuilding the dune with each gust, and threatening to send me over the bluff as I made my way along the shifting peak. Forgive me for not illustrating this adventure photographically, but my camera is not as regenerative as my own skin...

Fearing my day had achieved crescendo before noon, we drove out to watch the waves pummel the shore at Vivionne Bay and found an unusual treat at the camp store - a bag of REAL American Marshmallows!

It's not that I miss marshmallows so much, but this unexpected taste of home conjures up more than gastronomic delight.  When you are an expat, something as simple as a marshmallow suddenly represents every time you have ever eaten a marshmallow - it conjures up memories of being curled up against my sister, still inside the womb, as Mom and I kneaded them into cream, of that night at camp when I had them baked into s'mores, and of that cup of hot chocolate we shared after walking home in the rain...

 The evening's entertainment was rather ordinary...fine wine, a rack of lamb, and a gang of ravenous wallabies. 

The next day we ventured out to some tourist attractions in the Chase Flinders National Park.  We looked at some Remarkable Rocks, watched a colony of New Zealand Fur Seals frolic along the shore, visited a few lighthouses and read the sad stories of shipwreck survivors eating rancid penguins, and peeked through an Admirable Arch.

The next was spent in pursuit of cultural rewards - i.e. wine tasting.  We had a fantastic private tasting 'by appointment only'.  For reasons that should be obvious to most of you, there isn't much else to say about the rest of this day, but if you would like to come over for a rack of lamb, I have the perfect accompaniment - or twelve...or twenty-four...

A quick check of the credit card balance persuaded us to spend the following day in pursuit of free cultural rewards.  To my delight, some of the best spots on the map of Kangaroo Island are, in fact spots on the map.  Well, little squares to be precise.  We visited several interesting and secluded beaches and an old school house.  Most striking about the school house was not the meanness of the building

 or the sparseness of the conditions

 nor the ridiculous social rules to which teachers were held (Sorry - couldn't seem to manage the rotate function here tonight...)

 but the fact that several historical artifacts were left on display, unlocked in a facility that was freely accessible and unattended by docents.  It was impossible not to observe the impossibility of such a display being on display in America...(again, apologies for the rotational challenges).

 Following on from our success at the school, we opted for a picnic dinner at Duck Lagoon, site of an old homestead.  The park was riddled with mysterious implements, preserved by rust and apathy.

However, the location not only featured superior BBQ facilities, but a resident koala and a stunning selection of logs, most suitable for falling from.  The site also featured a colony of especially angry ants, but due to my rotational challenges, I have opted not to feature the video of Kevin taking urinary revenge upon them for having crawled up the legs of his sweaty pants.

As we drove away from our peaceful repast at Duck Lagoon, we were accosted by a field of sheep, who very clearly expected something from us...they were not at all satisfied by my offer of a marshmallow.

 There were many other memorable and noteworthy moments, but there is just not time enough to recount them. 

I was overcome with melancholia as we boarded the ferry home, and by the time we breached the mainland, my anxiety was in full bloom...hastened by the speed camera that snapped my license as I departed the dock, and the screw that embedded itself in my tire on the highway...and especially by the realization that this is the first of my blog posts that will not be read by Heidi...and that is a whole new brand of loneliness.


CAW said...

Your writing made me cry. A beautifully written, poignant, funny (the sheep, the car, those rules) yet devastatingly sad piece.

I am so very sorry for your loss you dear, kind, gracious and lovely friend.

I wish I owned an American marshmallow factory for I would give you every real American marshmallow that I could make right now.

Thank you for sharing.


Sophia Terranova said...

Hi Audra! Great post that I JUST got to. I want to go to Kangaroo Island now too. What a great get-away. Again, I love your blog.