A brazen hunk of cured lava or sand-dusted coral emerges from the depths of the sea. Despite the constant threats of weather, wave, quake, and volcanic eruption, the spot is soon inhabited by a colorful cast of independents – brazen souls who dare to tempt the cruel whims of fate.
It makes the perfect setting for a book.
Add to this the vast number and variety of islands spread across the globe and you’ve got enough source material to keep a writer busy for the rest of her life.
Yes, I am intrigued by islands.
Through the ages, islands have stood at the crossroads of history, as essential transportation hubs in the oceans’ liquid deserts, as flashpoints in territorial disputes, and as arenas for epic showdowns between dueling global superpowers.
The geographic construct has posed challenges to both invading pirates and besieged peasants. Depending on the sharpness of its boundaries and the temperament of the surrounding sea, an island can be an open drawbridge, impossible to defend against outside intrusion – or a confining barrier that is impossible to escape.
Practically every race, religion, language, and culture has a representative island. People emanating from the most landlocked countries often have a waterlocked counterpart that reflects their specific nationality.
And while these tiny bits of landmass have borne a disproportionate share of human slavery and trafficking, that dark suffering has spawned some of the world’s most creative folklore. The imaginations of the oppressed have flowered vivid monsters, tragic martyrs, and mythical tales of triumph and defeat.
No matter how narrow its isolating band of water, every island is unique.
An island can be the hub of a massive transportation web, a buzzing transfer station, or the last sleepy stop at the end of nowhere. It can be an elite retreat, a cosmopolitan city, or a near empty preserve.
Islands possess a rare beauty, an unavoidable closeness with nature. Resources are inevitably scarce, creating a heightened environmental awareness. As such, islands have provided refuge for delicate species that never could have existed on our crowded continents, a treasure of wondrous proportions.
Standing at an island’s edge, water lapping at my feet, I’ve puzzled over the mysterious firmness of sand, solid despite its myriad separate members, yet constantly changing shape and shade. I’ve laughed at the comical routine of a hermit crab, struggling to carry an oversized shell up onto a beach, and I’ve marveled at the spectacle of insects, humming, chirping, biting…performing.
For this writer, islandography has become a near obsession, a call to search out and investigate, to learn, experience, and be influenced.
There are thousands of islands waiting to be explored.
And so many stories left to tell.