“Where are your mitts?”
I’m not sure who the woman is talking to, then a helmet emerges at the top of the bridge that arcs over the lagoon between Algonquin Island and Toronto Island, and a little boy appears. He’s maybe five, riding a scooter—without mitts.
Without missing a scoot, he plunges one hand into his pocket—now he’s getting ready to coast down the bridge to the road, one-handed. I can’t watch. But I don’t hear a crash and when I turn around, he and his mother are on their way to the ferry.
I will miss these little encounters when we leave the island—just a week from today. Anywhere else, the little boy would be strapped into the back seat of a car as his mother drives him to school. But there are no cars on the island, so everyone travels on foot, by bicycle, on scooters. One talented young man travels everywhere on his unicycle.
And sooner or later, we all meet on the ferry. Earlier this week I made the crossing with two of my neighbours. On the seven-minute journey, we discussed Henry James’ book The Portrait of a Lady (we agreed that the writing was a bit dense, and the pace of the story rather slow, but it’s a good read nonetheless). I admired the earrings the woman across from me was wearing—she makes them herself, in a workshop behind her house. When I asked her where I could by a pair, she shyly admitted that they could be purchased at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Then we talked about women’s pants for a bit, how you could wear an old blouse or sweater and still look okay, but if you got the width of your pantlegs wrong, you looked like a little old lady. Where else could this kind of exchange take place?
We will miss our neighbours, who have welcomed us into this tiny community in a way we hadn’t dare hope. We’ve dined with them, gone to the theatre with them, sat in the little church on the island with them—and their dogs. It was a new experience for both of us, going to church in the first place, but also sitting behind a very well-behaved dog who seemed to be listening attentively to the minister. No, the dog didn’t take communion.
I will miss walking on the beach with Dejan and Monty—yes, Monty is still with us. Who would have thought that he would outlast Bica? I will miss walking out the boardwalk and back each morning, then rewarding myself with a freshly baked muffin from the Island Café. Strawberry rhubarb, still hot from the oven. Apple spice. Banana nut… Oh, and peach muffins, in season. Maybe we should cancel our plans to go sailing.
But I don’t think Chris would go for that. And frankly, neither would I. We’ve spent the winter cosy in our island home, admiring the Toronto skyline while we pore over charts and pilot guides, planning our next adventure. It’s going to be a big one. This time, we have both retired for good. We can wander as long as we want.
The boat is in Gaspé right now, where there is still snow on the ground, lots of it, and lots more to come, according to the forecast. We will drive there after Easter with our new sail and dingy engine lift and engine oil filters and a couple new bilge pumps and filters for the water system and…
I’ll spare you the full list.
We’ll dig out the boat, if necessary, and get it all ready to launch, then drive back to Ontario and wait for winter to end in the maritimes. Surely we’ll be able to launch after the May 24th weekend? Then a summer of sailing in the maritimes and in August, we plan to cross from Newfoundland to the Azores, maybe winter in the south of Portugal, make our way to the UK in the spring.
Who knows what after that? And who knows if that’s what we’ll do? You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men… But it doesn’t matter. We’ll be doing our favourite thing: making it up as we go along.