Monday, July 14, 2008
Five days on Bustins
Foxes in the woodlot, fairy houses in the forest, fireflies flickering among the roadside shrubbery, furious itches from the angelic-looking but devilish white-mantled brown-tailed moths, sunsets, sunrises, a few rounds of Spite & Malice with a couple of island matriarchs—in short, a week like any other on Bustins Island. Not perfect—my back went out the night before I left—but rich. Bustins is like a crossword puzzle that I keep scratching away at: figuring out who's related to whom (and just about everyone is related to everyone else) and how, patching together the island history, filling in the holes with gossip and hearsay. This year the island was still buzzing about the fire that took one of the cottages down to ash in about an hour last year. A wedding party had been staying there, and the bride and groom lost everything. The next day, relatives sifting through the rubble discovered the couple's wedding bands, a miracle recorded in the local newspaper:
So, for one couple the fire added a spark of drama to their love story. But for another, the fire felled the charred timbers of a failing marriage. According to one account, J, who was on the mainland the night of the fire, returned to the island to make sure his wife T was safe. He discovered her not at home but in the bed of D. T and D have now fled, leaving a good deal of whispering in their wake. I'll miss T, a warm and friendly soul ...
What surprises me is not that people know everyone else's business on an island with just 100 or so resident families but that not everyone knows everyone else. There are times when a bit of head-scratching and brain-storming are required when an old codger spins a yarn: "You remember him. He's the one who had the cottage on Rum Row before he bought the ..."
Another thing—not so surprising—is that you begin to notice that although people talk about the island as though it were a utopian community, held together by love and happy memories, in fact there is deep and hurtful strife at every turn of the road. So there's a weird mismatch between the walk and the talk. But for us, still considered newbies after 11 years of renting, the island is a delight. Each year I buy another placemat or two, hand-drawn maps of the cottages with dates and owners' names, in hopes of mastering the history and the lore during the winter months away. And each year I go back for more.