Getting Comfortable

by Christopher Lovejoy on August 28, 2011

I had just returned from my island trip.

I gazed in quiet wonder at the tropical sun meeting and greeting the horizon with vibrant hues of red, orange, yellow, and mauve against a deep purple sky.

At a relaxed and leisurely pace, and with more than a little stopping, observing, and collecting along the way, I had followed and explored the entire perimeter of the island in less than two hours.

At a brisk pace, I believe I could have done it in less than thirty minutes.

At the end of my trip, I gathered my belongings and returned to a spot on the beach where the trunks of two palm trees served as vertical beams for my netted hammock.

As it turned out, I didn’t have enough bulk dry wood and deadwood to build three signal fires that would last the night, and with my reverence for nature, I wasn’t about to harm or kill any trees. I did have enough to build one fire to repel certain undesirables and keep me warm for much of the night.

I scooped away the sand to make a deep circular indentation several feet in diameter, in a location where I thought the risk of inadvertently starting a secondary fire was minimal.

I constructed a teepee of dead branches, still wet from the storm, placing the thicker ends at the top. Under the teepee, I arranged the kindling – a mix of damp twigs and sticks – with the eye of an artist who was conscious of spacing requirements. The dry fibrous material that I had collected from the broken husks of mature coconuts served as excellent tinder, which I interspersed with the kindling.

I lit the tinder with a wooden match, and blowing gently through lots of white smoke, I finally got the kindling to ignite. I tended the fire until I was satisfied it would burn on its own.

I got into my hammock and watched the stars wink into existence.

As I contemplated the crackling fire, I swung effortlessly in my hammock with hypnotic regularity against a soothing background of incoming waves and rustling leaves.

When I began my journey around the island, I wasn’t too concerned about food and water. I had adequate rations that could last me for at least three days. I was mostly interested in getting my bearings, staying alert to rescue attempts, and finding stuff I could use to get rescued.

I saw no evidence of human habitation on the island. No boats, no tracks, no refuse.

No irate owners, no surprised geologists or marine biologists, no pesky tourists, no desperate castaways, and thankfully, no band of ruffians spoiling for a confrontation with my parang.

I didn’t see any predators. I also didn’t see any snakes, scorpions, or foot-long centipedes.

I knew from my study of ecology that some islands contained only fliers – birds, bats, and insects, for example. Perhaps this was one of them. If so, then I would consider myself blessed.

Other than myself and the flora and fauna, I was almost sure that this island was deserted. It was also habitable, making it a good candidate for a getaway, for me and my companions after my rescue.

The island is shaped like an egg, tilted slightly right from a north-south axis, with lots of embedded rock and scattered loose stones, all of which indicated a volcanic origin, and because of its volcanic origin, I could be sure that this remote oceanic island was more fertile than not.

I stand about six feet tall and I guessed that the highest point on the island rose at least six times my height, which I thought would help in the event of a tsunami.

From what I could see with my binoculars, the island is also on the tail end of an arc of islands that curves northeastward. I estimated that the nearest island is about sixteen to twenty miles away. If it was inhabited, perhaps I could be saved from oblivion if my rescue was not forthcoming.

The next morning, I would collect enough sticks to form an SOS in the sand near my base camp. I would also gather more stones and use them as bases of support for three white flags in the sand.

I was in heaven, in a world that felt simply divine. I gave my senses over to the sights, sounds, and fragrances of this island world directly, with immediacy, in all of their uniqueness.

Though not complete, my research into living on a desert island had paid off.

I was comfortable and I felt good about my prospects.

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