Yesterday’s post about characters that live in your subconscious drew quite a spirited discussion. So today I’m going to post about another “character” from my subconscious: the island itself.
In the novel that I’m down the home stretch writing, **Avalon, S.C., Rick Whittaker becomes obsessed with an island just off the South Carolina coast. As a boy, I too was what you might call “obsessed” with islands out in the South Carolina intercoastal waterway. There was just something mysterious and compelling about islands. A couple were inhabited, but most weren’t. They were just little dots of land out there, calling to me.
Your typical island, if it was large enough, had solid growths of oak and pine trees. Most were surrounded by marsh, so at high tide you could easily get there; at low, you had to either find a break in the marsh or muck your way though mud flats and oyster beds to get there. Lots of birds, not too much else.
And they always seemed to have mysterious names. Huntington, Bari Tari, Big Savage and Little Savage. Not to mention Daufuskie Island of Pat Conroy fame. I fished off the shores of Daufuskie but never actually explored it — it was too far for old, flat-bottom wooden bateau my father had built, with its underpowered 7.5hp Evenrude outboard motor.
But I explored the others. Starting around age 10 and continuing on until the excitement of girls displaced the thrill of exploration. Our boat stayed tied out in the water, so I would get it to shore (which depending on the tide might involve a swim), lug the motor, gas can, oars, and whatever else I’d packed for the day down the muddy “beach” and load them, and take off for the island de jour.
The most intriguing was Bull Island, which was one of the larger islands. Rumor had it that there were buffalo on it, imported long before by its eccentric owner. I never saw one, but I did frequently spot the small herd of jackasses that lived out there.
I don’t think I am vicariously reliving my past through Rick, but the lure and mystery of the islands of my youth definitely play a part in how the island of Avalon, S.C. has become a major character in the novel.
The island as an archetype is alive and well in my subconscious.