What Sycamore Island Means to Me

by John Noble

Sycamore Islander, February 2002



The Island's pleasures live in my mind and comfort me. Recollections of a swim, a paddle up river, reading on the porch, and picnicking with friends come to mind a thousand times more frequently than visits to the Island. The land, water, and buildings that are Sycamore Island reality, become much more in our day-to-day lives. We have a sense of possessiveness for this unique social and physical environment made possible by those that have preceded us for over 100 years. And, thanks must go to our officers and dedicated members who keep the tradition alive.

Sycamore Island is my refuge. It is timeless, it is basic, and it is welcoming. Nonetheless many of us have a condition called Sycamoreislanditis. Symptoms are a longing to go to the Island followed by pejoratives such as errands to be run, household tasks to be performed, and the conclusion--no spare time for the Island.

Remembering the joy the island brings to visitors is always enriching. Several times we brought groups of NIH visiting scientists from Japan to Sycamore and enjoyed their appreciation of the remote beauty of the Island within our metropolis. The revered senior member of one delegation had never been in a canoe. He delighted all of us by trying it.

We have convened office retreats on the Island and have come away with the workplace product we were seeking and much more -- a shared experience in a unique environment. We forget that a number of our friends and relatives have not been to the Island. On Thanksgiving Day we took my niece and her family to visit the Island after dinner. Although they have lived in the Washington area off and on for 15 years, they were amazed. Their seven and nine year old children especially loved the ferry.

All visitors are intrigued by some of our history, such as the canoe pool that commuted to Virginia from Sycamore, the height of flood waters on the Island, and the early use of the Island as a site for weekend overnight stays from Washington. I also enjoy describing the picture of a float plane parked at the Island and Ken Fassler's transition from living on a houseboat up river to becoming our caretaker some years ago. The thought of the job of the caretaker particularly sparks escape fantasies in both members and guests.

Up in the air, Junior birdmen! Islanders: this could be you.
Another fantasy I have is to create the Sycamore Island Flying Club. In addition to club canoes, we would have club inflatable flying boats. These are ultra lights (no pilots license required) that are affixed to rubber rafts. Imagine flying under and over the American Legion Bridge and the Union Arch in Cabin John. A particular advantage to adding this service to our Club would be the new material it would provide for discussion at the monthly meetings. In addition to canoe safety rules we would be able to establish flying boat regulations. One disadvantage is that we would have to postpone the renovation of the caretaker's quarters because we would need the $25,000 to buy the first craft in our flying fleet. I am sorry, Doc and Phyllis.

Uhhh... letís see... that Cabin John Bridge
has to be around here somewhere...
Now, back to reality. Early on we recognized the club as a place to get away from the day-to-day hubbub of our busy lives. It is a place to dream as well as a place to find the regenerating forces of nature. This is what Sycamore Island means to me.