Notes from the Island
September 1999

Who has sat in the chair at the top of the Island?? Who even knows that there is a hidden chair at the up river tip of the Island?? Anyone who has not explored the up Island paths should do so before this year escapes. The Caretaker is amazed at the number of people who come to the Island only to visit certain small specific places... say a swimming float... or a barbeque grill near a certain table... or an upstairs game room. These folks leave the Island and are unaware of the great treasures so nearby. Did you know that there is an extremely large swath of blooming cardinal flowers containing over a hundred separate plants? Or that there are places you can not stop and sit or you will be overcome by the over powering sweet almond fragrance of the sweet autumn clematis? Or that there are places where one can sit surrounded by the purple flowers of towering ironweed and count a half dozen butterflies at any given time? Because Nature is always in process, each visit to the Island can be a fresh exploration of new adventures and changing panoramas. Each day is like this to the Caretaker... of things on the Island to be visited or checked upon or gaped anew at. It is a wonder there is time for anything else.

By far the best show on the Island this year can be had on the Captain's Float for a few pieces of bread. Surely anyone on the float has noticed the zillions of baby fish that have hatched under it and hang out there. Casting bread upon the waters between the float and the shore will cause them to cluster to feed. After a few moments, the medium sized fish will gather to take turns darting into the swarm to try to pick off one of the babies. Minutes later huge catfish will appear like sharks to see what the fuss is about and will drive off all other fish, although they themselves are really interested only in the bread. Children of all ages have shrieked at the thrill of that first moment the first catfish appears.

The lushness is back... the rains came...the Island is happy... and it can be such a great joy walking the Island in the rain. There is that feeling that reminds us we are simply bags of skin filled with water and electrolytes, and the negative ions from a thunderstorm urges us to fill our lungs and stand tall against the sky like two leaves in a Leyden jar. Sometimes there is a certain quality of the light that causes one to look up to the tree canopy with the same feeling with which one looks up at the stained glass in a chapel. The rains that broke the drought during the last week of August only managed to raise the water level a foot... and only for a day and a half. Still, it was enough for a reality check for the Caretaker to relearn that the water "moves" and that "current" had returned. Imagine therefore this year's baby fish who must have been shocked to learn that they did not live in a lake... but in a river. Actually, considering the duration of the drought, even this year's fingerlings from last year have not really had to contend with much current. There must be some sort of genetic programming in fresh water fish to urge them to always swim against the current, or else they would all be hanging out in lakes or washed down to salt water

Members and their guests should be aware of the changing situation at the rope swing. Because of the drowning of a teenage swimmer two weeks ago downstream of the Island near the dam, Park Police have become more aware of the large numbers of people using the rope swing. By large is meant 150+ on a hot day, including supervised school groups bussed in and families bringing small children and lawn chairs from up the hill. Mounted Park Police have issued $75 warning tickets on two occasions.

-- Doc Taliaferro, Sycamore Island Caretaker