A WALK ON THE EDGE

There is for virtually everyone a deep association with and consciousness of the places where we were born and grew up, where we live now, or where we have had particularly moving experiences. This association seems to constitute a vital source of both individual and cultural identity and security, a point of departure from which we orient ourselves to the world.

Relph, 1976
Ken Atlantic at Greenwich Community, St. Peter Bay , Prince Edward Island , Canada.

“We’re having a mild winter this year unlike usual,” an Islander walking her dog along the Lakeside beach told me after our greetings. Although this is my first winter on Prince Edward Island, I must agree with her because I was flooded with comments from newspapers since early November and heard other folks keep sharing their disappointment of a coming warm winter around the town. You know how Islanders enjoy talking about the weather in any gathering. A sense of community is one of the most feasible islandness traits that I discovered last time wandering around the Farmer Market. Hence, I thought the easing of restriction announced by Dr. Heather Morrison a few days ago that everybody could gather in a big group, again,  seemed to be a great big winter gift to compensate for our Islanders’ disappointment.

I just realized that Hau’Ofa’s envision of  “a sea of islands” without bounders are passionately embedded in my blood nerves now like DNA, and like the islandness love naturally absorbed inside the islanders which they can’t even express in words

Ken Atlantic

The postcard-like image of creamy snow topping the island is ubiquitous and proud, which any islander would expect when it comes to October each year. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of snow this winter at all since it is already the end of January. When  I was walking my favourite magnificent beach this morning after leaving the busy Farmer Market in town,  I thought about the different feelings walking here in two seasons. What I immediately noticed was the appearance of three colourful lines: white snow, red sands and grey ocean, and they kept running to the endless skyline. Immersing myself in this fascinating view, I thought, well, I always have doubts about beautiful things such as these interactive zones of the island: “Among these three lines, what is actually the border of the other two?”  

Lakeside Beach, Prince Edward Island – Credit : Ken Atlantic

Many people could quickly tell the red sand is the border because it’s the edge of the island.  There’s nothing wrong with that answer because the islands are perfectly bounded by the sea. The water was able to stop me from walking out of the beach edge was the truth. However, the sea now became such a mighty push that I must acknowledge my situation was currently circumscribed within a greater space. However, this answer seemed to be the trapped feeling which did not satisfy me yet, so I attempted to find other solutions. Now I think of my island studies classmates; they would indeed say there’s no boundary! Ah ha, for sure, I know where they take the concepts from, a sea of islands from Epili Hau’ofa (Hau’ofa, 1994). This thought made me happy, and I smiled because I now have a sense of belonging to a community sharing the same values as PEI Islanders do. From that moment, I listened to the sound of waves as they were running here and there, in and out; I just realized that Hau’ofa’s vision of  “a sea of islands” without bounders is passionately embedded in my blood nerves now like DNA, and like the islandness love naturally absorbed inside the islanders which they can’t even express in words. Imagining more inside, then the white snow line could also be a border, could it not? It represents both the winter, and the edgy fear of islanders. The fear of losing something they are much used to having as a deep part of their life, such as  this “I-land” and its snowy winter every year:

The maritime barrier surrounding it is always there, solid, totalizing and domineering, tightening the bonds between the island folk, who thus experience a stronger sense of closeness and solidarity.

PÉRON, 2004

Is the feeling of walking along the edge similar to walking along the fence?

Greenwich Community, St. Peter Bay , Prince Edward Island – Credit : Ken Atlantic

 “ an island, even when quite close, is not quite of this world and to go to an island is still an act of sensual disorientation.”

PÉRON, 2004

These two symbols engender the same kind of obsession because they both bring a sense of separation and fear. I am unsure why people fear crossing these boundaries. The reasons could be due to human’s enforcement or natural forces. Wherever it comes from, this fear, in fact, causes the isolation mania. On the other hand, fear and isolation are always excitements because they get us to imagine the mythical space and secret behind it. If you don’t see it, you are curious, but your mind will get burning with a thousandfold fantasy of exploration when you get to see a little bit of it. This is the lure of islands that the mainlanders drive to seek, and Peron once illustrate this craziness as:  “to them, an island, even when quite close, is not quite of this world and to go to an island is still an act of sensual disorientation.” (PÉRON, 2004)

Borden Carleton, Prince Edward Island – Credit : Ken Atlantic

I must admit that nothing could compare to the experience of walking along the beach on the island and thinking about the island. As Islanders live so close to the sea, the sky and nature, their perception and imagination about the world could be both fantastic and fragile. A sense of community could bring people together in the Market to talk just about anything, laugh and feel proud of their identity and connections. At the same time, weather changes could immediately change the atmosphere and create fear in their minds. After all, if this is the fear of losing something they love so much, then may I call Islandness fear?

References

Hauofa, E. (1994). Our sea of islands. The Contemporary Pacific, 6(1), 147-161. Retrieved from https://natlib-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo-explore/search?query=any,contains,991998063602837&tab=innz&search_scope=INNZ&vid=NLNZ&offset=0

PÉRON, F. (2004). The contemporary lure of the island. Tijdschrift Voor Economische En Sociale Geografie, 95(3), 326-339. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9663.2004.00311.x

Relph, E. C. (1976). Place and placelessness Pion. Retrieved from https://proxy.library.upei.ca/login?qurl=http%3a%2f%2fsearch.ebscohost.com%2flogin.aspx%3fdirect%3dtrue%26db%3dcat01065a%26AN%3dupei.41391%26site%3deds-live%26scope%3dsite%26profile%3Deds

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