You don’t have to ask him to list the reasons he loves the island; it’s a voluntary recitation. He likes the microclimate, created by the surrounding water, that keeps the temperature four degrees cooler than on the mainland during summer. He loves the clearness of the water, which most people assume would be oily and possibly polluted. (Zebra mussels are the heroes of that story.) He loves the seamless way private customs can evolve into island-wide celebrations. For example, the elderly American couple from whom he and Helene bought their cottage had refused to come to the usual island agreement with their next-door neighbour to share a dock. The result was two decaying jetties, separated by three centimetres of space. One of the first things the Hadfields did upon their purchase was to arrange with their neighbours to build a new joint structure. “Now we have one big, wide, beautiful dock,” he says, “which we started commemorating every year with a party, like the settlement of a long-time feud. At first it was just the neighbours; now it’s the whole island, the annual joining-of-the-dock party.”
But maybe the thing that captivates Chris most about the island is the accident of its geography, what it looks like in the long view. His first launch was out of Kennedy Space Centre, in Florida, aboard the shuttle Atlantis, destination the Russian space station Mir. This meant that the shuttle would head up the Atlantic coast, with the world turning underneath it.
“I did the math,” he says, “and I realized that 90 minutes after launch-92 minutes, to be exact-we would come straight overtop of here. So I set the alarm on my watch and had my camera ready. And 92 minutes after I left Earth, I looked out the window and saw Lake Huron coming down to a point where it joins the river. I saw the shadow of the Blue Water Bridge connecting Sarnia to Port Huron on the American side. I saw the little diagonal plank road that runs from the old Petrolia oil wells to the river docks, clear as a bell. And I looked a little south, to see this island. And there it was.”
© 2014 by Jay Teitel. Cottage Life (Winter 2014). cottagelife.ca