Island Report

Planting Native Plants

Planting Silver Lace on Santa Barbara Island

Judy and I left San Francisco on Monday the 17th, driving down Highway 101 to Ventura, our point of departure for Santa Barbara Island. We left a day early so that I could spend Tuesday looking into two final research questions I’ve had for Street Song, questions that could only be answered by making a trip to Los Angeles. While neither question has been important enough to justify the expense of going there, they’ve been tugging at my mind for years. It was only recently that I figured out where the keys were. Since we were going to be in the area anyway, we drove to L. A., and I got my answers. Always very satisfying.

On Wednesday, the sea was too rough for a boat landing, so they sent us out in a helicopter. (Many thanks to our pilot Charlie and all the folks at Aspen Helicopters.) We are scheduled to be here in absolute solitude for two weeks. It’s not exactly hardship duty. We’re in a small house that’s powered by the sun and propane. We have lights, a kitchen with refrigerator and stove, a shower (military showers only) and internet access. There’s also a television with a satellite dish—although we don’t watch it. I’m working on my book, Judy has her film notes and another project, and we read. (Judy is reading Robinson Crusoe and I’m reading Allen Ginsberg’s Planet News and the Tao Te Ching.)

We have three daily duties: radioing in the morning report (the weather and the condition of the ocean); turning on a pump if the rainwater collection tank gets too full (it requires getting up in the middle of the night if there’s a downpour); and helping with the restoration of the island through the planting of native plants (see photo). The rest of our time is devoted to writing, reading, hiking, cooking—and sleeping. For some reason island life makes us drowsy. Every time we come out here, we tend to get in bed around 7:30. Some nights we sleep ten or eleven hours.

One anecdote: Two nights ago, there was a sudden squall. The rain was pounding hard on the roof, and we had to jump out of bed to check the water collection tank. It was filling up fast, so we had to pull out the instructions on how to turn on the pump, something we’d never done before. No sooner did we get the pump running, than the rain began to subside. Then it stopped entirely. Once we were certain that everything was okay, we got back in bed. Just before turning out the light I opened up the Tao Te Ching to a random page. My eyes fell on these lines:

Violent winds do not blow all morning.
Sudden rain cannot pour all day.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and all that jazz


6 Responses to “Island Report”

  1. Brad Biggs Says:

    Merry Christmas to you and Judy, and wishing you a Happy New Year as well. We may not agree politically, Mark, but on these simple wishes we find common ground, my friend. I’d like to share with you a very simple, secular perspective of Christmas written by a very insightful and brilliant athiest:

    “The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: “Merry Christmas”—not “Weep and Repent.” And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance.” – Ayn Rand

    • markbittner Says:

      Thanks for the good wishes, Brad. My best to you. Judy and I are having a good time here on the island, and I hope to return to the mainland a new man. I’ve been meaning to do a post on Rand for months but have never gotten around to it. One of these times, my friend.

  2. Sarah Says:

    Mark, your holiday sounds like an extended Christmas! Both of you have received the best of all gifts; you have the gift of good health (which you must have, if you are willing and able to live away from civilization for two weeks) and you have the gift of each other. May 2013 bring you and Judy more of the same. Happy holidays!

    Happy holidays to Big Bird, Parker, and Morro, too!

    • markbittner Says:

      2013 promises to be an interesting year for both of us. That has to do with where we are in our respective projects. We’re in good health, yes. But it’s amazing how much your energy drops once you’re out of the tension-ridden city. As soon as we started to relax, we both turned into soup. We’ve been running on adrenalin for awhile.

  3. Brad Biggs Says:

    Mark, I’ll look forward to your opinions and perspective on Ayn Rand and her writings. In the meantime, I hope you and Judy enjoy the rest of your stay on the island and wish you both a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for the new year to come.

  4. tz Says:

    Your words never fail to transport me.

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