leaving swan’s island


On my last full day on Swan’s Island, a bald eagle — bouncing in flight against the crisp coastal winds — floated in the sky outside of my window while I drank my morning coffee. Later, I walked down to the mud flats and picked about 15 good-sized clams which were cooked up later as part of a farewell supper with my friend, Barbara.

As autumn has moved into winter and the arc of the sun has gotten lower in the sky, all of the seas around the island have begun to glitter. Every day the surface of the sea flashes with the most brilliant silver-white light, a kind of crazy reflectivity that almost seems to float — like the flashing skin of a school of anchovies — above the surface of the water.

And it’s in this season that I packed my things, drove onto the ferry, and left the island behind, heading slowly back to California, and ultimately Japan.

The Japanese poet Kiyoko Ogawa wrote this wonderful tanka for me on the occasion of leaving the island and beginning my travels again:


白鳥の島から西部をめざす君「on the road」の人生とこそ見ゆ
(はくちょうのしまからせいぶをめざすきみ on the roadのじんせいとこそみゆ)

for a young American friend

Your life seems to be 
                  always on the road, 
already leaving the swan island 
               to head for the West, 
place of your temporary rest.

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