An island lament | Letter

TO: A transplant

FROM: An eagle

I’ve been watching while you carve out your spot on the island. I’ve watched as you cut red cedar and Doug fir and madrona and scraped away the salal and blackberries.

I’m truly amazed how you could be so utterly insensitive to this wonderful island, its people, water, land, trees, animals, history. In your short time here you have alienated people and animals who have called this island home for generations. Shame on you.

I admit I do not understand you. I do not understand your lack of awareness, your lack of appreciation of this beautiful place. I do not understand your drive to destroy something beautiful. I do not understand your disregard for the people and animals who have lived in your spot for literally thousands of generations. I do not understand your drive to control your environment rather than learn from it. I do not understand why you want to make the island look like the place you just escaped.

After destroying the forest and ambiance that is so precious, you will not be happy here. It is clear you do not understand the forces that make this unique place special. And if you do not understand your environment you can not be happy.

In a few years, you will leave. You will have witnessed the inexorable tide that will have pushed you out because you did not fit, you did not listen, you did not understand.

After you are gone the trees will eventually return and so will the deer and the fox and the seals. You will leave your plastic contribution to the midden you tried to destroy. You will have left because you did not listen to the land and its animals. You did not learn what they had to teach you. It’s so sad that you missed your opportunity. Sad that you failed to learn what the island had to teach. Your destructive efforts have caused lots of pain, but the deer, seals, and trees will return after you are gone.

Joseph Bettis and Gabriele Beyer

San Juan Island