September 1st, the first day of autumn.

Not really, of course, as it’s still summer on the Gregorian calendar. But the light has changed, as has the angle of the sun, and the color of the sea. And unlike yesterday when the sun beat down upon me, today I sit on this porch, jacketed, sipping lukewarm coffee, imploring the new sun to warm my aging bones. There is a beauty on this day, on this northern island, that speaks of time passing, of another summer gone.

And I think of other summers, other islands. I have just ordered Tim Robinson’s Stones of Aran – which Matthew Wills mentions in Backyard and Beyond, his daily blog of Brooklyn wildlife – because 50 years ago my sister Robbin and I took a ferry over to the Aran Islands, three seemingly barren limestone rocks at the mouth of Galway Bay, where Irish was still the dominant language and, absent any hotel, we stayed in the spare room of a local woman. At the pub that night we listened in uncomprehending awe as two men, with rising voices, engaged in a battle of words – of, we were told, puns and putdowns – that ended only when one threw up his arms in surrender.

Robinson and his wife Máiréad came to Aran a few years later. “On the day of our arrival,” he writes, “we met a man who explained the basic geography: ‘The ocean,’ he told us, ‘goes all around the island.”

And so it does, although when you hear it put just that way, you can never think quite the same way about oceans and islands . . . or life again.

James G. Blaine

About James G. Blaine

Most of us undervalue what seem our tiny contributions to our communities and the world. As a result, we feel powerless, even victimized. But, like the butterfly effect in science, the lives we lead with our families, in our communities, and at work – all the so-called little things we do – collectively change the world. As I grow older, my ambition grows more modest but not less important: to participate fully and to contribute what I can. That’s my goal with this blog.