Desert Island Whimsy

It’s been a long week on this island.

At times, i’ve been comforted by my Desert Island Survival Songs and the unique beauty of a tropical setting. But there’s only so much coconut one person can take. And there’s only so much campfire acapella two people can perform before you just really start to feel sorry for the wildlife.

Yes, that’s right, there are two of us now.

Two days ago I was nakedly minding my own business when I noticed a whale-like silhouette on the horizon. I was pretty excited at first, but Wilson curtly reminded me that I don’t have the prerequisite whimsy or gills for whale-riding. A kill-joy, that Wilson.

So I went about my day, brooding, coconut hoarding, hunting small animals and boogying in the night time. As the last chorus of Dreadlock Holiday faded with the wilting dusk, the whale was nowhere to be seen. Whatever, I thought. He would be back with the sunrise to taunt me further (Wilson and the Whale were obviously in cahoots.)

But instead of waking to a whale, or the beautiful sound of Whitacre’s Allelulia, I woke to the savage face of Magpie come to end my life. Soaked and sunburnt, she pinned me down and beat me with a ball of makeshift yarn. I was certain that she had gone mad.

But the force of her blows promptly gave way to anguished tears. “I just want some meat,” she sobbed.

So I cooked her up some chargrilled toucan and we talked shit out.

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Brighter than sand and palm leaves.

Peachy was right. We both definitely have Desert Island Stockholm Syndrome. I’ve even fashioned myself a pair of knitting needles out of broken branches, and working out how to break the leaves down into fibres and spin them into yarn is keeping me occupied. Now that I’ve worked out which nuts and berries are okay to eat I have a lot more time to spare.

At night, by the light of the stars, I can see a trail of smoke curling into the sky from what can only be Peachy’s island. Maybe my next project will be a raft. Two heads are better than one, and who knows, there may even be animals on her island. I miss meat so much.


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Here’s a hypothetical: my desert island (sans heat, deadly fauna and insects) is actually damn beautiful.

Because i’m on a desert island, I wake with the sun as nature intended. I watch it cast light on to inky water and for a sec I forget about my makeshift noose, the volleyball who stole my silver chain, and my constant dreams about German cowboys. I listen to this heartbreakingly beautiful song and am at peace.


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I’m sorry, Wilson!

After my last post  about the implacable nostalgia that Germans call ‘sehnsucht’*, i’m gonna keep it light and on-track today. Desert island day #3. I’ve listened to Iron and Golden Brown so many times that i’m beginning to unconsciously tie pieces of clothing together in a noose-like fashion. On the up-side, I find the nakedness freeing – it’s so hot on this damn island. But look! What’s that in the sky? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a ghostly apparition of Magpie come to grant me song number 3.


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Why am I still on this damn island?

Dear peeled-bark diary,

Day three on the island, still no sign of help. I’m really, really sun burnt and I’ve got a lot of mosquito bites. I’m glad I have this playlist, though, and these super convenient solar powered speakers. Even though the salt water corrupted all but four songs on my MP3 player (BECAUSE SCIENCE, OKAY?) I couldn’t have asked for four better songs.

I was assured, before leaving, that if I was ever shipwrecked, that all of the islands in this region are patrolled by special crack squads of people rescuers once a fortnight. The tour operator said I’d be surprised by how often they pick people up. This means that at worst, I’ve got eleven more days to wait until someone gets here. I can do this.

Today, diary, I’ve decided to try not to remind myself OF THE PAINFUL ABSENCE OF ALL HUMAN SPEECH OTHER THAN MY OWN. Thankfully, one of the four songs is an instrumental piece.


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Sehnsucht and past lives

So i’m that really weird person who, during an awkward silence, will come out with an existential question that makes everyone feel uncomfortable. Something like, “do you ever feel like you have a connection to a certain biome?” or “what was your past life?”

And yes, this is a result of a need for social intimacy paired with social ineptitude, but I believe in these weird questions. Which is why I tend to spend most of my time at parties like this:


But seriously, I think there is something to it. As humans we are capable of very intense emotions, not all of which can be captured by language. We are born and live and die in our world and as a result are inherently connected to it, something that Aboriginal cultures speak a lot about but that in a busy, often urban world, a lot of people forget. But I think that consciously or not, everyone has a leaning towards a certain environment. Perhaps it’s ancestral, associative or just a result of life experiences. But I think that we can all be aware of it, at some level at least.

My father, mother and sister, for example, are all crazy about the sea. My dad spent a large part of his life as a professional fisherman, my sister has a degree in Marine Biology, and mum is at her most content when on the beach, rain or shine. So what, did we all just live on the coast? Dad grew up in a town and mum a farm, while my sister and I grew up in a small village. Not exactly beachfront, so I don’t think it’s simply a childhood thing. And while I like the coast, it’s not my ‘nostalgiasphere’.

Nothing compares to the calm, aching nostalgia I associate with the woods: moss covered tree stumps and dew sprinkled branches, gentle-hued flowers littering the floor. I know other people who like the heat of summer, the dry of the desert, or are in love with a snow-covered mountain.

So there are justifications for the weird biome question. And it’s linked to past lives by a little thing called sehnsucht.

Sehn-wut? I’m not crazy. Germans aren’t crazy*, C.S. Lewis wasn’t crazy.

A lot of people report a deep longing for a bygone era they have never personally experienced. Nostalgia. Tinged with yearning. Tinged with a wistfulness that almost hurts you. C.S. Lewis took the German concept of sehnsucht, roughly translated as “yearning”, and applied it to his own experience of poignant longing. He described it as an inconsolable longing in the human heart “for which we know not what.”

“Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside is . . . the truest index of our real situation.”

This article, by Terry Lindvall, quite perfectly summarises the significance of sehnsucht for us all. And I especially adore this quote:

“Old or young, human beings generally feel a longing of this type—for something they find difficult to describe. It is difficult because the longing is intangible and ineffable. Thus, sehnsucht remains in human nature, no matter how settled one may become; it is one of the things that marks our humanity. No other creature is so inherently dissatisfied as the human being.”

So very long story finally becoming short, my second desert island song is connected to the idea of sehnsucht and a past life. The whole ‘past life’ thing isn’t necessarily literal. Don’t brush me off as a superstitious spurler of garbage. It’s just a fun interpretation of sehnsucht that makes for some discomfort-inducing party conversation.

When do I get sehnsucht? Well, when I hear the harpsichord, which has led me to conclude that I had a past life in the Baroque era. I also get sehnsucht thinking about 17th-18th century Frontier America. If you wanna creep yourself out, then those periods, and my current ‘life’, are roughly 200 years apart.

If you don’t wanna creep yourself out, though, just think about how sehnsucht is just a part of the human condition, and our ‘inherent dissatisfaction’. Which flares up in all its aching beauty when I hear this song:


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