Island Life

I often wish I could live two lives so I can squeeze everything in. One way to live a second life is by traveling and connecting with new people.

While playing pickleball in Alabama, my husband and I met Cathy and Gary, and there was an instant connection. We learned Gary grew up near our northern Wisconsin cabin and we knew many of the same people. (Isn’t that fun when you’re far away from home yet connect with someone from your neighborhood?)

Our conversation continued. When I discovered they lived on an island, I felt a buzz. In my second life, I would choose to live on an island, one filled with romance and adventure. I formed an image of myself listening to the gentle lap of waves on the shoreline, watching the wildlife, and taking each day as it comes. 

Cathy told me that their island (Brush Island) is in Lake of the Woods near the northern border of Minnesota. It’s so close to the international border, she can swim to Canada! 

According to Wikipedia, Lake of the Woods is the sixth largest freshwater lake located (at least partially) in the United States. It includes the northernmost point of the contiguous United States. Over 70 miles long and wide, it includes 65,000 miles of shoreline and has over 14,552 islands. Fascinating! In the back of my mind, I wonder how they give people directions to their house.

The post office, on the mainland at Angle Inlet, where Gary and Cathy get their mail, only has 125 post office boxes. Brush Island residents mostly leave for winter, except for a few with school-age children on nearby islands. If the ice is frozen, they can use a vehicle to get to the mainland where the children are transferred to buses, but if it’s unsafe, they need to ride an airboat like those used in the Everglades.

Cathy and Gary, who are retired, love to walleye fish. Their island living indulges their passion. Still, it comes with a price. Shopping is inconvenient since they often need to cross the Canadian border, a major feat during COVID with Canada’s strict regulations. If Gary and Cathy want to buy lumber for a remodeling project, for example, they need to wait for decent weather to boat to the mainland, pick up their vehicle from the storage garage, drive to the store which most likely means crossing the border, get the supplies, load them up, drive back across the border, transfer the supplies, and finally cart them up 37 steps to their island home.

Another detriment, according to Gary, who has a mischievous smile, is that the nearest pickleball court is 167 miles away.

Island living isn’t for wimps. Cathy and Gary need to be self-sufficient. They try to do most of their home repairs themselves. They gather and split wood for their outdoor sauna. 

In my mind, that’s a small price to pay for the romance of taking a sauna on a remote island and then cooling down by wading in a pristine, freshwater lake. I close my eyes and imagine soaking up the peacefulness of an island retreat where I could watch bald eagles, white pelicans, and hear the lonely, haunting call of the loon. With the background music of bird songs, I’d soak in the vistas, including amazing sunrises and sunsets.

A huge thank you to Gary and Cathy for letting me imagine island living and live a second life.

2 Replies to “Island Life”

Debbie Gille

Thanks for sharing. Great to hear about the trials and tribulations of living on an island……and the benefits too. Sounds like a great vacation….but maybe not the life for me.


Hi Debbie,
Yes, you’re such a people person you might have trouble living on an island. It would make a great week-long retreat, though, wouldn’t it?

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