Our crew has finally been blessed with the knowledge of our departure date. The boat to deliver us from Johnston Island will purportedly arrive June eighth. Five days of shattering social contact will then take place between my crew and the new CAST, known affectionately as “the changeover,” in which we will train the newbies on all things Johnston. Then we will leave the poor saps behind and head Honolulu.
This puts us almost exactly half way through our stay here. In many ways this makes it easier to grapple with, seeing as we’ve already survived as many months as we have in front of us. The finish line is finally in view and we can stop making jokes about being abandoned here to eat radioactive coconuts for the rest of our days. But initiating the countdown has also drawn emphasis to the time we have left. Though I still enjoy the Johnston lifestyle, I have finally identified some things I really miss, such as couches that don’t have ants perpetually crawling across them and beds not made of air.
Still, the material desires are completely inconsequential and could even be ignored, if it weren’t for the looming shadow of what I really miss. My people. I am not alone, but I am lonesome. I feel an ache that can’t be placed, a desire to search for and ruminate over some unseen affliction. Originally finding it easy to still my mind in the early weeks, I now struggle to meditate. When left unoccupied, my attention bounces erratically from past to future, picking at emotional scabs and obsessing over possibility. It often seems as much a task to focus on the present as if I were in physical pain. I imagine unlikely hazards befalling my loved ones while I sit on this bizarre, impossibly far away hunk of rubble. I make plans and change them. I play the movie of my reunion with my family, partner, and friends over and over again.
Tranquility still surrounds me. The birds still fly in from the ocean every evening. The Milky Way still stretches above. But sometimes majesty is lost in the absence of love. I want to believe I have the capacity to appreciate beauty regardless of company. That it is inherent in my nature. That all else failing, the intimacy between I and the earth will buoy me when I have no one to turn to. But there is a certain sadness in the moment shared between a single human being and a single shooting star. Between a vast ocean and one heart. Perhaps beauty is not a benevolent gift of the cosmos, but of the complex and conniving machinery of natural selection. Perhaps we only revel so that we may draw another closer in our ecstasy.
Or perhaps I am weak. Needy. Perhaps my inability to focus on the beauty that surrounds me displays codependency. Perhaps the desire for the physical proximity of certain individuals is just another aspect of the hedonic treadmill. To say so would be valid considering the life history of the species I belong to. We need one another to survive but our nature does not exactly program us for tranquility and peace, even when we get the things we most desire. But if attachment to the people in my life makes me just a cog in the machine, then so be it. There is no force in the universe I’d rather be beholden to than the love for my people. If I’m destined to always grasp for something, I’d rather grasp for humans than objects, places, or ambitions.
As I stare down the line at that somehow close, yet somehow so very far away finish line I repeatedly tell myself to savor this time. That I will look back and miss the days spent hiding in the ant cave from the midday heat, baking brownies and watching stupid TV comedies with my island sisters. Or seeing the adorable fluff of a tropicbird chick peak out from under it’s striking parent. Or the vastness of the ocean and the silence of disconnection. Though I may have left a lot behind, I’d be remiss to forget how lucky I am to be here.
^A red-footed boobie and chick
***This is a personal blog and the opinions expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of the US Fish and Wildlife Service