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Today's quote:

Friday, January 8, 2021

Return to Paradise


In an age of anxiety men seek a refuge. Because of some deep urge, constant throughout history, troubled men traditionally dream of islands, possibly because the smallness of an island invites the illusion that here the complexities of continental societies can be avoided, or at least controlled. This is a permanent, world-wide dream.

When the island chosen for refuge happens to lie in the South Pacific, a colourful body of romance often helps to make the idea of escape an absolute obsession. Then, if the chosen island is reputed to contain lovely and uninhibited girls, the obsession is apt to degenerate into a monomania. And if the girls are Polynesians, the dreamer is truly lost."

So begins the first chapter, "To All Who Seek a Refuge", in James A. Michener's book "Rascals in Paradise" which, together with "Tales of the South Pacific" and "Return to Paradise", form a trilogy which is required reading for anyone dreaming of living on a tropical island.

Read the book online at archive.org

For years I had lived and worked in the South Pacific, in Rabaul, in Port Moresby and Lae, on Bougainville Island, in Honiara on Guadalcanal, on remote Thursday Island, in Apia on the Samoan island of Upolu, and travelled to the New Hebrides, New Caledonia, Fiji and Nauru, long before I had ever heard of James A. Michener, let alone read any of his books, or seen the musical "South Pacific" and its Bloody Mary.

Now , whenever " ... I hear a curlew cry, I see the reef spume leaping up to meet a cobalt sky. Then the island fever has me and I think that I must die: For I've seen the atolls baking in the sun", I take one of James Michener's books off the shelf, and I'm back where "life moves at the sort of pace which you feel God must have had in mind originally when He made the sun to keep us warm and provided the fruits of the earth for the taking" (a quote from Tom Neale's book "An Island to Oneself").

Googlemap Riverbend


P.S. That same first chapter in "Rascals in Paradise" continues as follows, "In the 1930s there was in Australia a learned gentleman who clearly foresaw that a great war was about to break over the world. He had no desire to participate in this foolish war, but he had to conclude from his studies that Europe was going to explode and that the resulting fires would involve Africa and much of Asia. With extraordinary clairvoyance he deduced that Australia, left unprotected because the military men were preoccupied with Europe, would surely become a temptation to Asia and would probably be overrun.

Wishing to avoid such a debacle, he spent considerable time in determining what course a sensible man should follow if he wanted to escape the onrushing cataclysm. He considered flight into the dead heart of Australia, but concluded that although he could probably hide out in that forbidden region, life without adequate water would be intolerable. Next he contemplated removal to America, but dismissed this as impractical in view of the certainty that America would also be involved in the war.

Finally, by a process of the most careful logic, he decided that his only secure refuge from the world's insanity lay on some tropical island. He reasoned, 'There I will find adequate water from the rains, food from the breadfruit and coconut trees, and fish from the lagoons. There will be safety from the airplanes which will be bombing important cities. And thanks to the missionaries, the natives will probably not eat me.'

Fortified with such conclusions, he studied the Pacific and narrowed his choice of islands to the one that offered every advantage: remoteness, security, a good life, and a storm cellar until the universal hurricane had subsided.

Thereupon, in the late summer of 1939, one week before Germany invaded Poland, this wise Australian fled to his particular South Pacific refuge. He went to the almost unknown island of Guadalcanal" --- which, as we now know, saw some of the bloodiest fighting in WWII.