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  • The year Carly was born we lived in the log cabin I built out on the island. It was rough and it leaked but it was a home. One big room and a loft. A squat, furnace of a woodstove in the center. Late afternoons and nights ours was the only house with lights. The glow of the kerosene lamps shone out the windows making golden ramps of light in the dark. Inside, canning jars lined up like jewels on the wide shelves along one wall. Pickles, tomato sauces, jams. Baskets of onions. Buckets of potatoes. Hams and strings of pepperoni hanging from the rafters. We had a hen house but a mink wiped out the flock one wild snowy night. Only the pathetic little bantam rooster was left. He was up a tree that night as usual, the hens wouldn’t let him in.

    In the winter the island is as remote as you can get in modern America. Even in the summer, life on the island is ruled by wind and tide. The first year we only had a CB radio. Sometimes when the signal skipped it was easier to get a trucker in South Carolina than to talk to someone in the harbour. We were on our own.

    A couple of years later technology provided new opportunities. We got a VHF radio. Now, we could call out to the Camden Marine Operator and place a call so long as we were OK with everyone listening in. We had one small solar panel and one light hanging over the kitchen table. We mounted the switch on the wall and covered it with a postcard a friend gave us as a joke. George Bush, hand raised to make his point, “Turn on a thousand points of light.” The switch jutted out through a strategically placed slot.

    A thousand points of light. It was a joke in the family for years. Turn on George Bush, we’d say.

    Today, walking through the aloes in the park one last time before I fly out I thought of that card. I thought of how all of you are a bright scatter of lights across the globe and how I carry your voices with me now. I thought how I have grown as a writer and a citizen of our world through hearing your stories and thoughts. I thought of how I will miss you while I am away. I thought of how my small world has grown so dramatically and the web of connections like silken threads crossing boundaries and borders, a shimmering network of thought making of our bright and separate islands constellations and galaxies. Turn us on I say, go ahead, turn on a thousand points of light.

    Picture me if you will, splitting wood, making gardens, standing under the oak trees I started as acorns, or rowing out among the islands. I’ll be working on revising Bitter Fruit and Katherine and the Cowboy’s Cat. I’ll be listening and looking, out there, collecting stories to share.

    And more than anything, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read and hear me and even more for sharing so freely your thoughts and stories. Every day I am awed by the courage, the wit, the sly wry humor, the rapier questions. Every day I am amazed as you take me with you across time and space and into worlds of imagination and fantasy.

    Thank you.

    South Africa has 11 official languages so in two of them that do a better job of it than English in expressing what I would really like to say.

    Sala ghale (Elizabeth, very patiently and many times, explained it this way. In Zulu, if I am going I say Sala ghale to you, it means stay well, if you are going I say Hamba ghale meaning go well).

    And in Afrikaans, tot-siens (until seeing or until I see you).
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