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  • For a brief time back in the 80s I went to gym a few times a week. It was our first winter off the island and I was restless and uprooted. At the gym classes they had us run around and around the hard wooden floor to a driving rock and roll beat. I paced myself against the faster runners and around and around we pounded in an undeclared race. Around and around like a pack of hamsters. I left each time just as restless as when I came in and after a few months had come close to ruining my knees. That was it for mainstream and mainland gyms and me.

    In the long months when I am away from the island, I walk the neighborhoods of Pretoria and row in the living room. I rack up the kilometers and clock in the hours each week. They always add up the same and when I am done I am always where I started. Even my thoughts go round and round.

    The island gym is a different scene altogether. Before writing this morning I did an hour with the scythe and two hours with the shovel. In the afternoon I’ll pull the cart and swing the axe. When I step back I have a stack of firewood, a new heap of logs to split, long windrows of hay raked up in the field, space for new garden beds. When I row on the island I get to the harbor and pick up groceries or an ice cream cone. The music in the island gym is wind in the leaves, the waves along the shore and the roar of boats passing.

    After supper we walk down the hill to the shore and watch the last glow of the sunset over the bay and the first stars above the few lights of the island village. Movement is a way of life on the island.

    For all the millennia until so recently we were small organisms, quick and alert and alive because of it. Our life and structure all based on movement. Only now have we become sedentary. Only now have work and life and living begun to separate. Now our footprints are ponderous and heavy on the earth.

    Outside the wind funnels through the channel between the islands and sweeps up the hill to bend among the trees outside my window. The world is restless and I with it. When I go back out to scythe and axe and spade I will wonder on the steps ahead to weave back the raveled strands of my life.
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