The Islands Down South
By J.R. Kuwanski
There are two islands down south. The people on the smaller one speak different to the people on the big one. There are more people on the smaller one. And they look out more.
The big one has the tussock, the mountains, the cold. That’s where the movies are made. The smaller one has the beaches, the trees with the red flowers, the humidity. That’s where most of them stay.
Everyone used to have their own place on the islands; a quarter-acre they called it. But things are different now. There are more people and less of the island to go around, and now one group of islanders own almost everything.
The food is still fresh; the water is still blue and deep and blissful. The quiet earthly heavens of the coasts cannot be found anywhere else.
It’s not tropical though, it’s something more serious and philosophical than that. The foreshores and south pacific waters are located south of the lighter paradises of the neighbouring islands. Not long ago many of these neighbours travelled down, and often stayed.
Down south the people pretend well, they copy the old land – another small island far up north. They pretend with their unions, their governments, their newspapers. And more recently the younger people have done well at pretending and copying the culture from that other big place up north, the one with the big cars and the lively night-life. In fact they have pretended so much, that at times this foreign culture has become genuine and indigenous, and they no longer have to pretend.
The people on the islands down south are quiet, but calmly charismatic. With so few people and so much space, there’s not that much room to be too flashy, it just doesn’t fit. The quiet keeps the people humble and often contemplative.
Most of the inhabitants like the quiet down there. Some of them don’t though and they leave when they can. They go to the old island way up north, where many of them came from a long time ago. When they get there they often realize how different they are; they thought they would be similar, for their great grandfathers were from here. They often stick together while they’re up there and often dream of the white sand, and flax and sunshine back down south. But they do like the northern real world. They now see how they were really just pretending the whole time back down there, with their universities, their cities, their fashions. Just following and pretending. And they often like how the people are livelier up north, and even they themselves are able to be bolder while they’re there – it’s easier when there’s more people and buildings around. The food is still cleaner down south though, and there is so little space and sunshine up north.
Most eventually go back home, but some of them stay. Those that do stay still dream of the sunshine back home, and the light green fruit that cannot be found anywhere else. They miss the space, but most of all they miss the waters. It is only once they are away that they realize that they had it all to themselves down there, pretty much all to themselves, compared to the real world way up north.
For those that stay away, they say it is because they can’t do the pretending anymore: pretending urbanity, pretending night-life, pretending politics. But perhaps more importantly, they stay away because while the space down south is so peaceful, it also makes one so aware of the void, and of the great responsibility to fill it. The burden can be overwhelming, and the quiet can become so very loud. Up north, the hustle spreads the burden, and alleviates the anxiety somewhat. They need the real cities, the real newspapers.