Pelee Island retreat

Sunrise June 30


Ah, Pelee Island. Once again Pelee works its magic, making the world a little more enjoyable. One of the things I like most about Pelee is that it is slow. No traffic lights. Not a lot of signs. No bright lights, big city. It’s just the opposite. As my mom said yesterday, it’s not the kind of place a Type A personality would find useful. Unless he/she could discard that Type A tendency and take some time to breathe.


The Trimotor Ford "Tin Goose" flies over Sandusky.

For the uninitiated, Pelee Island is on the Canadian side (just barely) of Lake Erie roughly 22 miles north of Sandusky, Ohio. It has a year-round population estimated at somewhere between 150 and 200. There are no missing commas or zeroes in that number. The outer perimeter is mostly lakefront cottages and a few restaurants and hotels or bed and breakfasts; the interior is mostly farmland. Save for the uninhabited (except by cormorants) Little Middle Island, Pelee Island is the southernmost part of Canada.

It often is left out of maps of Ontario, leaving Canadians with the impression that Point Pelee, on the southern tip of mainland Ontario, is the same thing as Pelee Island. It ain’t.

Because it is somewhat isolated from the mainland in both Canada and the United States, Pelee does provide a way to get away from it all – in fact, bringing “it” with you can be a tad challenging. No McDonald’s or Starbucks. Or from the Canadian viewpoint, no Tim Horton’s. Internet access is costly. (Memo to self – I could make a killing with an Internet cafe during summer!)

In some ways, Pelee serves as a common outpost for both Canadians and Americans, who share a generally harmonious existence on the island.

Lacking a computer (let alone Internet access), I wrote down some stuff the old-fashioned way:




In the “work with what ya got” spirit of Pelee Island, I am writing on the back page of a printout on how to shop for long-term health care insurance. Which is a good idea, especially if you have an estate worth protecting but aren’t “Bill Gates” rich.

Yvonne and Eric’s cottage is getting closer to completion. The well and electric are all in and working well (The fridge is a little balky – hopefully that will work itself out). There are still some finishing touches to complete – drywall the ceiling and a few other things, but it’s perfectly livable as is. Anything else is gravy.

The wind shifted overnight. On Monday the waves were crashing the rocks on the west side, and the east side, where the cottage is (I’ve taken to calling it the Pelee Shrimp Shack – an homage of sorts to the Tom Hanks movie That Thing You Do), had barely a ripple in the water.

There were lots of sun-baked smelt that had washed up a few weeks back, after spawning and then subsequently dying. How’s that for a life? You live your life in peril for the hope of one day of sex and then you die. I hear smelt sex ain’t all that hot to begin with.


Catch o' the day

Meanwhile, as the beach still smelt of smelt, some extra-smelly dead algae decided to add to the symphony of stink on the beach. This is a hazard of beach life. Sometimes it’s all sunshine and light breezes, sometimes you get dead fish and smelly seaweed.

There are some extra-large sheep’s-head and bass washing up as well.

But now (Tuesday) that the wind and surf have shifted, maybe it will carry the algae away (it did to a degree). It tends to pool (and rot) on the east side when the wind is from the west.

I’ve started reading The Pelee Project by Jane Christmas, an Ontario-based writer/editor who’d never heard of Pelee Island (!!) until her boyfriend suggested they try it as a low-key respite from an unmanageable time in her life. I can relate to that. To a degree.

There are a few points so far where the navel-gazing seems a tad excessive, but I’ve seen worse (maybe even from myself!).


(Also 6-29-10)

Pelee Island has what seem to be magical powers: Blood pressure subsides, skin feels smoother, bunions disappear (maybe it’s the smelt and algae squishing between your toes), worries melt away. OK, I totally fabricated that bit about bunions and smoother skin.

But the atmosphere here encourages you to let go. Disconnect. Go off-grid. (I was only off-grid for a couple of days and missed absolutely nothing except that LeBron officially became a free agent – and we knew that was coming). This can be disconcerting to a Facebook-Twitter-Google-to-the-ends-of-the-earth media and news junkie like me. No TV. Forgot the radio.

It’s just you and whoever came with you. In my case it’s dear old Mom.

But on this trip, the magic Pelee elixir has been slow to take effect. Too much on my mind; too much turmoil. Another day here should fix that (it did).

See Pelee Pix.











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