The Bridge to Tranholmen (I didn’t return quite the same.)
The snow is melting, and like a left over present discovered only after the Christmas tree has been put away, came the gift of green grass, vibrant as spring, the sky trying hard to fit in with a pale blue horizon. The effect was invigorating and gave us no choice really, but to go for a walk. Cooper and I started up our driveway and down the long hill (that leads to our cul-de-sac) before I realized the running tights and polar fleece I had on wasn’t warm enough. (Wishful thinking.) I went back for more layers: my rainproof pants, ski jacket, scarf and thicker gloves.
We started off again, careful on the ice that was only beginning to thaw. We crossed miniature rivers, forged tiny streams, the ice—Nature’s obstacle course. In places it was safer to walk on the roads, in other places we trudge through soggy fields until eventually we came to the water’s edge and a bridge.
It was a pontoon bridge that led to an island we’d heard about, Tranholmen. It was, we were told, an island without roads or cars. It made sense now why moments earlier we’d seen a parking lot filled with vehicles but no buildings in sight. Of course, those cars belonged to the people who lived on the island. It also became clear why there were carts and wagons strewn along the pathway to the bridge. These were obviously devices for transporting goods back and forth. (And later we found out they were for carting trash and recycling too.)
But how could families with kids live on this island, I kept wondering as we slowly managed our footing across the icy bridge, the waves knocking the concrete slabs back and forth like a tire swing. I was set in my mind that there was no possible way you could live on Tranholmen with kids, (I mean what if they were sick, what if it was an emergency, what if you wanted to buy something larger than fit in a cart?) when suddenly from behind came a couple– the man carrying bags of groceries, the woman pushing a stroller. A stroller! I stopped and stared. I really couldn’t have imagined it, but here they were, coming to the island…a family. I had to talk to them, see if they really lived this way in the 21st Century.
They responded “Yes,” they loved it. They liked not having motor vehicles (of any kind). “The island,” they told us, “has 130 permanent residences, most of them families and it’s own kindergarten,” (daycare in the US.) “There are also 40 or so summer occupants,” they told us. The winter (in their terms), lasted just four months, those were the months they couldn’t travel by boat and had to use the bridge, but what they counted as summer lasted for most of the year and they were quite happy, if not thrilled with their situation to travel only by boat.
We watched them pass, taking the hill before them in stride, marveling at their muster as they continued on, (3 times my speed) up the most treacherous icy trail. We decided to turn back, even though my boots had a decent tread, they were no match for this climb. On the way home I spent considerable thought trying to work out in my mind why someone would want to live on an island, not a remote island, mind you, where you can sit back and take a vacation, but an island where you still have to go to work everyday, carry in supplies, function with the daily labors of travel.
I suppose there is a certain charm attached to living on an island, a novelty of knowing not everyone does (nor can). There is a consciousness of being a part of a place that we city folk might not feel so keenly. They didn’t say so, but I could see it in their expressions, a pride for where they called “home.” After our chance encounter with these Swedes, I recalled my complaints of having to walk 50 feet around our property to get to our detached garage that doesn’t have an automatic door opener (What a pain!). Maybe it’s good thing, you know…to work a little at life, to put forth some effort, build some character…so we don’t take too much for granted.