There’s a certain kind of beauty in the existence of the temporary. It could be an act, a statement, an object, a lifetime, or a coffee stain on your desk after a long late-night writing session; a temporary mark in existence the short time one allows it. An island, as a definition of a place, is no different in the scope of the temporary. One could even go as far as claiming it to not only be temporary, as ebb and flow change, but that they don’t even exist at all if no water was present.
Surely, we all have had that fleeting thought of moving to an island, setting up a house in total solitude, sheltered by the water surrounding it. How I wonder, if we were given the same chance to experience the same solitude on the Moon, completely secluded as the emptiness of space surrounds us, would we cheer as joyfully to the similar opportunity. My guess would be a hesitant pause, followed by a “no thank you”. So, why is this. Why is the idea of seclusion by water more alluring that the seclusion of space is not? Could it be as simple as the fact that the solitude an island would provide is nothing but an illusion, no different than the fleeting thought of an idea.
Because for no matter where you are, on the artificial Belmont island (also known as U Thant) in the borough of Manhattan, US, on any of the thousands of islands known as the Archipelago outside Stockholm, Sweden, or on the largest island on Earth, Greenland, you remain connected to the rest of this planets landmass as each surfaced soil remains connected to the main crust. No islands are a free-floating hub of rocks for anyone to conquer or inhabit. Because there is no such thing as a land disconnected.
The mainland and the island, two separate definitions of land where one is seemingly disconnected to the other due to a mass of water, is no more than simply that: a definition. The water moves in relation to the Moon, pulling and pushing the surrounding waters; a sphere in space we do not call a planet because of its size, much like we would never call Australia an island even though water surrounds its outer borders. It’s all about definition, our definition, and it’s all relatable to our own extent on this planet.
So, the conclusion holds, there is no such thing as an island, yet the definition of the island remains. Let’s go back to the beauty of the temporary, for this is where the illusion of the island, and the idea of the allure of the island endures. For even though the stagnate islands around the world is merely definitions, the islands that fluctuates are as real as the Moon that creates them. Not long ago, I had no idea such a thing as a “vanishing”, or a “temporary” island existed on this planet. I was intrigued, and within my previous notions of the definition of an island, a new love for the shifting idea of a temporary island grew inside me. I had to know more.
The list appeared almost endless. There are over eighty temporary islands on this planet, also known as tidal islands, and that doesn’t include the vanishing islands, which are at times completely submerged under water. The waves of gravitation are everywhere, and as our planet move, the Moon moves with it, and the temporary islands all over the world are affected and redefined sometimes as much as two times a day. One of these unusual temporary islands is Haligi, located in the North Sea coast of Germany. “Don’t get caught on the passage as the tide comes,” they warn lingering pedestrians, for then their land, otherwise linked to the mainland, becomes full-fleshed islands, completely secluded from each other.
The Point Walter Sandbar in Perth, Australia, gradually become a tidal island and is today only connected to the mainland in extreme low tides. Another one, also in Australia is the former Bennelong Island in Sidney, developed into Bennelong Point and is now the location of the Sydney Opera House. With low tide, a sandy tidal bank connects the island of Omey Islands on the western edge of Ireland. It is possible to drive or walk across the sandy strand by following arrowed signs, but don’t get lost, for at high tide, the water is deep enough to cover a car. Forty-three (unbridged) temporary islands can be walked to from the UK mainland.
The most famous tidal island is Le Mont-Saint-Michel, France. The island has held firm against any attackers since ancient time due to its temporary state as an island. It draws its name from the seat of a monastery, and the structural composition of the town, today with a population of 44, is an example of the medieval society that constructed it: God at the top, the abbey and monastery below, the great halls; then stores and housing; and at the bottom, outside its city walls, houses for fishermen and farmers. It remained unconquered during the Hundred Years War, and was later turned into a prison by Louis the eleventh. A castle on a temporary island. Could there be anything as romanticised.
Then we have the artificial islands like Belmont, an island no one is allowed to ever set foot. The illusion of an illusion; a landmark only a magician can create, and we seem to have a few of those, not only in Manhattan, but also in the well-known visionary country of Dubai. For there is no easy task to create an island, something the landscaper on Dubai are well familiarised with as they struggle with the same envious force of the Moon, as this planet has confronted since its own creation.
If there were no water, there would be no islands, for there are no islands on the Moon. The deep scars of the Moon cover its dry surface as it orbits this blue planet, using its gravitational pull to push and tug the deep oceans until its waves stroke against each landmark, below and over the surface, eroding it slowly as ebb and flow of the tides interchange. In constant torment and envy of the luscious Earth with its water covering its uneven surface, forced to remain connected to the very same place, the Moon has found a way to control it. So, the Moon pulls the water towards itself, as if trying to steel its enigmatic secret, always out of reach but never out of sight, and in doing so has created the one thing the splendour of the Moon lack, the allure and beauty of the temporary islands.
Alex Backstrom, often immerse in the topic of memories and subjective recollection, examining our perspective of biased recall and its primary place within our awareness, concentrating particularly within the scope of realism and science fiction as an alternative realm. Born in Stockholm in 1982, she lives and works in Stockholm after spending most of her life in the countryside of Sweden, and studying in Orange County, California, At CSUF. Alex Backstrom is a self-taught writer and artist whose first self-published novelette Property of Scavenger won bronze in the Independent Publisher Award, NYC in 2012 for its unique design, which story is currently in the process of being adapted to a short web series. In 2017, she collaborated with the international artist duo Lundhal & Seitl writing a text The Jellyfish Trap for their solo exhibition at Kunstmuseum Bonn, published in the exhibition catalogue and serving as an intitial part of the exhibition. Her first short film Base 05 was featured in the Boston Sci-Fi Film festival in 2014, and her second short film A Self-Deluded Man is nominated as best short in film festivals in Madrid and Los Angeles in 2018.