From the book
SUMMER SOLSTICEBy nighttime Hornby Island would be a blaze of lights. It was the summer solstice, and for the festival of Luminara all the scattered squatters and homeowners were making luminaries to celebrate the day of longest light.
Madeline, walking home from the ferries her last day of school, wondered why they celebrated a long day of light with more light. They celebrate the shortest days with lights, winter solstice with lights and the long days of summer with lights. Lights, lights, lights. What's wrong with a little dark? If we didn't spend so much on candles, maybe we'd have money for shoes.
Hornby was a very small island east of Vancouver Island. Madeline lived there with her parents, Flo and Mildred, for so they asked to be called by everyone, including Madeline, even though their names were Harry and Denise. Flo and Mildred were hippies who had started out in San Francisco but migrated north. There they joined the rest of the family, who were living not one hundred percent legally in Canada, spread out on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. When Flo and Mildred got to Hornby Island, they came into their own by discovering that with very little effort they could both play the marimba and make jewelry out of sand dollars. There was no stopping them after that.
As nature often has it, they had a child who did not want to join them in their all-day pursuit of enlightenment and a better mung bean. Instead, she became very good at cooking and cleaning and sewing and bookkeeping and minor household repairs. She was the one who changed the lightbulbs. When only ten, she got herself a waitress job part time at the Happy Goat Cafe, a fine establishment of three tables, some tree stumps, the owner, (KatyD), and a resident goat. Madeline managed to earn enough money there that if the sand-dollar art had a slow month or two, they still managed to get by.
All the other children on Hornby were homeschooled, but Madeline preferred to get up at five every morning and walk to the harbor, where she took a ferry to Denman Island, the bus across Denman, the ferry to Vancouver Island and then the bus that took her to a real school. She had made the decision to do this when she entered grade five and was finally old enough to make the trip without help. This earned her the reputation for eccentric, but the happy hippies of Hornby were tolerant of Madeline, if a little wary. Mostly they felt sorry for Flo and Mildred, raising an oddball like that.
The children in Madeline's school were less tolerant. The students who came from other tiny islands like Hornby usually wore homemade natural fabrics and, often, tie-dyed clothes. They bathed infrequently because water on the small islands was scarce. They never had money for field trips, and a good portion of them didn't seem to brush their hair. Madeline was as neat and clean as she could be, but her clothes were never in style or even always in one piece, and she was the only child who had ever come all the way from Hornby. This alone made her suspect.
Madeline's schoolmates, raised in more mainstream, connected-to-the-rest-of-the-world ways, thought all children from the smaller islands were holier-than-thou, attached to bizarre goddess-worshipping religions, and surly. Madeline didn't start out surly, but she quickly became surly. She didn't know how to make the other children like her, and she felt she constantly had to defend herself from unspoken accusations about a way of life she hadn't chosen to begin with. Well, she thought, who needs them? I bet none of them know how to make plumbing repairs. I bet none of them have read Pride and Prejudice. Twice.
On this summer solstice day,...