Along the northern shore road of Amherst Island are picket signs, taped or propped up against iron grates, stone walls and old farm fences, denouncing wind power and angrily demanding the island stay free of turbines. At first, cycling along a road in which farms have disappeared to be replaced with the expansive, expensive wonderlands of the wealthy professional class, these signs seemed like nothing more than rank hypocrisy. How many of these homeowners would have to commute for thirty or forty minutes to get to their jobs in Kingston or elsewhere? How many would continue to burn fossil fuels to support their own selfish, if understandable, desire for solitude and a life, however unrealistic, free of the clamour and masses? The signs were an ugly reminder of the Not in My Back Yard attitude that had stymied and fought against wind turbines in Scarborough and other districts in the GTA: we do enough, we drive small cars, we recycle, but those turbines are just so ugly and noisy.
Biking towards the western end of the island, the wind turbines on Wolf Island were hazily visible many kilometres away, slashing in the strong winds driving a squall towards us, patches of light interspersed by dark rolling clouds. On the western end of the island, the road veers 90 degrees southward and suddenly the forest that overgrew the dirt road and fields full of sheep that lined it gave way to a savagely windswept plain, with stunted and isolated trees standing alone all the way to crashing surf. Forward progress was extremely difficult here: the bikes wavered and eyes were kept closed as much as possible. Separating the field from the road was a relatively new fence, hung with wire and more anti-wind turbine signs. The number of birds was incredible, and of species, swallows, for example, I have never seen in their striking plumage and angular shape. They dipped and sped across the road, as stymied occasionally as we were; unbeknownst to us, the entire western edge of the island had been converted into a bird sanctuary with impressive success, encouraging a splendid variety of birds to nest beyond the familiar (because rugged and adaptable common sparrow, robin and black bird). Crucial chronology: was the bird sanctuary first, and thus, because of the disruptions caused by wind turbines, in danger? Or was it opened after, in a cynical bid to keep the island free of wind power?
At the south-western edge, where the road again veers 90 degrees, we stopped and ate lunch, among the worn slabs of the south shore, pummelled as the storm approached by muddy brown waves; spiders and centipedes were evacuating from the water line, scurrying for cover from spray and water. We tempted the storm, it seems, watching cormorants soar low and effortlessly through the rising winds; geese huddled with their goslings ten metres away, while seagulls awkwardly attempted to keep alight. My partner here, more travelled and wiser in these things, said at that moment, the skies gray and the air thick with the sound of water roaring against rocks, that this much like northern Scotland. The wind was so strong it evaporated my stream of piss, turning into more sea spray. Waves crashed over my shoes and ankles, soaking me; I laughed then, and laughed more when the squall hit and rain coming in sideways and storm-tossed Lake Ontario harassed us and drowned us all along the south shore. Water leaked from our boots; eyes had ceased to be much use. Spare clothing was no longer of much use. A garter snake slithered across the road, cleaned and bright from the rain. Taking the ferry back, we squeezed our socks and left puddles on the deck.