There is a tradition on Monhegan that I have a love-hate relationship with. The concept is simple: when your guest leaves the island you pick him or her a bouquet of flowers. S/he is supposed to throw the bouquet overboard as the boat departs. If the flowers wash up on Monhegan’s shores the guest is meant to return to the island as well. If the flowers drift out to sea…well, returning is not meant to be. It’s corny but timeless. I love the simplicity of the message. The concept is clear. But, what if no one picks you flowers? What if your host doesn’t partake in the cheesiness of it all?
The day after our wedding I bundled all the flowers left over from the reception and marched them down to the dock. Wandering from guest to guest I handed out bunches of flowers and explained the tradition. I could almost imagine some guests recoiling from accepting my bouquet. Come back? Here? Once was enough, their eyes seemed to say. I can’t blame them. After all, they had just survived a hurricane wedding and were about to head home in the aftermath. Winds were high, seas – rocky. It was going to be a rough ride.
It’s five years later and, to my surprise, some guests have returned. Oddly enough, Kisa’s side of the guest list bears more returners than mine. One couple is so in love with Monhegan they have made it their annual retreat. Same house, same time of year. They even plan the same meals year after year. They have the August pilgrimage down to a science. Yet, they never get tired of the island and all it has to offer…and even all that it doesn’t (paved roads, cell phones, cable television, electricity). They just don’t care. Being there is enough.
Maybe that’s all that matters. Maybe just being there is enough. Yes, the traditions are charming if not cheesy. Maybe that’s why we continue to pick the flowers. Pluck the hope. Send them off with the wish of return. Give them a beer can of flowers.