So the lady says, “Yes I do have a place to rent, it’s a bit small, let me show you.” You follow her around the back of the house but only see a run down shack-like dwelling you figure must be for tools or chickens.

“Well here it is,” she says, gleefully pointing to the shed.

It’s the Island so there isn’t much choice, you have to at least take a look. Not too long ago your landlord said she was going to sell the house that you have been renting year-round for a number of years. Your first thought was “Oh no, what am I going to do?”

It’s a common problem for many Islanders and it’s easy to get gripped by fear and anxiety and entertain thoughts of leaving the Island, of leaving your home. If it happens in the fall there are winter rentals that are commonly available but if you have become part of the community that is only a stopgap measure. If you have a family the tension is even greater. The kids are accustomed to the school they attend, the cats are accustomed to the yard, the dog is accustomed to barking at the guy that walks by every day at eight in the morning. If you are single the options include camping in the summer, if you can find a friend who welcomes that arrangement.

As a renter on the Island, you are much like an air plant, rootless and nurtured more by the air than the ground, drifting from habitat to habitat, a rock here, a tree there, totally at the whim of the wind. You tell yourself home is where the heart is and on the Island our hearts are melded by community. Which is why, when she opens the door and beckons, you agree to take a look.

The doorway is slightly taller than the lady and the roof inside slopes down from there. Walking in, you have to crane your neck each step of the way until finally the only option is to sit. There are a couple of chairs near the tiny coal stove.

“This is a nice little stove,” you remark. “Is it a coal burner?”

“Yes it is in fact, but I am a little hesitant to have someone use it. Do you have experience burning coal?”

“Yes ma’am, and wood too.”

“Well it’s a possibility,” she says. “We do have an electric heater and this building has a separate meter.”

That she called it a building seemed a bit of a stretch, the structure wasn’t but 10 by 10, but you’re in a rough spot so you let it go. “Well how much do you want a month for the, um, the building?”

“We rent it for four hundred a month off season and eight hundred for the summer months, June to September, plus utilities,” she says.

Looking around you see the toaster oven, the single light hanging from the ceiling, the small sink and the electric hot plate, and figure if you could get coal it wouldn’t cost that much for utilities.

“Well, if you’ll have me I’ll take it,” you say, figuring it’s not a bad price for a whole building. “By the way, what about bathroom facilities?”

“You can use the facilities at the house between six and seven a.m. and six to seven p.m.,” she says. “I’ll show you the way.”

You exit the building, finally able to stand erect and make a deal with the landlord. And as you walk away, you feel lucky that you found a place to land and think it’s okay, that it’s not just a shack, and that you can remain on the Island and continue to be part of the community. After all, home is where the heart is, even if it is sitting near a tiny coal stove in a renovated chicken coop.

Joe Keenan is a roofer, baker and musician and longtime Islander.