Napoleon Bonapart was exiled twice in his lifetime.
The first time to Elba, an island in the Mediterranean, where he seemed to have a pretty nice time. He was still afforded the prestige he was used to, his home was maybe not a palace, but still some very nice digs and he made time lying around eating fresh cherries with one of the local girls in addition to spending time with his mistress. Napolean stayed on Elba less than a year before he went back to France and messed up even more.
It was called Waterloo and it prompted the British to exile him to the remote island of St. Helena, an island in the South Atlantic, which is still one of the most remote, hard to get to places in the world. And in our age of globalization, that’s no small feat.
So there he was on this tiny rock of an island in the middle of vast ocean. I imagine him walking around on the cliffs, looking out at the expanse of water surrounding him and knowing he would die there.
But maybe he felt like he was already dead.
From the pictures I have seen St. Helena seems very like a purgatory type of place. Craggy, windy, moldy, steep, quiet, lonely, isolated, hard to reach…are just some of the words used to describe it.
For a man so used to intrigue and power, how devastating.
We don’t have to wonder or speculate on his state of mind, as so much has been written about the feisty French emperor. He detested St. Helena Island.
Exile– the state or period of forced or voluntary absence from one’s home or country.
My Facebook account has not been active for several months now. I have left all of my volunteer commitments. My phone now only serves to keep the time or occasionally check the weather forecast. My contact list has been pared down to emergency only numbers.
I still go to work every day. I shop and cook and clean my house. I read copiously and write on the computer or with soft pencils. I watch and wave from the dock as my family and friends venture out, each to their own battles and adventures. And then when they return I greet them with either trumpets or gauze.
At first it was hard, this self imposed exile, but it was needed. Exhausted after too many Waterloo’s where I had not been Wellington I felt a bittersweet relief as I stood on the sandy beach.
I do not detest my island.
I embrace my silence and my exile.
I walk my craggy cliffs and look out at the vast ocean around me and I am thankful for my St. Helena.