Writers have always loved islands - some so deeply and for so long that their names are joined in the popular imagination: Sappho's Lesbos, Robert Louis Stevenson's Samoa, Robert Graves's Mallorca. s Some writers may be drawn to an island by the solitude and separation from a former life. For others, it can provide society and a reunion with old friends. For me, Key West has long been both these sorts of islands. It gives me both solitude and companionship, as well as a welcome change of scene - and climate - every winter. s I came to Key West almost by accident. Two friends, the writers James Merrill and David Jackson, had rented a small house there and then had to postpone their arrival. It was midwinter, and upstate New York was dark and frozen, with heavy, soot-colored clouds threatening more snow. Everyone I knew, including me, had a cold or was coming down with one. s Though I knew nothing about Key West, except that it might be sunny even in January, I impulsively offered to sublet the house. Soon afterwards I boarded the plane in Ithaca in a thin gray snowstorm, wearing fuzzy boots and a heavy coat. I felt stupid and depressed: I had a stuffy nose and a scratchy throat from my oncoming cold. For weeks I had been too tired to write, and if I hadn't already paid rent for the Key West house, I would have stayed home in bed.