Thinking of coming out to Matinicus to “find yourself?”
There is a mystique about islands and other remote places, deep woods and lonely deserts, outposts and outback stations and jungle postings and mountain tops, places where you cannot hear the freeway. People think that given such solitude, such silence, they will dig deep within themselves and discover something inspired.
Might be they’d just go crazy, too.
Recently somebody asked me how I came to live on Matinicus Island. Being neither a vacationer nor a lobsterman, I came to this remote community the third most common way.
Twenty-three years ago I answered a classified ad in the Bangor Daily News that simply read, “teacher wanted for one-room school.”
(…and refreshments will be served!)
I padded down the stairs from our unheated bedroom to the cast-irony banging noises of a wood stove wrestling, so it sounded, with an alligator. The kitchen was colder than usual. Normally when the temperature is expected to dip into the low twenties or below overnight, we build up a coal fire before going to bed. This unstylish fuel burns long and hot and keeps our place quite comfortable through the wee hours until the edge of daylight, when a heap of free spruce takes over the job of keeping my large kitchen warm.
The weather forecast, an islander’s constant companion, suggested the potential for a real mess. The same great rainstorm that had caused mudslides and evacuations in California had made its way east, and we were in for some big water. Maybe. One never knows. Nobody worries too much out here about the rain, or even about the snow, as a rule. It’s the wind that causes us to toss and turn in our bunks. A maritime community grows anxious when the wind blows hard, and for good reason. A power company lineman can say the same. Being used to it does not help.
We all think we’re going to paint our bathrooms just because it’s winter.
Maybe Matinicus needs a Sister City.
We’ve used this expression once in a while in a sort of meaningless way to mean other island towns, but maybe we ought to get ourselves a real, bona-fide sister city. There’s an organization called Sister Cities International that can help formalize this sort of thing. We ought to find out what’s involved. Maybe we could trade them some crabmeat for some elk steaks or pad thai or whatever.
If you hear a crunching sound, it’s just my computer being dropped from a small airplane onto a ledge somewhere. I’ll get to why in a minute.
On Matinicus Island, making lobster chowder is generally a man’s work.
There aren’t many of us around.
An intrepid sort with a tight hat who doesn’t mind a bit of the Alberta Clipper in the face can walk north the mile and a half down the ridge of the island until he emerges from the trees into the airstrip parking area. He will pass about thirty structures, roughly six of which are occupied. Another five or six will have somebody in residence from time to time, a lobsterman on no particular schedule. On Matinicus Island this time of year, most of the homes sit empty.