Still Snowing on Matinicus (A Little)
By Eva Murray
Created Dec 6 2007 - 10:06pm
December 5, 2007
As I write, we've just had the first snowstorm of the season, and it wasn't that big a deal. The guys went around with each other about whether or not to plow the roads; some thought it a waste of money as it wasn't really necessary, while others wanted it done, and it was. In the end, it was probably good for the town truck; it got a work-over and some maintenance. Some of the guys just went out with their own trucks for the heck of it. I confess with some sheepishness that probably if I owned a snowplow, I'd be out there for the fun of it too.
The school closing announcements on the morning news leave us out, of course. Most generally, school closings are about conditions on the roads, and without any need for school buses, our school is never called off due to weather. There have been days when I am sure that Matinicus, Monhegan, and perhaps Isle au Haut or maybe Frenchboro are the only schools open in the whole state. I'm not sure why, but I watch the list roll by on the bottom of the television screen, as the weather people overreact and get all Shakespearean about the four-inch snowfall. I wait to see if anybody ever will call in "SAD65" and add us to the big list. It'll never happen, unless somebody does it to be funny. Now, there's an idea.
We can't help but recall how back in the day it would have taken a lot more weather than this to close school. My husband tells about the efforts on the part of schoolboys from Cape Elizabeth (back when anybody was actually "from" Cape Elizabeth) to call the designated radio station, put on their deepest authoritarian stage voice, and try to foist themselves off as the Superintendent of Schools. There must have been some sort of agreed-upon high sign code word known only to the Super and the radio guys; at any rate the cunning plot never worked. On Matinicus Island, this one-room school being the entirety of SAD #65, the Superintendent is not here, and has nothing to do with school closings. A snow day is generally when the teacher gets stuck on the mainland. Often she'll hear about it, too, from the unsympathetic; "Why did you even want to leave for the weekend?" Boy, oh boy.
I did call a snow day once, during my turn as the island teacher 20 years ago. We had no heat in the schoolhouse because the diesel fuel had gelled up in the filter, blocking the flow of oil and shutting the furnace down. There was supposed to have been a load of kerosene delivered with the winter fuel oil, to thin it out, but we hadn't got the K-1. The fuel dealer at that time yelled at me about it, though it wasn't my fault, I had ordered the kerosene. The parents weren't too happy either. Such is teaching.
I also remember a day when most of the kids came to school on their ice skates. I remember us all going down to the ice pond to skate and calling it phys ed.
Yesterday I baked and sold eight loaves of Italian bread, chasing my customers around the island as they chased after the geese, a water filter, the propane bill. The power did go out for just a few minutes but nobody could find a tree down. I happened to walk into the post office with some mail, the lights having gone out while I was in my truck driving from my house. I asked about the lights being off. "The power just went out." The postmaster was unable to weigh my letter in the dark, as the new postal scales are all electronic. This is, as I see it, not an improvement in the technology.
A couple of minutes later, Maury and I were standing in the powerhouse when Paul started the system back up. It's really neat, for lack of a better word, to be in there when all is quiet, which is decidedly not normal, and to hear the big breakers close and the three diesels jump to life each in turn. Perhaps a limb came down and then fell free, dumping the system but clearing itself. Are you interested in hearing about generator under-voltage and failure to parallel? We can talk later. It is interesting; our small system seems to be a bit of an anomaly. Lots of people understand big power generation and distributions systems, and more and more people nowadays understand freestanding single-household off-the-grid systems. The ways of a small grid seem to be an enigma, though. Talk to people about the realities here, and half the time you get an argument. Many of the remaining just stare blankly.
Anyway, today, I baked and sold six loaves of whole wheat. The purchasers were much easier to find, as most of them were at school looking over the kids' "explorers" projects. Of course, hardly anybody had any money with them, but that's normal. With no store here, few have cash in their pockets. The bread business works on a lot of credit.
The storm, if it was a storm, is over but the wind will howl until Memorial Day. We got a little more snow around dark, as a friend stopped by with four lobsters for our supper. A little snow improves the scenery greatly because more often than not we get rain, rain before, after, or during any given or promised snowstorm. I was grateful for a few flakes, grateful for the 31 degrees. Let's hope it stays below freezing. Loving this place is sometimes like loving a crotchety old curmudgeon with a bad attitude and six toes. It must be love, because it doesn't always make a whole lot of sense.
It says in the "You Know You're From Matinicus If…" list that you can ask one of the guys if he's heard a weather forecast, and he'll reply something like 'I heard it's supposed to come around Sou'west'. From this you can extrapolate the expected precipitation, temperature, visibility, and every other meteorological variable.