A few weeks ago somebody asked me to write a few lines about my first days on Matinicus and to explain, “in 25 words or less,” about the lobstering. I assured my friend that I was not the best person to describe the fishery, that any of my neighbors would do better, that even a couple of back-issues of National Fisherman might be in order; she just smiled sweetly as if to say “quit your wobbling and write about lobstering.” Sure.
Sometime during the night of February 25th, while the National Weather Service was forecasting twenty-five-foot seas and sixty-plus mile-an-hour gales, the bell buoy outside the Matinicus harbor breakwater broke free of its mooring and made its way into the inner harbor, within feet of the shoreline and a couple of fisherman’s wharves. The next morning, as islanders worked to clear trees and restore electricity to sections of the island that had lost power in the storm, the familiar ring of the harbor bell seemed a bit … loud.
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.
A Brunswick native recalls his winters watching over the town’s outdoor ice rink.
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.