One Week on Matinicus
“What the heck is going on out there on that island?”
They keep calling, e-mailing, showing up on the doorstep — reporters and freelancers, summer visitors who feel that they’re insiders and off-island friends who think this place is nearly outer darkness. Some are truly concerned about troubled neighbors; others are just vultures, eager for
sensationalist dirt. The first group I cannot help. The second is worthy of not one minute; I won’t give them a thing.
You think you really want to know what’s been going on around here? I’ll tell you. Pay attention.
The school kids’ photographic art show, entitled “Matinicus: The Place Beyond,” which is the name of a song, is skillfully hung in the church basement. This is sponsored in part by Julia’s Gallery for Young Artists in Rockland and the Farnsworth Art Museum, and is a part of the larger
Building Bridges project funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. They had a lovely opening on Friday night; the room was full, the art was wonderful, and the kids did sing the song. The show will remain up for several weeks.
For movie night, we had “Bend it Like Beckham;” that happens on Thursdays in the schoolroom. The Red Dahlia Society strawberry daiquiri annual is slated for Judy’s house this year. It’ll be good to finally get all those damned strawberries out of my freezer. Nat plays his music on the wharf. People invite each other over for supper. Summer people get here and forget they’ve ever left.
Amy and David come to speak with me about a wedding cake. I offer the option of chocolate; they like the idea. A family of cottage renters orders a birthday cake for their 14-year-old. He prefers vanilla. How odd. For an island baby shower, a cake arrives from the mainland upon which the
purveyor forgot to write anything, so I get a call from Lori and Julie to bring my pastry tip over and inscribe the desired congratulatory message. I guess that’s my job---“words of sugar.” Hmm.
The SUNBEAM brings Sharon and Rob, who spend the night, then the boat comes back and stays; there is the telemedicine clinic, and visiting aboard the boat in the evening. The cook buys some Matinicus lobsters for the crew’s supper.
Emily goes to France; she cannot seem to call any TDS Telecom phone numbers from Paris, so sends happy messages through her grandmothers in Scarborough and South Thomaston…all well, having a great time. Lance Armstrong finishes the Tour de France in third, as Emily stands along the Champs Elysees watching. She grew up on Matinicus and is now a bicycle racer. Eric does paperwork for the University of Vermont, and I call to remind him to get his shots. He grew up on Matinicus but has fallen under the spell of the mountains. The phone man tells his boss at TDS about the problem with the calls from France.
All agreed it a generally nasty ferry ride on the 24th. George’s passenger boat trip is cancelled due to seas. I guess it was a real “Nor’Easter” which is a funny word if you think about it. I heard that a pickup truck slid sideways on the deck of the state ferry and got a bit banged up. We had another ferry on the 27th, and that was recycling truck day. That means two hours out with a box truck, a quick load-up, and a two hour ride back. The battery in the rented truck died on the way out. Paul met me on the ferry ramp with the TDS Telecom truck and a set of jumper cables.
Nobody was getting off that ferry until I got my rig started, as I was right on the bow. Matinicus has the best “triple A” service! We haul back a great deal of cardboard, as usual; also a dead water heater, a bunch of pipe, and a busted truck tailgate. Eric helps me unload, and I teach him how you go around the different areas at Rockland Transfer Station.
I get a glimpse of the Coast Guard barque EAGLE sailing out of Rockland harbor that morning, while aboard that ferry, but I am sort of trapped in my truck and cannot watch it for long. She looks like a ghost ship in the fog. Beautiful.
A bunch of us are reading The Life of Pi. We will meet, and eat, probably eat curry, and maybe even talk about the book.
The store out here has Curtis’ meats, Doritos and Haagen Dazs. We are happier for it.
Surprising nobody so much as myself, I have just joined the school board.
There’s another request for VOIP on Criehaven, installation delayed a bit waiting for better weather but eventually it happens; the customer will arrange for somebody with a boat to come fetch Paul the technician, representing Midcoast Internet Solutions, from Matinicus. Doing business between Matinicus and Criehaven takes a bit of organizing. Mainlanders never seem to realize that there are people here who do not own a boat. That is not so counter-intuitive after all; just do the math.
The congregation of Matinicus had a church service without any minister last weekend, and will do the same next time; a few readings, a few songs, some quiet. This service was not in response to anything, but rather just because it was a summer Sunday. Margret brought a poem to read. Suzanne told me that they sang “Let the Lower Lights be Burning.” They always sing “Let the Lower Lights be Burning.”
I make my list for the mainland… must bring our EMS license in to Rockland Welding, which isn’t really called that any more, and exchange an oxygen cylinder. I hope to make it to Jill Tarkleson’s art show in Damariscotta. I have to buy another 50 pounds of lard for frying doughnuts.
I consider whether I can afford going to hear Bob Schieffer at the Strand in Rockland. He and I share a birthday. He sent me an autographed photo when I sent him a copy of a newspaper column I wrote once that mentioned him in passing. Garrison Keillor did not do the same.
A cottage owner orders a cake to surprise a renter who has been coming to Matinicus for 20 years. I am asked to write “Happy 20th Year” on the top. Emily comes back from France and goes almost directly to the Lobster Festival. A young girl who used to go to school here is honored there as Little Miss Vinalhaven. Emily ate no lobster, but saw quite a few friends, including Betty and Dave Allen. Captain David Allen was master of the SUNBEAM for many years, and Betty, the cook, likewise. Until their retirement a couple of years ago, they were a regular presence on
Matinicus a couple of times each month, when the ‘Beam makes her visit to our harbor. Good friends.
The electricity meters get read. The town’s bills get paid by the treasurer…I get reimbursed for renting the truck to haul the trash, there’s the phone bill for the town office, the monthly fee for pagers for the EMT’s, the big chunk of local taxpayer’s money that goes to support our school (this we do very nearly by ourselves). Clayton and Paul talk about power company generators with people from Alaska Diesel Electric. Word goes around about the oil boat coming as soon as they can but the captain’s wife just had a baby. Smith and May is called with questions about somebody’s heater. FW Webb and Redlon & Johnson, Knox Brothers and Standard Electric and Spear’s are called frequently. We need parts, always more parts. Send them out on the airplane, bring them to the boat over there to O’Hara’s. Most still call it O’Hara’s. Have somebody on the
mainland go pick them up…fittings and filters and essential pieces of every machine.
Viking Lumber brings another truckload of lumber on the ferry. All spare hands muster to help unload.
George hauls people, dogs, wine, beer, rum, paint, rope, copper tubing, and mail out to the island. He hauls people, dogs, laundry, rocks, live lobsters, frozen surplus bread, and mail back off the island. The guys from Penobscot Island Air pick up the mail. Emily picks up the bread and takes it to the soup kitchen at St. Brendan’s. George and Robin’s son Paul receives his unlimited-tonnage captain’s license by expedited delivery. A man with his two children, sitting in the stern of the ROBIN R., turns out to be my eighth-grader from 22 years ago when I was the teacher here. He has lived on the mainland since high school. It’s good to see him again.
I make doughnuts, and more doughnuts, and more doughnuts. I assume somebody will send the DEP up here soon to find out what I do with the used up four pounds of lard when I change the fat.
A letter comes from a reader (not an e-mail, a physical letter). She tells me she enjoyed my recent column in another publication. There is no message, no news, no question, just a friendly note from a total stranger. It made my day.
As I write, the sun is trying valiantly to burn through the ubiquitous fog. George is on the water, hauling passengers, as usual. Paul is fixing phones and delivering propane, as usual. The anadama bread is in the oven, as usual. Bare-chested, sunburnt guys get off the airplane with beer and tools and roofing tar. I pick a few peas and a lot of St. Johnswort. Visitors walk to south sandy beach; later they will carry back sea glass and sand dollars, go to their houses and cottages and cook lobsters and hot dogs and black bean burritos. Rossi the golden retriever comes over to spend the night. Alice stops by with her pack basket, and buys a cinnamon
roll. As usual.
Life goes on.