I hope this finds everyone doing well and staying safe during this most unusual of summers. Our normally quiet island is quite full this summer with many summer people arriving early and planning to stay later in the fall than usual. Residents and visitors alike are having to make their own fun, as the usual events, from house parties to bean suppers to the annual fair have all been cancelled due to Covid-19.
In some ways the low-key summer has proved to be relaxing, with extra time to sit on the deck and read a book without feeling guilty, or to take an extra socially-distanced walk around the island without having to hurry home because someone is coming over or we have to be someplace else. But of course we are a lobstering and fishing village, and it hasn’t been an easy summer on many of our wonderful neighbors who work in the industry. We’ve been helping out as much as we can by buying lots of local lobsters and haddock.
Each evening at 6:00 pm volunteers ring the bell on the little Congregational Church — the only church on the island — as a show of support for all those on the front lines fighting the virus, and also to let everyone know that although we not see much of each other this summer, we’re all here, and all in this together.
Wherever you are, if you are dreaming of Maine, the ocean is still here, the fishing boats are drifting past my office window as I write this, many of the ferries and schooners are back and in business and welcoming passengers, and restaurants are open all over the state. And if you can’t make it this year, they’ll all be here in 2021, so there’s plenty of time to plan. Meanwhile, stay positive and stay safe, and check back now and then for more musings about life on a small island in Maine.
You may know one or more of the jokes about Maine weather, such as “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute,” or “We have just two seasons here: Winter and the Fourth of July.” Both sayings are proving true this winter, and over the last few days we have had snow, sleet, drenching rains, subzero temperatures, and a dusting of more snow to top it all off. The result is a yard that looks and feels like a skating rink. In an emergency I guess we could pick our way out using crampons, ski poles, and wearing plenty of heavy clothes, but we’re taking the easy way out and staying home with a fire, a book, and a lap-warming cat. Fortunately we have a well-stocked freezer, and although cabin fever will set in before long, the temperatures are supposed to start rising tomorrow, the sun will come out, and we should be freed of our personal ice palace within a couple of days. It’s all part of life in Maine in the winter, and one of those weeks that make life in Maine in the summer all the sweeter.
Wherever you may be, I hope you are faring well through the winter season. With February here, we know that March–and the first day of spring–
Today for the first time it’s clear that fall has come to the island. Not only have most of the summer people headed for warmer climates, but the air is brisk and the first trees are starting to turn. Once again there’s little traffic on the streets and the island has begun to turn back into itself. The summer house parties and tennis tournaments are over until next year and the social scene until spring will pretty much consist of church suppers and neighborhood potlucks.
If you’ve never come to Maine, this is a great time to visit. Most hotels and B&Bs are open through Columbus Day, harvest fairs are in full swing throughout the state, and in Damariscotta, in midcoast Maine, plans are well underway for the annual Pumpkinfest, an event that has now achieved international fame. Growers vie to grow the largest pumpkins and artists carve and decorate them. Entertainment, street food, a pumpkin dessert contest, and plenty of activities for kids are all part of the festivities. And Damariscotta itself is a lovely village with interesting shops and restaurants to explore. Plan a visit if you can. Days are still warm (ish), nights are brisk, and the sugar maples will be turning color. It’s a nice last vacation before the holiday season.
July is slipping by all too quickly, as usual. It’s my favorite month of the year and also seems the shortest. The island has come alive with summer residents and, now and then, a few tourists brave enough to travel off the beaten park and find us. We’ve had several blazing hot days that we all wish we could bottle and release in February when the snow is piled up to the first-floor windows. There’s plenty to do at this time of year, from swimming in an ocean finally warm enough not to turn you into a human popsicle, to clam festivals, camping, sailing, kayaking, star-gazing, and just kicking back with a local brew and a fresh lobster. Hot days like today, with just enough breeze blowing to keep things comfortable, are reason enough for living in Maine.
As you travel, watch for our local wildlife both on and off the water. Moose, deer, seals, loons, cormorants, and puffins (the only way to see these is from the water–try a puffin cruise with the Hardy III in New Harbor) are all easy to spot at this time of year. Did you know that Maine has the second-largest moose herd in the country? The only one larger is in Alaska.
Time to assemble the lobster salad and make a batch of wild blueberry muffins. Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful summer wherever your travels may bring you.
Here on the island things are finally greening up, the crocuses are in full bloom, deer are eyeing the emerging tulips and the sound of the lobsterboats is heard in the land. A few of the very first summer residents have arrived to open up their seasonal homes. They may not be here for the season just yet and will travel back and forth to their winter homes, but they are getting things ready for summer. It’s always fun to see the island come alive again after a long Maine winter.
What we do when we leave the island? There’s plenty going on in Maine at this time of year, and it’s a great time to visit if you’re looking for an early vacation. Check out the Portland Science Center, for example. “Space: A Journey to Our Future: and “The Robot Zoo” are the current exhibits and fun for the whole family. (Educational, too, but you don’t have to tell the kids that!)
Or maybe you’d prefer a leisurely drive along the coast, visiting villages like Boothbay Harbor, Belfast, Rockland, and Camden, staying at some charming inns along the way. Whatever you choose to do, springtime in Vacationland can’t be beat!
March is always an intriguing month here on the island, with bitterly cold days followed by days like today filled with sunshine and birdsong that make you feel as if spring is right around the corner. All in all it has been a very easy winter, especially compared to the winter of 2014-15 when we were buried under 10 feet of snow. As of right now we’ve had just 35 inches or so, and although there have been some cold days, there have been plenty of mild ones as well.
These are the last days of real winter quiet here. A few summer people will no doubt arrive on the island at Easter, and even if they don’t stay beyond the weekend we’ll notice the temporary uptick in traffic, and lights and activity in houses that have been quiet all winter. It’s a sign of things to come. Some early birds will arrive in April and May, but the big surge of summer people comes right after Memorial Day. It’s always fun to see the island start to come alive again.
How do we spend the winter out here? It’s a question I’m often asked. Once in a while there’s a house party–including our open house at Christmas–or a social event at the island’s little white church, or a trip off the island for dinner and a movie. But it helps to have a project to carry one through from January through March. Not a problem for me since I work on the top floor of our old Victorian house and watch the island’s comings and goings through a window overlooking the water. As I’ve written before, it’s not a life for everyone, but after a busy summer, I appreciate the peace and solitude. And now, after a long, quiet winter, I’m looking forward to seeing old friends from the summer colony and watching the island buzz with activity.
Leaf peeping season is over for another year as we all begin the annual cleanup of all those once-glorious leaves that are now simply brown and piled up on the ground. The year moves on. This morning we awoke to frost but also to a wonderful clear day with bright blue skies and puffy white clouds. From my office window I can see whitecaps on the water and an occasional lobster boat, but the pleasure boats have long since been hauled out until next spring.
As I’ve mentioned before, fall has never been my favorite season. I love summer and can tolerate winter and always wish we could move from mid-October directly to winter, thus avoiding the unpredictable weather of late autumn. On the other hand, I’d hate to miss Thanksgiving, which is such a great holiday. I’m originally from Massachusetts, where Thanksgiving is a really big deal. It’s refreshing, isn’t it, to have a holiday that has no agenda except getting together with friends and family.
Country fair season has ended in Maine, but now churches and communities are running harvest fairs and will soon be sponsoring holiday fairs. These are always fun….tables filled with baked goods, crafts, wreaths, warm knitted sweaters and mittens, and plenty of other goodies. If you are coming to Maine in the next few weeks, be sure to watch for these fairs as they are a great way to start your holiday shopping and meet some locals at the same time. Wherever you are, enjoy the season.
To those who follow me regularly, my apologies for the long delay between posts. I spent much of the summer sailing up and down the gorgeous coast of Maine, and when I was home my house and garden demanded much of my attention. And then there were the houseguests. When you live on a Maine island, you become very popular! I love company and am always happy to see old friends, but of course company means cooking to be done, entertainment to provide, and plenty of cleanup afterward. Anyway, it was a lovely, very busy summer, and I hope yours was the same.
Over Columbus Day weekend I judged desserts at the annual Damariscotta Pumpkinfest, always a fun time in midcoast Maine. If you’ve never been to it, you should put it on your calendar for the same weekend next year. The judging was fun….lots of goodies to sample, although I had a sugar buzz for several days afterward.
Fall foliage in Maine is just past its peak now. Many of the trees are still wearing their gorgeous colors of scarlet and gold, but rain the last couple of days is putting a quick end to one of the most beautiful times of the year. But, each season has its own beauty and before long the snow will be falling and bringing its own special look to the island. Of course after last winter and 110 inches of snow, we’re all hoping for a little less of the fluffy stuff.
Hope your summer was great and you are looking forward to Halloween and Thanksgiving.
Spring has truly come to the island at last. Long after the crocuses have come and gone elsewhere, they are finally in full bloom here and looking glorious. Extremely cold winters are said to be good for bulb plants and I’m holding out hope for tulips and daffodils. After the long, gray winter I think we are all hungry for color wherever we can find it.
The island remains quiet, probably for a few more weeks. Around Memorial Day the summer people will start to arrive, and when school gets out around the third week in June the island will be buzzing again. We’re savoring these last quiet weeks while also looking forward to seeing friends who are here only in the summer. Of course we have great bragging rights this year, having dealt with the coldest winter on record in Maine along with nearly 120 inches of snow.
I’ve just returned from a few days in New York City. The city is energizing, to say the least, compared to my quiet Maine village of fewer than 100 people. I always enjoy it…the restaurants, the Broadway shows (finally got to The Lion King, which was spectacular), and the shopping, but after a few days I’m also always happy to head home. It works both ways. In the summer a lot of visitors from New York arrive and it always takes them a while to unwind and get acclimated to a much slower way of life.
For now my days are spent alternating between working here in my home office and getting the yard ready for summer. Today the men arrived to put in our dock and float. Summer’s coming….I can feel it in the air!
It may be the shortest month of the year, but as we continue to deal with mountains of snow and frigid temperatures here on the island, February seems to be lasting forever. This is one of the few times that I can remember stalwart Mainers actually getting fed up with the weather. A few have taken off for warmer climates, but the rest of us are resolutely hanging on and waiting to turn the page on the calendar. We’ve finally had a few days without snow, although we are due for another six inches later in the week. Right now the cold is the biggest problem…well below zero last night and more chilly days and nights expected. Life has pretty much come to a halt on the island. It’s too cold even for the hardy lobstermen to venture out on the water, and pretty much the only people on the roads are the plow drivers, oil truck drivers, and workmen doing odd jobs like shoveling off roofs. So, how does one spend one’s time when it’s too cold to do much but hunker down inside? Those of us who work at home have no problem keeping busy. Deadlines don’t disappear because of the weather, and in some ways it’s good to work without a lot of distractions. When I sit here in my office in summer, looking out at the sailboats and lobster boats bobbing by, it’s a lot harder to keep my mind on my job. When June comes and our summer people return to the island, there will be lots of questions about why on earth we stayed on through such an historically bad winter. I guess the only answer is, “If you have to ask, you’ll never understand.” The stubborn New England personality is certainly part of it…we don’t like to give in or give up. And as I’ve mentioned before, there’s a certain pride in withstanding whatever Mother Nature throws at us. Nonetheless, spring will never be more appreciated than it will be this year. It’s less than a month away, and while it’s still way too soon to pack away the winter woolies and boots, I did a see a robin yesterday. There’s hope!