After a very long winter, spring has arrived on the island in a flurry of crocuses and daffodils. Covid-19 has meant an island life even quieter than usual, with most people staying home throughout the winter except for necessary forays to the grocery store or medical appointments. We will look back on it as a winter of cancellations–no potlucks, no church services, no holiday parties with half the island crammed into someone’s living room. But it has also been a time of neighbor helping neighbor, whether it’s lending a hand with shoveling, checking in to see who needs a pickup at the grocery store, or driving a friend to a medical appointment. Although there have been no services at our little white church, volunteers continue to ring the church bell at noon every Sunday, just to signal that we are here and available for help if anyone needs it.
Fortunately, life is slowly returning to normal. Most residents are now vaccinated and many are once again heading to the mainland for lunch at one of the open restaurants or for the simple pleasure of wandering around Reny’s. Construction is booming and before long summer people will be rumbling across the bridge that connects us to the mainland. There are no “good” places to wait out a pandemic, but if it has to be done, there are certainly worse places than on a small island in Maine.
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.
After our long, cold winters everyone in Maine looks forward to spring and the arrival of warmer weather. In a very lucky year we may get a taste of good weather in April, but for the most part the first warm days arrive in May. And with them arrive the first snowbirds–our summer visitors and residents–who tentatively return to their warm-weather homes while hoping they’ve missed the final snowstorm of the season.
Here on the island we look forward to seeing our tiny streets and miniscule village coming alive again, although life will continue to be slow until the end of June when families with school-age children are able to return. In the meantime, all over Maine, seasonal restaurants and hotels are reopening in preparation for Memorial Day, which unofficially kicks off the summer season.
In the old song, “June is Busting Out All Over,” the month of May is said to be “full of promises,” and that pretty much sums things up. We keep a close eye on the gardens, willing the tulips to open (those that have managed to escape the ravenous deer), watching daffodils unfold and waiting for the lilies-of-the-valley to perfume the air. Glorious spring days alternate with days with temperatures in the 30s and the threat of hail. It takes patience to live in this state!
May also sees families busy with weddings, graduations and vacation plans. As the weather warms up, I’ll be writing about some great places to visit in Midcoast Maine and elsewhere in the state, and now and then some escapes well beyond Maine. So do continue to drop by and consider joining those who follow me on this blog, whether for some vacation ideas or just some idle musings.
Thanksgiving in New England is always a special event since we tend to go all out to celebrate it as part of our local history. Maine, of course, was once part of Massachusetts, and Plymouth, Mass. the site of what we think of as the “first” Thanksgiving, So perhaps we have a special tie to the holiday
here. In any case, it’s a favorite holiday for many simply because it has no ulterior motives: It’s a time to get together with friends and enjoy good food and a relaxed day (and, if you’re so inclined, a football game or two).
As I write this, my little island is covered with snow that is still coming down hard. While this is not always the case at Thanksgiving, it’s also not unusual. We had flurries in October and this winter is setting up to be cold and long. It’s OK. One of the perks of living all or most of your life in this part of the country is knowing how to deal with the weather.
What’s on your Thanksgiving table? In Maine the traditional meal tends to include turkey, lots of stuffing, mashed potatoes, squash, possibly turnips (we’re big on root veggies here), and something green like green beans, peas, or Brussels sprouts. In my house we add creamed onions. And of course homemade rolls and plenty of gravy. And pies. And in my case, a cranberry cake that I have made for as far back as I can remember. Despite all the cooking, it’s a relaxed day, the calm before the storm of the Christmas rush. I’ll carve out an hour or so to sit in front of the fireplace with the family cat and just…be grateful.
However you spend your Thanksgiving, whatever goodies your table may hold, I wish you a happy one and a festive start to the holiday season.
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.
While it’s fun to visit Maine by car, locals will tell you that the best way to see the state is by water. As someone who lives on a small island with water views from every window, I have to agree. And when I’m not on the island I’m often either on our own small boat, a canoe, or lecturing on a cruise ship traveling up and down the coast. One of these coastal Maine trips might be just right for you, whether you choose one of the mega-cruise ships or a smaller, more intimate one. Both have their advantages. Large ships have something going on 24/7, while smaller ones have the advantage of being able to dock in smaller ports and exploring venues that the big ships can’t get to. Whichever you choose, a Maine coastal trip is a great way to wind up the summer or early fall season.
Midcoast Maine is especially popular right now, with ships docking at, or mooring just outside of, beautiful towns like Camden and Rockland, famous for their handsome downtowns and windjammer fleets; funky Belfast with its art galleries and unusual stores; Castine, tiny in size and huge in history; and Boothbay Harbor with its attractive stores and shops and nearby Botanical Gardens. Some cruise ships bracket these stops with visits to larger towns and cities, such as Bar Harbor and Portland, giving passengers a good overview of the Maine coast.
The weather has been especially beautiful this summer and our fall season is always lovely. Much as I enjoy looking at the water from my island home, being out on it is even better. Hope to see you along the way!
Happy New Year, everyone. Here on the island winter has definitely made its presence known, although less forcefully than some years. We’ve had a few cat-trackers (the locals’ term for a light dusting of snow–just enough for a cat to leave its paw prints in) and plenty of cold weather, but overall it’s been an easy winter so far. That will no doubt change as we move into February.
It’s a good time to take on a new project….writing a book, doing a major house cleaning, or taking on some job we’ve been putting off during the warm-weather months. On the other hand, with the holidays over, many islanders think about getting away to someplace warm. I’ve mentioned before that the little island store once had a tongue-in-cheek sign out reading “If you’re not here during the winter, you don’t deserve to be here in the summer.” It’s true, I think, that New Englanders in general, and Mainers in particular, take pride in what we can endure. Just part of the psyche from days gone by, I suppose, when guts and self-reliance got our ancestors through the long, cold winters.
If you are coming to Maine this winter, you’ll find plenty to do, including skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, skating, sledding and so forth, with no crowds and a totally relaxed atmosphere. And nothing beats sitting by the fire at one of our cozy inns with a glass of wine and the innkeeper’s cat in your lap. As I write this I’m looking out at one of the glorious sunsets that make island living so enjoyable any time of year. Wherever you are, stay warm and
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.