An End to a Matinicus Island Summer
Of course, the weather right now is better than it has been for three months. Of course, the skies are brilliant and the air is fresh and the breeze is gentle and the fog has backed off all the way to New Brunswick. Needless to say, few are here to enjoy these amazing days.
Liam and Neil are here, from England and Nevada, respectively, by way of our daughter’s high school. A few random visitors are still around; Jim’s sister, Hal’s niece, Ann’s and Ava’s grandkids squeeze in a few days before school starts, before work becomes inflexible.
Lydia left at 6:30 this morning on the airplane, headed for southern Vermont to go to high school. This is neither Dickensian chill nor elitist snoot…rather, there is no way for a Matinicus teenager to commute to high school, and boarding school is for some the best option. Think about it — everybody is from out of town. Eric left a week ago, headed for northern Vermont, to college. Lydia and Eric won’t see the island again most likely until Thanksgiving. A few others who don’t have to travel quite so far plan to come back for Labor Day Weekend, and it looks like the weather will permit them passage. That is nothing we take for granted.
As I write, two days before Labor Day, it has suddenly become fall. Everything feels different. Some years we make jokes about “rats leaving a sinking ship” as the passenger boat, the state ferry, and the airplane haul away most of the neighborhood. This is not entirely a bad thing, but I will happily admit that compared to most coastal towns Matinicus is spared the onslaught of “summer jerks.” We get a few high-maintenance types, a few pompous twits who go out of their way to enlighten us backward savages with their wisdom, and quite a few who don’t have the courtesy to get out of the middle of the road when a truck is coming, but all in all, most who come here have made friends, understand the logistical demands, are willing to sort their trash, and are delighted to find neither fast food nor celebrities.
The stargazing is terrific during these end-of-summer days, when humidity is low and no long underwear is required of the amateur astronomer. A couple of days ago we were out looking at the four Galilean moons of Jupiter, three on one side, one on the other, in their perfect lineup.
I bake for the last days of the summer trade — parmesan-herb bread, orange rye, cinnamon raisin, whole wheat. Baguettes on Saturday, blueberry pies on Sunday. The little kids stop by through the morning for their cinnamon buns; fishermen generally prefer whoopee pies. Everybody’s been after the ginger cookies this year. Each summer, something different is especially popular, for no particular reason.
The background noise of the island is noticeably changed. This place is quieter, in several senses. Not peaceful on all fronts, not easy, not relaxed; that would be a lot to ask this year. You can tell that a lot of people have left by the amount of electricity generated by the Detroits in the Matinicus Plantation Electric Company powerhouse, by the chances of finding a decent parking spot at the airstrip, by the fact that the store has changed its hours, by the number of extra passenger trips George has to run, by the number of doughnuts I fry. Each, for better or worse, is down.
I sell propane, haul recycling to Rockland on the Island Transporter, buy a few lobsters from one of the guys for my daughter’s friends. Liam intrigues the kids with magic tricks, Neil rides a unicycle to Suzannne’s, Suzanne makes us all hot chocolate, and Tom and Paul knock off work for the same. The season’s final craft market at the church is mostly a swap meet for the regulars; I buy my neighbor’s hand-knit socks, they buy my doughnuts. Island children show off new school bags and haircuts. There will be six in school this year. Our single eighth-grader has left for high school, to be replaced by a kindergartner. Ms. Wells the teacher stops in with a detail or two, because I am on the school board now and can no longer use the excuse that it is summertime and I can’t possibly think about school.
Before she heads back to the mainland and her other life as a high school senior, Emily will eat raisin bread. She will eat parmesan-herb bread and sticky buns and possibly too many whoopie pies. I tell Lydia and Eric to send me their new mailing addresses, so I can send them blueberry cake or chocolate chip cookies in a priority mail box. It’s the least I can do for my island teenagers.
Not a bad time of year, really.
Eva Murray managed no garden, no suntan, no beach-reads and no Perseids this year, but is probably in good company.