When I am in Maine, I live on an island.
Without a boat.
I don’t even know how to ‘boat’, which is one of those words that I absolutely love because it can be a noun and a verb… I mean, not at the exact same time, but totally in the smallest amount of time it takes me to say ‘boatboat’.
The island where The Inn* lives – and I live some of my time – is one of those extremely convenient islands that you can drive onto. And trucks can drive onto it too, so you can have stuff delivered relatively easily (like my special sea salt, and also a stove (this I know)). I guess it’s kind of a lazy island, because it really has to do about zero work to get people to come to it. Look pretty and that’s about it.
Until the bridge gets stuck. Then all bets are off.
I love our little island – I mean, it’s not really ours, because we will always be ‘from away’ – but I do love it…
However if you want to talk ‘little’ and ‘island’…
I first heard about Monhegan when we first came to this part of Maine, more than a decade ago. And yesterday I headed over again – this time, for the first time, on my own.
I remember, back in 2005, seeing a sign downtown for a boat trip out to ‘Monhegan Island’. I looked it up. Twelve miles offshore, about a square mile of rocks and pines and a few dirt roads and hiking trails. Artists have painted there for, like, ever.
Another another Wyeth.
And I asked people about it.
Some described the island the way a tourist with a checklist might, with that casual “Oh, it’s cool. Not much there but…”
Some get that twinkle in their eyes before they even speak. The one that makes my heart skip a little. The one that tells you that a fellow human has stumbled across something he or she considers just a little bit magical.
It would be years… years before I would actually set foot, for the first time, on Monhegan.
Sam had a teacher, when he was in Middle School, who actually grew up on the island. And somehow he must have been talking about going to Maine and she must have asked whereabouts and he must have told her and then she was stopping me one afternoon to tell me that she grew up on Monhegan.
I said I always wanted to go.
She promised an ‘inside tour’.
And the next time she went home, and were at The Inn, we went.
We got up early in the morning, all of us.
Headed downtown, John and I got coffee.
The kids complained a little that we didn’t allow them to wear their flip-flops.
We woke up on the boat ride.
For an hour and a half we talked, told jokes, read a little.
The kids would ask for money for the little onboard refreshment bar, to buy everything from a bottle of water to a granola bar to Chips Ahoy cookies.
Sam put a dollar in the donation box and got us a trail map.
And suddenly, we were there.
Coming to a stop between two beautiful islands, standing high above a deep blue sea.
We met Sam’s teacher on the crowd dock, but soon found ourselves alone on trails.
Climbing steep cliffs with bare hands and helmet-free heads.
Looking at the Atlantic Ocean from high, and low, and in-between… for hours.
We even stopped in at the island’s schoolhouse which, at that time, had a total of three students between grades three and eight, and Ms. Hitchcock showed us where they used to hide – in a cubby above the door – to scare the teacher when she returned after lunch.
At the end of our time there, we grabbed pizza at the one place on the island where you could get a slice, a cold water, and donate 50 cents for the pleasure of using a super clean public restroom.
And it was delicious.
No, not the bathroom… or even the pizza.
Since then, I’ve been back, and back, and back again.
Yes, it is beautiful. Stunning, in places.
Okay, in almost all places.
They say there is very little of the island that has not been painted (not, literally, the island itself… I mean, that would be illegal I think… but figuratively. The landscape, the scenery, the wildlife, the fauna… it’s truly incredible).
I find myself as awed by the village…
as I am by the landscapes (Theodore Edison (son of inventor Thomas) ensured 2/3 of the island would remain ‘forever wild’ when he formed Mohegan’s land trust).
It’s never the same.
And yet it never seems to change.
And whenever someone asks me about it, I know…
I’m one of those people who talks about Monhegan with a twinkle in my eye. Because my heart does skip a little when I think about it.
I consider Monhegan just a little bit magical.
Thanks for readin’.
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*Just a reminder that “The Inn” was once really an inn, well-known for its lobster bakes and relaxing spot by the water. But this was back in the early 1900s. It’s been a home since about 1918/1920 as far as our research tells us. So today, if I woke up to strangers in their bathrobes hanging out in my kitchen and waiting for breakfast, I might be a little uncomfortable…. or a lot.