Most years, a bit of my summer vacation involves spending time with old friends on an island off of the Maine coast. The island has no electricity and, except for rainwater collected in cisterns to assist with washing dishes, no running water. There are no cars, no stores, no restaurants, or anything of that sort. There are several houses on the island, each equipped with a gas range and gas refrigerator—we are not completely roughing it.
Preparing to go to the island takes a bit of work and forethought. Just getting to the island requires a ferry, then driving across Swan’s Island (not far from Bar Harbor) and then taking a small launch from a lobsterman’s dock over to the island. Food must be purchased ahead of time and carried to the island. There’s a small (and I mean very small) market on Swan’s Island for things like milk and bread. Alcohol of any kind must be purchased on the “mainland.” The tiny market doesn’t sell those kinds of provisions.
Why go through all of this hassle? For one thing, it’s great to spend some time with old friends. Plus, the island is a beautiful place, featuring nice walking trails and lovely views of the rocky Maine coast:
These days, perhaps the most significant of the island’s allure: no internet.
I should admit that I’m not completely without access to the outside world while I’m on the island. I have my smartphone, along with an external battery, so that I can be reached in case of an emergency. But, to ensure that I am reachable in an emergency, I limit the use of my phone. After a quick check of email and daily headlines, and then completion of the NYT mini-crossword, the phone goes away.
This year, I cannot adequately articulate how wonderful it was to be able to disconnect from the world. Not only is the news so hard to bear—from politics to the latest scandal from the Catholic Church—but news on the smaller scale is also increasingly difficult. The town of which we have been part for most of the time we’ve lived in Maine has become a microcosm of what’s happening nationally, politically speaking anyway. Lines are clearly drawn. Terrible things are said—posted, actually, to social media sites—one group to the other, one person to another. And, at least a few people seem to be living and speaking out of an alternate reality.
Along with all of this, there’s work. Thankfully, Old South is mostly quiet and behaving itself. But, my role as chair of the Maine Conference UCC Board of Directors has become rather problematic, with disgruntled people making themselves known, and also making it known that they expect a response to their complaints quickly—like now. As if any Board of Directors can move quickly about anything . . .
It was all too tempting just to stay on the island. So what if acquiring provisions requires considerably more thought and planning. So what if meal clean up is a major task. So what if water must be fetched and hauled from a well. So what if an occasional squirrel finds its way into the walls of one of the old buildings and starts scurrying around at 4 o’clock in the morning. So what if my lovely, well-equipped bathroom at home is replaced with this:
Outhouse and all, it just might be worth it to stay.