I was, as regular readers of the blog know, just in mid-coast Maine. I flew Cape Air into the small airport in Owl’s Head, from which other small planes go to the inhabited islands off the coast. That proximity piqued my interest in this New York Times article, about winter life on Matinicus.
Matinicus is 22 miles from the coast, in the North Atlantic. Winter there is cold, and isolated, and starkly beautiful. These days only 20 people live on Matinicus through the winter, including two children, siblings, who attend a one room school together. Medical care is flown in or arrives by boat, along with supplies. There are no stores. There are no gas stations either; cars have to be filled up on the mainland, via ferry. But there’s not much by way of places to drive on Matinicus either, which means a tank of gas lasts for a long time.
People who live on Matinicus have to be self-reliant. If something breaks and they don’t have the part to fix it, they don’t have the part. If they are sick, they rely on telemedicine, a nurse who visits from the vessel Sunbeam which comes to the island periodically, on the bush planes that can land when the wind isn’t too high, or on a fast lobster boat that can traverse the 22 miles to the mainland.
Life on Matinicus to me sounds cold, lonely, limited, and tedious. But it’s not that for the 22 souls who live there, for whom solitude and barren rocky terrain and living by the rhythms of nature are values of the highest order.