July on Vinalhaven

Our third son was born last July, and I counted twenty plane rides during his first ten months of life. The last three of those flights involved me, alone with the three boys, flying back from Europe. After this final trip, I was ready to stay put for a loooooong while, with their dad there too. The chance to spend two months in one place and really slow down sounded heavenly.

The Maine coast is strewn with adorable, pristine little island like this one, named “Little Hen”

Polly Cove, in the sunshine and fog

The pace of life is slower in Maine, built around natural rhythms–as clichéd as it may sound, we really do in fact plan our Maine days around the tides. Certain activities are best at low-tide, such as making hermit crab habitats and searching under rocks and seaweed for baby lobsters. Others, like playing in our favorite tide pools and building rock bridges between them, are best at mid-tide. We save our picnics, ATV rides and berry-picking for high-tide.

You can find us here every single day, sifting through the rocks and shells at low tide

We may still not have a bathroom, or a bedroom for that matter, but we dug a well and added running water to our cabin. A night-time shower means tripping through some muddy brush, and possibly a spider or two, but at least at night you can’t see them. It also means the moon shining through the trees, fireflies blinking at you, raspberry bushes scraping the edges of the shower platform, and stars. So many stars. A 3AM pee outside means deep deep pinks and purples to the East, as the sun starts to push its way around.

When nature calls, it also often rewards you with sunrise views like this

It is not luxurious by any means—I regularly joke that when in Maine I revert to my 10-year-old tomboy self: bug bites, scraped knees and dirty fingernails—but it is breathtakingly gorgeous and real. We spend all day outside, whether on the water exploring by boat, playing baseball, lacrosse, or Frisbee in our yard, building forts and fairy houses and bonfires, jumping off ledges at the quarry, and endless rock-climbing and beachcombing at low tide. My knees and shins may match my five-year-old son’s, with their scrapes and bug bites, but my spirit is more in tune as well.

They painted their own racing lobster boats. Rocky wasn’t loving it.
What he does love is playing on the skateboard for as long as anyone will allow him
Mud kitchen!! So fun for them…would be more fun for Mom if we had that modern amenity known as a washing machine…

Vinalhaven Island is fifteen miles offshore, and thirty years back in time. The town newsletter, “The Wind” comes out once a week, and everyone knows to pick one up from the unassuming white box next to the post office. Life is cyclical here, ebbing and flowing with the lobstering seasons, gossip channels, and the ferry schedule. We took a taxi recently, and the taxi lady (there’s only one) told us that lately the lobstering has been terrible, and everyone on-island is, essentially, “freaking out”. We mentioned this to a local friend, wondering if anyone thought to attribute it to global warming, or even if maybe this meant the locals would embrace the inevitable trend toward tourism. The friend threw her head back and laughed—“They say that every single year!! That’s the lobster cycle. Every summer and fall the lobstermen get rich, lease big pick-up trucks, and pay for luxurious winter vacations in the Caribbean. By May and June they have spent all their money, the lobster is scarce, and they are slightly poor and anxious. They all say the lifestyle is changing. Then they get rich again.”

Vinalhaven’s working waterfront
There are literally piles of lobster pots and traps lying around everywhere

This month we have been blessed with no cell service—save for a few specially marked spots in our yard and driveway—and no internet either. We always have had terrible internet here, but it at least worked. We spent two full days trying to fix it. From dinghying over the repairman from a nearby island, to a flat tire and having the above-mentioned taxi lady come get him, delivering him to our poor old router, to finally getting a massive ladder from a neighbor and sending him up to the roof….two full days of work and there was nothing he could do to get our internet to return. Its amazing how narrower your focus becomes when the entire world is no longer at your fingertips. Once I ran out of downloaded books on my kindle, I started—gasp—reading real books again. It’s so nice to hold a real paperback book in my hands, and its also nice for my kids to see me reading. Sure, I could download them when in town. But there is a cute little used bookstore here, as well as a neighborhood free library, and those are much more fun to visit—real people actually work in them!–than the online kindle store.

Without any cell or internet, my instagram is usually seven blurry pictures, with sometimes the top one loaded. It will stay that way sometimes for days on end. If I am able to post something, I don’t usually get the chance to go back and respond to comments for several days. It feels disconnected but the only thing to do is embrace it. I always tell the boys that I like instagram for the pretty pictures, so River, my 5-year-old, very smartly said “I guess we’ll have to make our own, mom!” And that Is what we have done—we ordered tons of art supplies from amazon and have been painting up a storm. We each have an easel and we paint all. the. time. If we’re not outside, we’re probably painting!

We were lucky to have two families we met in the Bahamas bring their boats, Twig and Summer Kai, into Polly Cove. We had so much fun showing them what we find special about Vinalhaven. I loved driving a few of them around and sharing the funny quirks of life on an island off the coast of Maine. The boys spent hours in the cove sailing and kayaking and canoeing with our friends’ girls. Usually when I say my kids spent “hours” doing something, I really mean they spent 20 minutes. But in this case it was really hours. We closed out July with a visit from my mom at the most epic lobster bake on nearby Greens Island, and I finally learned why it is traditionally called a “bake” instead of a “boil”, as they literally baked the lobsters, along with the potatoes and corn, under a mass of seaweed on the rocky beach.

Lobster bake with the Lees on Greens island
Van and Rev, boat buddies
Sweet Rev had these boys sailing around in the Opti for HOURS

My mom managed to set up the tent and have the boys camp with her, for about two hours, in our front yard. A local friend told us about two boys who got so into camping that they set the tent up on their deck and declared it was their new room. They slept out there for an entire year, even garnering some free gear to test out from various outdoor companies. I’m not necessarily hoping my boys will be similarly inspired, but hey, who knows what August will bring?!

Dreams do come true!!

Leave a Reply