Sunday, August 16, 2009

Visit to another island

A few days ago we visited some friends whose extended family has a cottage on Isle au Haut, an island off the Maine coast accessible only by boat. We took the mail boat and spent a lovely time with the family, eating and talking and playing music, with a walk through the woods to the shore to look for whale bones the following morning.

In some ways it seemed like a trip back in time, for life on this island is close to the ideal of plain living and high thinking that attracted the wealthy "rusticators" from Boston and New York to this part of the Maine coast late in the 19th century, where at first they boarded with natives, later rented cottages, and eventually bought shorefront property and built cottages, some plain and others quite elaborate. Mothers, aunts, grandparents and children would come spend a month or two of the summer in this place far healthier than the city, while fathers and uncles would come by boat and spend a week or two.
Today half of Isle au Haut is part of Acadia National Park, and people come to hike, bicycle, and camp there; the other half is mostly summer colony, and partly year-rounders, though only 40 of those, with a one-room schoolhouse and two children attending school. Thus very little in the way of industry there, except for the tourist industry. Today it is the summer cottages that dominate the island outside the park, inhabited for a month or two out of the year by families who prefer to live close to nature and far from fast food restaurants, supermarkets, and shopping malls--the nearest ones would be about 90 minutes away. Spend a week there, and it's a vacation; spend a month and it concentrates the mind.

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