It’s the middle of summer on Islesford and while COVID is not yet off our radar, the month of July has been bursting with activity. This hectic pace throws me off balance but there is something reassuring about how normal the discomfort feels.
The islands are once again full of people coming and going. The weather has been glorious. Who wants to sit and write a column when the beach is calling and there’s family to visit and friends to see?
I looked at past columns to recall what summers were like before I became a grandmother, before our high speed internet, before everyone had a smart phone, and before I owned a golf cart. Up came a story from nine years ago. Minus the changes in technology, I could have written this last week:
I had already seen all the people I cared to see and I couldn’t stand the thought of interrupting my solitude.
“It’s an August phenomenon in the Cranberry Isles that you cannot travel on foot from point A to point B, without seeing at least three people you know with whom you’ve not had time to catch up. Either they are leaving soon, or you’re leaving soon, or you’re both leaving soon, and this may be your only chance to see each other.
“They may have an invitation for you, or you may have a message for them and neither of you has been home to check your answering machine. There is no cell coverage at your house and no internet service at their house so you miss making the modern connections with each other. You take the time to stop and visit.
“One afternoon Bruce went for a walk while I stayed home to fix dinner. Two hours later he was not yet home so I figured he had run into someone he hadn’t seen for a while. I was almost right. He had been approached by a woman running down the street toward him asking, ‘Are you Mr. Fernald?’
“”His answer was, ‘I’m one of them.’
“‘But are you this one?’ she questioned as she pulled from her bag a copy of Trevor Corson’s book, The Secret Life of Lobsters.
“She and her husband had sailed across the Atlantic from Holland and were staying on their boat in the Islesford harbor. She was looking for Bruce to sign their copy of the book. Bruce and his new friends ended up sharing stories over a few beers at the Islesford Dock Restaurant, an opportunity he would have missed if he hadn’t stopped to talk.
“There are times when it’s necessary to get down the road without the interruption of a conversation. This is when having a car or truck comes in handy. You can nod and wave to your friends and get where you’re going in predictable time. A bicycle is the next best thing, allowing one to whiz by purposefully with just enough time to say an earnest, ‘Hey! Let’s catch up soon!’
“In the summer of 2006 I was baking and needed milk to complete the recipe. I had already seen all the people I cared to see for the day and I really couldn’t stand the thought of interrupting my solitude. Out of desperation, I got out a paper bag, cut holes for my eyes and my mouth and wore it. I rode my bike to the store and back in total anonymity and record time. I removed the bag while in the store and Soos exclaimed, ‘I really had no idea that was you!’
“I’m pleased to say I have not felt the need to use it since, but the idea lives on in my introvert tool box.”
How ordinary it feels to again be overwhelmed by summer and the bounty of people with whom I could interact. After two quiet summers there is something reassuring about my irritation with “too many people.” In a world that seems to be getting crazier by the minute, I take comfort in the familiar. I’ve been here before and I know how to deal with it. I’m going to remember my own advice from the last paragraph of that nine-year-old column:
That summer, “I made an effort to allow extra time for people when I left my house. I still felt frazzled and overwhelmed on occasion, but I enjoyed my summer more than I have in a long time. It’s actually a lot more fun to laugh with a friend over the fact that it takes an hour and a half to get down the road, than it is to wear a bag over your head.”
Barbara Fernald lives on Islesford (Little Cranberry Island). Our bet is that her bag-over-the-head days may not be over. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.