The Working Waterfront

The joys of a quiet January

Self-imposed, weather-imposed down time is welcomed

Barbara Fernald
Posted 2020-01-22
Last Modified 2020-01-22

By Barbara Fernald

Ahhhh! The month of January on Islesford is one of my favorites. It’s not because the island has so much to offer at this time of year, but because it gives me two things I’ve been yearning for since last spring: time and quiet.

Ever since our sons started school I have dedicated the month of January to reading as much as I want, and not worrying about my accomplishments.  Whenever possible I enjoy spending a whole morning sitting by the wood stove, reading a book.

I love the whole concept of taking a month of vacation at the start of the year, but I find it hard to relax, at first, as I apply my brakes to activity. This year Bruce and I both got a nudge to slow down from a virus we picked up while away for Christmas. I had little energy for anything other than reading or sleeping. Two books down, and four days of inactivity later I feel a lot better and I am totally committed to taking time to read with no guilt.

If we don’t learn the lesson from post-holiday illness, the winter weather will also work to convince us it’s OK to slow down. Off-island ambitions change overnight when storms come through. There is nothing like a weather-caused cancelation of boats to help me drop my guilt about revising my plans. Even if the boats are running on choppy days, I am more comfortable staying home to wait for a calmer commute. People “my age and up” need to think about the injury potential of trying to board a ferry in certain conditions.

At my “Welcome to Medicare” check-up, they asked if I had removed any throw rugs in our house (what?!). They didn’t ask about boats. There are no ramps at the town docks in winter. We board from the stairs on the side. On rough days, when you have to time your step from the stairs to an icy boat deck to match the highest rise of a 4-foot wave crest, you are risking a fall. I may not be ready to take up my area rugs, but I am more than happy to avoid rough boat rides.

Those days are great for reading. Power outages produce magical reading times as well. Diving into a good book during those afternoon hours of increasing sunlight, sans electricity, is just the ticket to winter relaxation. The quiet is intense.

Close to half of the fishermen from the co-op have pulled their traps from the water and hauled their boats out onto dry land for the next few months. Many people take this time to travel, fortifying themselves for a busy spring.

Even as Bruce and I are settling in to our home vacation routine, we are also planning some trips to take during this time off. We’ll be heading to New York City and Washington D.C. in the middle of the month to see various friends and family. It’s possible we’ll travel to New Brunswick for the Canadian/American Lobstermen’s Town Meeting. Who knows what we’ll do in February, but it will certainly involve visits to grandchildren in the Portland area.

In the summer, we who live year-round on the islands are often asked what we do in the winter. Many of us could answer that we do in the winter the same thing they do in summer. If we’re lucky enough to have the time off, we take a vacation. Whether we travel, stay home, or do both, we take some time to rest from the season past and regroup for the season ahead.

If we’re really lucky, we’ll have a stack of books just waiting to be read, and we’ll find the time to do it.

Barbara Fernald makes jewelry, writes, and lives on Islesford (Little Cranberry Island).