Harsh winters on Isle of Haut, cold sunlight
Lingers low on southeast Atlantic horizon,
Creeping in treetops, taunting more than
Warming, first skiff of snow glitters on
Grass, boat docks, we prepare for isolation,
Snow filtering through tangled spruces,
Pristine rocky shorelines dusted white.
Life from inside frosted windows, small
Meadows and stands of ferns are lost to
Knee-deep snow, no quiet winter peace,
Shoving winds push snow across our
Roads, bury boats, cruelty of betraying
Years of Maine life, scudding clouds release
Sleet and snow, months of punishing cold.
Aside from one general store, all eyes look
Towards Stonington, food and clothing
Ferried by boats, our vehicles parked for
Weeks on the mainland. With empty coolers,
Pilgrimages we make to grocery stores,
Returning well provisioned with supplies,
Mail, packages for island-dwelling families.
Harbour-master at Stonington operates
Electric hoists, slings lower stacked pallets
Of building supplies to boats: shingles,
Cedar shakes, windows and doors, rolls of
Insulation, our island lifeline, preparing for
Another hard winter, before gales and ice
Set in, arduous pitching passages.
For those who do not lobster all winter,
(As do few hardy souls), traps are hauled,
Cleaned, and repaired, buoys and lines are
Stored for next season. We live off what
We made during summer or find odd jobs,
Baking, quilt making, clearing snow, to
Continue our self-sufficient way of life.
Some say we live in self-imposed winter
Exile, to most these words are true, yet
This is my home, steaming breath, smell of
Wood fires, village closeness, hot tempers,
Atlantic snow squalls, wind and tide clearing
Ice, old voices calling, island sea-wanderers
Without need of anchors or of charts.
Yes, make summer visits if need be, mail boat
Passages, six miles of chilly spray, channel
Birds darting, lobster boats passing, schooners
With wind-filled sails. Spend few nights or a
Week, island life mingling within your blood,
Rhythmic rocking boats, lighthouses on rocky
Shores – and leave reluctantly.
For more on Isle au Haut winters, see this Bangor Daily News
article “Six Miles Out.”