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home : columnists : from offshore
July 11, 2020 


From Offshore: Bloggerel
My third book came out a little while ago, and they tell me that I am an Arthur now for sure, and that as an Arthur there are certain expectations. Somebody at my publisher's recommended recently that I begin a "blog," in mind to take over the Internet and establish some sort of easy presence with a great many total . . .
Wednesday, July 8, 2015
From Offshore: An island is to get stuck on
A "real island," if you will, is not where the caretaker can tootle off in the outboard for a five-minute run to the beer store and to pick up the master's FedEx. An island is something you can get stuck on.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
From Offshore: Interrogatory
As summer approaches, and with it the so-called tourist season, most of us who labor in the presence of the public are preparing ourselves for the usual set of "frequently asked questions." This is perfectly normal, and those visitors to the area who may need to know which way to the ice cream store are not to be . . .
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
From Offshore: Wait - did somebody say there was a problem?
People far more intelligent than Your Correspondent pace their floors and ruminate on what can be done to make things better around here. Engineers are busy with our problems, and surely the penny-ante worries of a community of a hundred people or fewer - sometimes a damn sight fewer - shouldn't be too . . .
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
From Offshore: Welcome to Matinicus, Population Unknown
We had an inquiry recently, in which a gentle staffer from a most reputable and earnest local non-profit asked, without a hint of irony, the question that has been flummoxing us for years. "How many people live on your island?" I know the people in question; they do not mean any harm, so I will refrain from . . .
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
From Offshore: Neighborhood Watch
The only things the Seattle suburb of Mukilteo, Washington, and the territory of Matinicus, Maine, have in common are fog, ferries, airplanes, the initial "M" and the fact that people from out of town mispronounce the name of the place in a variety of unique and creative ways. Other than those, the two municipalities are . . .
Thursday, April 30, 2015
From Offshore: Bald Eagles and Bucket Trucks
Last week seemed to be all about riding up and down U.S. Route 1 attending this and that, here and there. I sat in meeting rooms and offices and in one rather gold-plated hotel with friends and strangers, we too-frequently were instructed by the facilitator to "break up into small groups"- oh, how I am sick of that . . .
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
From Offshore: Oh, The Life of Riley (Eva has a children's book coming out soon)
On Thursday, April 2nd, as The Free Press hits the shelves of your local store, coffee shop, Fixed Base Operator and ferry terminal, it happens to be International Children's Book Day. I figured this is the ideal day to introduce a new children's book. "Island Birthday," with story by this columnist and . . .
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
From Offshore: Numchuck, Sharkey and Lowd
"Write about cats," said Paul for no good reason, quoting the one-line caption of an old George Booth cartoon where a disheveled author, suffering we assume from writer's block, sits at his card table, before his typewriter, surrounded by dozens of those wonderfully bedraggled, scrofulous Booth cats with their bent . . .
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
From Offshore: Just Call Me Yukon Cornelius
I cannot complain about this winter. I do not mind the snow, or the cold, or the isolation, or the paucity of neighbors. I do mind the wind because it brings good reason for worry and it causes power company linemen to hear monsters under the bed. Likewise there is little good to say about ice, when landing a small . . .
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
From Offshore: Over Water, with Gratitude and Chinese Beer
It would be conspicuous if I failed to begin this week with the two Matinicus fishermen who ended up in the water off Monroe's Island last Saturday morning. I cannot offer a news story about them, and I don't know what happened to their boat. Just the same, not to mention the extreme good fortune of our friends . . .
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
From Offshore: And Now, Time for Sports
Neither my husband nor I played competitive sports. Our parents didn't, our siblings didn't, and on this island no elementary school child is ever bothered with the natterings of coaches. Our daughter, quite inexplicably, was a varsity athlete all the way through high . . .
Thursday, February 5, 2015
From Offshore: Fishing License
People send me quotes with advice for writers. This may be a very good reason to unsubscribe from Facebook. Mark Twain allegedly said, "Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very.' Your editor will take it out and the writing will be just as it should be." Maybe he said that. How should I know? . . .
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
From Offshore: Here Be It Resolved
It is New Year's resolution time, and as usual, we're all pretty good at coming up with ideas for other people's improvement. Not wishing to miss out on the fun, I have a few thoughts, unsolicited, unrefined, perhaps a bit unhinged, and totally unwelcome I'm sure. First, one for those who speak in public with some . . .
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
From Offshore: How to Make Baklava
As one who greatly enjoys cooking and sampling the delights of all sorts of cultures not my own - being in that way a very typical American - I make baklava every December. The first couple of times I made baklava people asked me if I had a Greek grandmother, or some appropriate ancestry, and my . . .
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
From Offshore: Cultural Appropriation (in the nicest possible way)
Saint Lucia Day was December 13th. It's a Swedish holiday, mostly, celebrated with the lovely character of a young girl in a white dress who wears a wreath of fresh Christmas greens on her head in which stand several lit, very real candles. The child playing the saint marches up the aisle in the Scandinavian church . . .
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
From Offshore: Late-Night Shopping
You'll be reading this on or after Thursday the 4th, but as I write it is Black Friday, when so much can be said about the buying and selling and standing in line that is our Decking of the Halls, or so we are supposed to believe. To be sure, nobody wants to be lectured this time of year and reminded of the moral . . .
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
From Offshore: Is There a Doctor in the House?
Recall an image out of countless scenes in popular fiction: a person collapses in a busy theater, and someone urgently cries out, "Is there a doctor in the house?" Once in a while we'll see an article concerning a citizen who has suffered a heart attack in the subway or some public place, and if somebody responds to them . . .
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
From Offshore: Easy This Time
People tend to think we have it harder out here on the island, because we have so few professionals, so few services, and so little infrastructure. Let me share the words of our electric company lineman: "Here's another time we're better off than they are on the mainland." Our power outage lasted probably an hour . . .
Thursday, November 6, 2014
From Offshore: Our Big Sort Uncovers the Obscure and the Inspiring
A few days ago I had reason to tackle one of those jobs we all have lurking at the bottom of our chore list: to sort through the quivering mass of some treasured heap. For some people it's an overloaded garage or some intimidating closet. There are no closets to speak of in my house, but we maintain paperwork by the . . .
Thursday, October 23, 2014
From Offshore: An Airplane: A Lesson in Slowing Down
Flying, according to the evening news, is either about the technological marvel of jet travel, where we machine-building humans traverse enormous distances at speeds unheard of by our ancestors, or it is about being delayed, obstructed, insulted, or bored by stupid stuff: long lines, inefficiencies, inexplicable . . .
Thursday, October 9, 2014
From Offshore: After the Fair, Time for a Tender Moment
As I write, it is Monday, roughly lunchtime; I'm parked in a corner of an empty timber-frame exhibition hall. A few squashes and onions and flower arrangements, some with judge's ribbons, haven't been picked up. Three days of revels are over; today, electricians and roustabouts and volunteers take apart the . . .
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
From Offshore: Silence, New Clothes, and Similar Mushy Stuff
Twenty-five years ago this week we sat quietly beside each other, trying to be still, trying to stop the whirlwinds in our brains, knowing we should be meditative but basically waiting until it was time for us to recite our memorized words. Preparing your piece ahead of time is exactly what you are . . .
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
From Offshore: Islanders Meet to Talk About Going Overboard
On Sunday, August 24th, a random assortment of island lobstermen, other working islanders, long-term seasonal residents and first-time visitors gathered at Matinicus Elementary School to talk about a scary subject: how to respond when a crew member - or when you - go overboard in the cold water. . . .
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
From Offshore: Maybe Best to Keep Still
When something deeply troubling happens, the rest of us founder and babble and often say the wrong things. We don't know what to say. We feel that in order to be polite or demonstrate our compassion we have to offer some words of wisdom. That doesn't always work, but we mean well. . . .
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014
From Offshore: A First Time for Everything (but probably not the last!)
This past Saturday, at 10:00 a.m. sharp, I parked myself comfortably on the stone steps of the Free Press building in Rockland. Nursing a cup of coffee, happy to have found a parking place, and delighted with my perch, I was ready to watch the Lobster Festival Parade. I can hear them now - . . .
Thursday, August 7, 2014
From Offshore: In Praise of the Monarch Butterfly
There are a few monarchs. Those of us who pay attention to such things are breathing a small sigh of relief this summer, although our smiles are hesitant, tinged with residual anxiety. There aren't a lot of monarchs. There aren't, to be sure, as many as there ought to be, but there are some. The situation . . .
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Thursday, July 31, 2014
From Offshore: Cool Kids
The other day my neighbor came up to me and with a smile offered a good-natured "Damn you!" He continued, "I am so jealous! You got to ride in the Blackhawk." Yup; that I did. Two weeks ago the Army National Guard and the Maine Forest Service and several county Emergency Management agencies . . .
Thursday, July 17, 2014
From Offshore: Stone Soup Redux
A few hundred years ago a clever but hungry traveler enters a village somewhere in Europe. The farms have not produced well recently, and the local people are perhaps justifiably anxious about having enough for themselves. They are disinclined to welcome a stranger, yet . . .
Thursday, July 3, 2014
From Offshore: Penobscot Marine Museum to Honor Bay Pilots
The Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport will host an evening devoted to the memory of two local men who inspired most everybody they knew with their guts, brains, and heart. In the words of Cipperly Good, Collections Manager at the Museum . . .
Thursday, June 26, 2014
From Offshore: Deep Entitlement
I am struggling to settle on a title for my next project. This shouldn't be so difficult. My preference for mixing the tangible and the abstract a bit much and hoping that people will appreciate the layers and the metaphors (for example, the name of my old Down East Online column was . . .
Thursday, June 12, 2014
From Offshore: A Few Thoughts After Graduation
A few days ago our younger child graduated - or "was graduated," I guess, properly - from a very nice red-brick sort of institution down in Brunswick. All manner of well-wishers said kind things to her dad and me along the lines of, "Well done, parents; you must feel a great sense of satisfaction" . . .
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
From Offshore: Sometimes you just want a simple answer
We were here, living on our island, engaged in our various labors such as notarizing tax liens, negotiating to get our newspaper delivered sometime within a week of publication, ordering vanilla extract by the quart and delivering propane to guys who insisted that their heater had malfunctioned . . .
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
From Offshore: The Good, The Bad, and The Styrofoam
Last week we had Earth Day. Not much happens on Earth Day; nobody lovingly fusses over the basting of a nice roast, makes up a green-bean casserole, and invites the relatives over. No child gets new clothes. A few earnest folks go out with trash bags and attempt to tackle other people's messes. . . .
Thursday, May 1, 2014
From Offshore: Town Meeting
The tradition of annual Town Meeting in New England brings to mind the Norman Rockwell poster depicting "Freedom of Speech," where one humble soul dares to stand up and speak his mind in a roomful of neighbors. He looks like he knows that he'll soon have mean Old Mrs. Snert and the boys . . .
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
From Offshore: Freedom Isn't Free, Indeed
Today's column is a thank-you note to six guys from Vinalhaven and to thousands of people I have never met. A couple of weeks ago a small group of veterans from Vinalhaven traveled to Washington, D.C., on Maine's first trip with the Honor Flight Network, a nine-year-old nonprofit . . .
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
From Offshore: Reasons to Love Detroit
I was pleased to discover that our flight to Seattle this month would include a layover in Detroit. The 6 o'clock news provides enough wrath and ire to frighten the heartiest of travelers out of thinking that the journey is part of the fun, but I shall report an alternative perspective. . . .
Thursday, March 20, 2014
From Offshore: National Day of Unplugging
Somehow I was made aware of a grand event called the National Day of Unplugging. Very good; I shall stand and speak for it, and we could use more of this attitude, rebellious though it may be. The date for the 2014 celebration is sundown March 7 until sundown March 8. . . .
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
From Offshore: To Stay or to Leave, With Respect
A while back we were at one of those parties where you stand in a swept-out garage and eat baked beans off a paper plate and make polite chatter with your in-laws' neighbors, and your second cousin's sweetie, and a whole lot of people far older and wiser. . . .
Thursday, February 20, 2014
From Offshore: Sustainable, Viable and Hopeful
I sit on a lot of committees. All of these advisory boards and assemblies of like-minded do-gooders meet on the mainland, of course. There aren't many on Matinicus who can claim to be a year-round, working-grunt islander yet have the freedom to cross the bay so frequently. . . .
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
From Offshore: "Write About Ice Fishing"
I have never been ice fishing. I have never even watched anybody ice fishing so I don't really know what you do while ice fishing, except that I've heard a few stories from my kids, who have been ice fishing. Evidently what you do when you only have a hand auger . . .
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
From Offshore: Critical Mass
One of the smallest numbers in "The Free Press Index" last week was "15 islands inhabited year-round." I can name them all quickly, and tell you which ones have schools, and describe how you get to each one, those being Cliff, Long, Peaks, Great Diamond, Chebeague, Monhegan, Matinicus . . .
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
From Offshore: School Play
It has been the tradition as long as anybody can remember at Matinicus Elementary - and at most, perhaps all, of Maine's smallest schools - for the students to prepare a Christmas performance
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Thursday, December 26, 2013
From Offshore: Flying Santas All
To every mainlander who thinks that shopping for gifts for friends and relatives, and then getting out the ribbons and papering up those purchases, is a mighty burden of work and a truckload of trouble, I submit that these things are, forgive me, relative. . . .
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
From Offshore: You Know You Grew Up on an Island . . .
There seems to be a fad on the Internet with these lists going around, deeply thoughtful bits of artistry such as "30 ways you know you are a potato farmer" or "Ten things you'll understand if you are from South Ozone Park." My kid sent something called "67 telltale signs that you went to boarding school." . . .
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
From Offshore: The Eight Pies of Chanukah
By coincidence Thanksgiving and the first day of Chanukah - by whatever spelling - happen to fall together this week. All kinds of fairly ridiculous-sounding comestibles have been suggested in recognition of this splice-job of a holiday. . . .
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
From Offshore: "Rosc"
In 19 years as an emergency medical technician - albeit an extremely rural one who sees very few real emergencies - I have taken a lot of continuing education courses (I suppose to make up for my lack of on-the-job training) and have endured an awful lot of acronyms. . . .
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013
From Offshore: Over North Dakota
A few days ago I got a peek at something I'd never seen before. I send you a few words from north of Seattle today. Sunday morning we flew over the tugs and barges working off Boston, I slept through New York State, got a quick peek through the clouds at Lake Superior, and drifted off again. According to the not-for-navigation map in the back of the Alaska Airlines magazine . . .
Thursday, October 31, 2013
From Offshore: On the Complications of Beach Trash
A walk on South Sandy beach the other day offered the usual stuff stuck in the rocks: knots of splintery old polypropylene rope, little painted pieces of lobster buoy, small sections of green wire mesh and other remnants of lost lobster gear. That's normal, and to my mind, although it doesn't make for a beach quite as delightful as a truly clean one, it's not horribly offensive. . . .
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
From Offshore: Blacksmiths, Zombies, Music in the Dark, and DIY for a Rugged Future
Somebody sent me a clipping recently about planning for potential upheavals expected to impact modern civilization (10 Skills to Hone for a Post-Oil Future by Ana Maria Spagna, published in the May/June 2013 issue of Orion magazine). I think they sent it because the first thing on Spagna's list of fading arts we may be well-advised not to lose is blacksmithing. . . .
Wednesday, October 2, 2013



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