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home : columnists : from offshore
April 23, 2019

7/8/2015 6:04:00 PM
From Offshore: Bloggerel
by Eva Murray

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 strangers who are presumably out there idly surfing the web looking up random Maine topics. Supposedly multitudes of hapless folks are searching online for, oh, the schedule for the Peaks Island ferry or the proper pronunciation of Damariscotta or the airspeed velocity of a North Atlantic puffin, and these good citizens will find themselves accidentally enmeshed in tales of Matinicus Island, and then be led to my books, and then to the other books offered by the same publishing house. To me that all sounds a bit hopeful, but I should heed the advice of them what knows about these things. Some of us Arthurs still have a lot to learn.

I dislike the word "blog" for word-nerd aesthetic reasons, and I despair of what "bloggers" have done to the occupation formerly known as Newspaper Columnist, but I shall set those attitudes aside as my personal crankiness need not be our topic today.

These blog posts about island life, I was assured, ought not be essays or articles but just quick little glimpses into How We Do Things Around Here. Whereas I have already written five or six hundred columns over the past 15 or so years about just that, and whereas people still harbor the damnedest wild-arse misconceptions about this place, I doubt it would do much good, but I understand that such a promotional effort is part of my job now as an Arthur.

I have no blog posts online yet though because they all came out too long. My attempts to compose short blog-worthy pieces have proven the connectivity of all things on this island. I can accurately explain no subject in brief without reference to half a dozen others. For instance, how can we talk about the recycling program without explaining why we have hundreds of the particular cardboard cartons called "banana boxes" on this island, and why getting a U-Haul truck for hauling the stuff off the island on the ferry - the 30-trips-a-year state vehicle ferry - is such a big deal, and why it all sounds a lot like the story of "Stone Soup"?

Theoretically, it should be possible to write a succinct little précis about some nugget of island life "in 25 words or less," as they used to say - with no going off on tangents, no subordinating clauses, no technical specifications and no reminiscing about the old days. Hah. A rough limit of 100 to 200 words for blog posts was suggested by a friend; this person knows me and knows that I talk too much. I can't even write my name in 100 to 200 words. The requirement of brevity would, I hear, be an edifying and improving discipline for me, akin to journalistic sit-ups.

I realized at last that there was my hurdle: my efforts to do this like a journalist. There is no room for back story or for all the facts. What I need is the freedom to offer just a peek, not an anthropological treatise. Perhaps a blog post can be just a whimsey:

There is no transfer station,
There is no garbage truck -
There are the six of us, loading a U-Haul in the snow.
The truck driver has not been seasick recently; that's good.
Oh look, another busted coffee maker,
What is this? A depth sounder off a fishing boat?
And who do you suppose is drinking all this Jaegermeister?
There is no dump.

* * *

On other islands
artists attract crowds, en plein air, easel perched on some historic outcropping, great flourishes, splashes of brilliance as the folks assemble to watch.
Here, artists work alone. Making art is a private alchemy. Masters labor in cluttered workshops like wizards among parts and tools and treasures. They collect stones. One of our guys
is eager to take in the panorama from up in the electric company bucket truck;
another makes wonderment and lace, dragons and ravens and great schools of rare fish, out of sardine cans and shreds of steel. A third builds ladders and wharves of the worm-eaten smashings left from what is sadly obsolete among the fishermen.
High art or not? We maintain a healthy view of industry.

* * *

"What time is the morning boat?"
"There is no morning boat."
"Of course there is! There must be! You're on an island, aren't you?"
"We had our ferry last week."
"What the hell are you talking about?"

* * *

There are red roses growing beside the airstrip.
Such life should not be possible, in that hard sterile gravel,
Where they are run over by drunks, peed on by dogs, stomped by tourists,
Flattened under piled-up cartons of groceries,
Snowplowed, roadgraded, dumptrucked,
But airstrips
Carry a heavy load of blessing.

Eva Murray lives, works and writes on Matinicus Island.

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