As we get through our little bit of hard-core winter, my favorite thing in life may be something I haven’t got. This thing that makes me smile is an absence, a negative, a trouble that isn’t mine: I do not have to commute. I do not have to go out on I-295 and deal with the high-speed morons who think their 4-wheel drive will help them stop on the ice. I don’t have to risk getting hit by somebody who doesn’t realize that gravity has to be greater than momentum because friction is nil. I don’t have to deliver anybody anywhere; the children are adults — adults with Subarus. I don’t even have to get dressed. I can go to work right here, cuddled up with my toes warming beside the woodstove, eating blueberry muffins and listening to “Happy to Be Stuck with You.” 

As I write this, it is what you’d call last Saturday morning. Snow is falling gently and working outdoors is enjoyable. Tomorrow night — last Sunday to you, remember — they are calling for two feet of snow in this part of the state, and a powerful wind, maybe gusting to 60 knots. We are still waiting to find out about this “bombogenesis” the meteorologists are talking about. I’m sitting here, in the Alcatraz of the Willing, acknowledging that life is easy for me on this island — easier than for most folks anywhere.

One island woman has three little boys and another has four cows. That seven mouths to feed are the reason for most of the work that cannot be avoided around here this week, assuming the winds don’t spool up a hurricane and knock any spruce trees into the power lines and cause work for a small line and tree crew. Should that happen, we will still probably have one of the shortest-duration power outages in the area. The bucket truck lives indoors, and remains ready.

I have neither small children nor livestock, and should the power go out for a long time, which is unlikely, we do have a generator. We have four kinds of heat, an absurd redundancy in methods of communication with the Continent and, assuming no missions of mercy requiring a truck, no real need to drive anywhere. There won’t be a frantic pre-storm trip to the grocery store because there is no store; anything not already in stock we will do without for the duration of this weather, until the airplane flies again. That’ll be a while. We’re ready enough. We will run out of fresh vegetables. That does not concern us (rather, it may please). We can keep ourselves healthy eating blueberries. Our freezer offers plenty of blueberries, which seems a happy commentary on survival.



The concern is always about the potential gale rather than the total inches of snow. Our town hasn’t got any maze of city streets to unclog, with difficulty like a sort of backed-up horizontal urban plumbing. The tiny island school won’t even have to close as there is no bus to worry about. Chatting with our daughter, who lives in Portland, works in Brunswick, and goes to school in Farmington on Saturdays, I mentioned that I didn’t care if it snowed six feet if the wind was light; it was that sideways action that makes life difficult. Her observation was, “… and that is where our lives differ.” 

The February ferry trip to Matinicus is scheduled for Tuesday. Will it run? As of now, I have no idea, and neither does anybody at the Maine State Ferry Service. The air service made one flight early this morning, around 7 a.m., just as the flurries began. The pilot brought groceries for the family with the three kids, picked up some freight belonging to the phone company, and headed over to North Haven with that island’s mail. Presumably another pilot was on his way to Vinalhaven, delivering whatever freight was ready. That would be it for today and, in all likelihood, the next several days. We are snowbound.

I told one of the guys on the ham radio that our weather report was “You can’t get there from here.” Hardy-har-har.

We’re stuck, but comfortable. Insurance companies do not, as a rule, approve of woodstoves, but I for one am enthusiastically in favor. Actually, I would hate to be without one. I read somewhere that in Norway everybody is expected to have at least a bit of backup wood heat. Woodstoves are fine if located and operated sensibly, with awareness of basic fire safety, and are a deep and abiding pleasure in the winter. When you come inside after a lot of shoveling or plowing or snowshoeing home, there is nothing more delightful than a hot iron stove to stand beside. Also, they make the very finest blueberry muffins.