I love/hate writing!

I spent the day today writing my upcoming column for the WorkingWaterfront. Whether I have an idea in mind or I’m staring blankly at the computer screen, it always takes me all day to finish the job. I just can’t sit still and write for any length of time. I get up and eat something, I play a few games of Text Twist, I check my e-mail, check Facebook, read blogs. It’s as if I really hate writing. Until I’m done. Then I read my column aloud to Bruce to hear what I need to do for my final edit, and then presto-chango, it’s off to my editor. Two weeks later, when the paper comes out, I think, “What was that all about? I really like to write!”

There you go. A love/hate relationship for sure. When I sent the column tonight, before dinner, my next thought (or dread) was that I needed to post something on my blog. That post a day commitment thing really does help me make friends with writing…eventually…  For tonight I’m going to post something I wrote 2 years (20 columns) ago. A little piece about the 5 island township where I live.

The ABC’s of a Cranberry Winter

At the height of the busy summer season, there are hundreds of daily visitors to the Cranberry Isles, along with hundreds more who own or rent houses to stay for their favorite vacation of the year.  We are inundated with faces we don’t know, and frazzled by trying to catch up with all of the people we do know because they are only here for a week or two. In the midst of this frenzy, islanders are often asked,  “What do you do during…” or “what is it like in…” or “how do you get through the winter out there?” In July and August, this is the last thing on our minds, but the questions about winter are legitimate. Lest we be caught actually voicing a snarky remark, here is an alphabet of choices for next summer’s response:

Always have a plan B. High winds can cause the ferry to be canceled resulting in islanders stranded off the island, or workers on the island, and appointments to require rescheduling.

Badminton, bread baking, keeping a bird list, and butt-walk racing!

Cadillac Water Taxi provides the first winter taxi service to the islands. It is especially great for times when you can’t catch the last Beal and Bunker ferry at 3:30 p.m.  Cranberry General Store, where people congregate to catch up on the latest island news, and church services on each island.

Duck stamps and Dip of the Month Club. Rick Alley is working on a painting of harlequin ducks for this year’s duck stamp competition, and 5 members of the club will brave ocean dips for three months of water temperatures in the high 30’s.

Eat! (What else? Isn’t this universal in winter?) Eileen Richards, a friendly face  at the Cranberry Post Office. Etsy.com, a commerce Web site used by some island crafters. Electricity, yes we do have it out here.

Flexibility (see A), food, friends, and Facebook.

Generators for when the power goes out. If the outage lasts for more than a day, some generous people will actually drive around with their generators in a truck to provide a few hours of power for those who don’t have them. Gratitude for a slower pace of life at this time of year.

Henry Isaacs has been plein air painting in the snow. Hilarity. So many things are just a bit funnier at this time of year. High definition TV.

Ice is prevalent in the gravel pits for skating, on windshields for scraping, (only a handful of people between the two islands actually have a garage) and on the float at the Fisherman’s Co-op where it has to be pounded off to get to the lobsters in the crates below. Islesford School, a center of activity for grades K through 8.

Joy Sprague, a welcoming presence at the Islesford Post Office.

King cake. A New Orleans tradition for Epiphany, recently served at a pot luck dinner on Islesford. The one who gets the baby in their piece of cake will have good fortune for the rest of the year.

Libraries. Thanks to the hard work of our librarians Ruth Westphal and Cindy Thomas, the libraries on Great Cranberry and Islesford are consistently in the top ten for per capita circulation in the state of Maine. Always plenty of new books.

Meetings. Fire meetings, Selectmen’s meetings, meetings of the minds. Movies, and the time to watch them.

Netflix. Movie rentals and returns without leaving the island. The red Netflix envelopes are a daily sight at the island post offices. New recipes and time to try them.

Olympics. Many of us will be watching the Winter Games in February. (Oops. I guess the Winter Olympics date this piece!)

Poetry workshop with Rick Benjamin on Islesford in January. Potluck suppers. Painting lobster buoys.


Reading. Lots of reading.

Shrimp season. Weekly shrimp purchases are a delicious way to support a local winter industry. Snowplows. Thanks to Blair Colby and Cory Alley, our island roads are usually plowed and sanded before those on the mainland. There is never a snow day at the Islesford School. The only cancellations are caused by power outages.

Travel. Many of us have more time for it at this time of year. Islanders have been all over the world, and run into each other there!

Upstairs at the Islesford Neighborhood House. The only room that really heats well there in the winter. It is where Town Meeting will take place this year in March.

Varnishing boats at the boatyards on Great Cranberry.

Warrant for Town Meeting and the Annual Report get their final touches before going to the printer. Our award winning town publication looks back on 2011 with photographs and reports from all town officials, and looks forward with the school and town budgets for 2012. Walking.

X-country skiing. A great way to get around the islands after a snowfall.

Yahtzee. People tend to play more games in the winter.

Zeroing in on all the things we put off until there is time in the winter to do them; including Zzzzzzz…lots of naps!


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13 responses to “I love/hate writing!

  1. Susan White

    I know what you mean. Am trying to eke some poems for a meeting Thursday….have a pantoum going on!! xoS


  2. I love the way you know everyone’s names. I don’t even half the people in my building.


  3. I meant to say I don’t even “know” half the people in my building. My fingers got away from me on that one!


    • Barb Fernald

      Susan White (up above comment) and I wrote a weekly column about the islands for 8 years together for a local newspaper. It made us remember lots of names because we were encouraged to use as many as possible and the newspaper would boldface every name. But this time of year it’s pretty easy since there might be a population of 100 between the two islands. Tinyville!


  4. cathy

    One of the many things I enjoy about living in Maine is reading your posts and columns. Writing is harder than anything, chewing over words and endlessly self editing. But your writing shines with freshness and openess. Thank you for starting your daily blog again. I missed it when you stopped although I can imagine how hard it must be to face another obligation every day.


  5. You may not always enjoy writing but I definitely enjoy reading your blog! :)


    • Barb Fernald

      Hi Susan, thanks for the comment. I just checked out your blog too, and will become a regular reader. I’ll be curious to know how it goes offering handmade findings for sale. I’ve been thinking about a separate Etsy shop for beads and findings, but Geez. I keep dragging my feet on keeping my jewelry shop up to date. It’s the photography that takes so long. Time for me to bite the bullet and get to it!


  6. Susan White

    Speaking of knowing names…last week I ACCIDENTALLY trashed all the pages of info I had on ppl. while writing the column..and which I continue to add too. I was frantic for about an hour…when I remembered my little LaCie hard drive which I back stuff up on every week…I found it and was able to restore it. Backup, back up backup!!!!S ps…the computer reminds me every week or I would forget to do it!


    • Barb Fernald

      OMG! This is like a spiritual intervention of some cosmic kind. I have one of those little LaCie hard drives and I haven’t opened it up. Uh…I think I will go do that right now. Thanks.
      I’m glad to hear you restored your info. xoxo


  7. I love this! Thank you for sharing a slice of daily life on your Maine island. We have king cake so often in New Orleans that along with good fortune, the person who gets the baby brings the next king cake – to the office, classroom or wherever else they’re being brought regularly!


    • Barb Fernald

      I loved seeing that pile o’ King Cakes at the grocery store on your blog. I’d never heard of one until 2 years ago. Do people have king cake baby collections? Do the babies always look the same?


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