Friday, July 22, 2016


Last month I found myself sleeping in the attic of the oldest structure in Maine on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean. "Say what??" you ask.  "Hang on, I'll tell ya," I reply. Or maybe I'll say, "No one says, 'Say what,' anymore! Update your exclamations!"

Well, now you made me forget what we were talking about. Oh yeah, scary places to sleep. Anyway, my sister, Nancy, and her husband, Dick, have been working and playing on a group of small islands off the coast of New Hampshire for many years now. They are The Isles of Shoals and are located 6 miles out to sea.

Star Island is the biggest among the islands and is where conferences are held.

It was originally settled in the 1600s, so naturally ghost stories abound. Ghost Hunters did a show out there, in fact,  but that's a blog post for another day.

My scary attic was on Smuttynose Island, which sits across the water from Star Island. Nancy and Dick volunteered to be caretakers out there for a week and invited us to visit.

There is no electricity or plumbing on the island. But there is sweet peace, blowing through the grassy fields, rolling down the rocky shore, and sweeping the hair off my face as we approached by boat. And there are seagulls. Lots and lots of seagulls.

And all the seagulls had baby seagulls.

Anyone who knows me well knows that- despite my age, intelligence and common sense- I'm a big ole baby when it comes to ghosts. I have no idea if they exist but I ain't sleeping alone if there's the slightest possibility one may be skulking around. Hey! There's a cemetery out there, man. Don't judge me.

You can imagine how I felt about sleeping upstairs on this lonely island without the distraction of The Real Housewives or  Dateline. OMG, Dateline! Glad I couldn't watch a murder mystery on Smuttynose. The island was the scene of a couple of murders in the 1800s. Thanks for reminding me.

I made my son sleep nearby that night and we kept a lantern on. We had the screened windows open, allowing a cool breeze in. The moon provided more light than I would have expected, so I turned the lantern off. I laid back and listened to the odd sounds seagulls make: a caw you could swear was a cat and a cry that sounds like a baby. The next thing I knew it was 8:00 in the morning.

Coffee was ready on the propane stove. Jamie was off fishing, Dick was out being an island caretaker and Nancy was checking for news on her phone. (We picked up wifi from Star.) I had my coffee my favorite way: outside.

We spent the day island-hopping. Nan and Dick had permission to visit a private island to pick strawberries so we started there.

Next stop was Star Island where we were able to buy a snack and use a real bathroom.

Hold on- Smuttynose has one of the nicest outhouses I've ever seen, but you know. Outhouse.

The afternoon was spent on Appledore Island where brainy college kids study the sea and its creatures.

Back on our breezy chunk of land, we dined on grilled steak and a pot of mussels Jamie collected on the shore. Delish.

What mussels we didn't finish, we gave to the seagulls. We moved inside for a game of scrabble while the sun took it's sweet time sliding down into the ocean.

Lanterns were lit, wine was poured and scrabble words were challenged.

At the end of the game Nancy claimed she couldn't read our scores in the dim light and decided she must have won. With a little help from her flashlight-welding husband, I was declared the winner. Quite a feat since Nancy's a brainiac and Jamie's a game-aholic. Yay, me!

I slept heavily and long once again. We packed up later in the morning and waited for our ride down at the...lagoon? If Gilligan can call it that, I guess I can, too.

Thirty minutes later we were back at our car. I'm still thinking about our quick trip to The Isles of Shoals and how all that quiet and all that nature somehow got inside me. I feel calmer. I'm sleeping better. Ghosts? phsaw! I ain't scared of no ghost. But if, in a quiet, contemplative moment I should suddenly screech like a seagull who sounds like a cat, don't call 911. I'm just reliving a peaceful memory.

On a side note, The shootings at Pulse nightclub happened right before we arrived on Smuttynose. Even out there, on that isolated island, the flag was raised at half-mast.

What a world.

What a beautiful world.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful description of your and Jamie's visit to Smuttynose - a very special place. Your pictures are the perfect accompaniment to the words. You are very talented, my dear.

Anonymous said...

Caryl, I''m living my life through you - honestly. Do you realize how fortunate you are to visit some of the places most of us never heard of? Great story - now how do I get there????


caryl said...

Yes! I appreciate every new experience. That's why I have to write about it.