It’s Memorial Day Weekend, the kickoff to summer, and the pivot point in the biorhythm of Peaks Island life. Leisurely strolls down the middle of the road must await late autumn as we dodge the migratory herds of bicycles and golf carts. Islanders observe the chaos, lock eyes with each other, and draw a deep breath. Summer on a Maine island begins.
I just found my copy of an Old Port Magazine from a couple of years ago that featured Peaks Island and the mystique that drives so much of this tourist traffic. Playing with the same homonymy as the Peaks Island gift shop known as Take a Peak, the cover article was titled “A Peek at Peaks.”
Mira Ptacin’s essays have appeared in everything from New York Magazine to Epiphany Literary Magazine. Her memoir Poor Your Soul (Soho Press) has been acclaimed as a brave reflection on the discovery that her unborn child would not survive outside of the womb, and the decision that she and her husband, Andrew, made to terminate the pregnancy.
Scott Nash, known for his brilliant expertise as an award-winning designer and illustrator of dozens of children’s books, also has authored books, including Tuff Fluff and The High Skies Adventure of Blue Jay the Pirate.
The “Peek at Peaks” author shared how she felt watching islanders board the ferry on Portland’s waterfront, “It reminds me that it is possible, in Maine, to live an urban existence from an island home.”
In many ways, this is true. The island’s “downfront” side faces the Portland city skyline and overlooks the ferry’s 20-minute run across the harbor. This view at sunset takes away the breath of visitors and locals alike. Residents of this 800-person island can walk to the ferry, enjoy a short, scenic cruise, and then step into a small city that offers great food, music, shopping, and historic architecture.
Scott Nash described the island-city connection this way, “I like to think of Peaks Island as a neighborhood that was once connected to the peninsula, and just floated off one day.”
Many do think of the island as an outpost neighborhood; indeed, the island officially lies within the city boundaries and the relationship can be as rocky as the shoreline. Yet, calling it a neighborhood of Portland captures island living only partially.
In other ways, our island life harks back to an earlier time. Describing this, Ptacin said, “The concept of pay it forward is big on Peaks Island.”
Like it or not, neighbors are interested in and vested in the lives of other islanders. Helpful advice and critique are offered in equal measure. This is a place where you can lose a $100 bill from your pocket, send an email to everyone on the island asking if anyone found it, and get it back. No kidding. This is true for dogs, chickens, and children – losing them and getting them back, that is.
I like to think that it’s the other side of the island that makes it this way. Yes, one side of the island faces the city. But, from the island’s back shore, you can see multiple lighthouses and a handful of other, smaller islands.
From the back shore vantage point, islanders face outward to an expansive and unforgiving Atlantic Ocean. I know of neighbors who have lost loved ones in its frigid swells. Others have lost their boats to its storms.
We don’t just live in a Portland neighborhood. We live on an edge here and we need each other. Perhaps that edge not only pulls neighbors together, but draws island writers to the page.
Patricia Erikson blogs about Maine writers, travel, and science from a vibrant, literary community perched on Peaks Island, two miles off the coast of the beautiful and award-winning city of Portland, Maine. If you haven’t already, follow her on Instagram at @seashorewrite or subscribe to Peaks Island Press in the upper right corner at http://www.peaksislandpress.com