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Opening Up the Summer House

06/25/02 12:00AM By Will Curtis
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(Host) Commentator Will Curtis and his wife Jane take us along as they open up a summer house for the season - on the island of Monhegan, twelve miles off the coast of Maine.

(Curtis) When we say we'll have a week on the island it is really only five an a half days, for it takes a day just to get to Port Clyde where we spend the night in order to get the mail boat next morning. This spring the mail boat "Elizabeth Ann" proceeds calmly across those often dread seas for twelve miles but with one wonderful and unexpected sight, two bald eagles soaring above us. In all the many years we've made the trip we've never before seen eagles.

Cars are not allowed on the Island, (it's only a mile and half by half a mile). We trudge up the island's one road with our supplies.

Every time we open the door of our old, small, white house after a winter's absence, we hold our breath. Yes, all is well, the ceilings are in place, water comes out of the taps and the mouse families have not made cozy homes in the mattresses. We haul out chairs to the porch in the sun, brighter by far than any sun on the mainland. It is not only spectacular scenery that has attracted artists to Monhegan for a century and a half, but the special quality of light refracted from the surrounding sea that makes the island so appealing to painters.

We take a pack basket and head for Gull Cove across the island for firewood. The trail ends at the cove, a narrow slot between two high cliffs, where winter storms have tossed up a storehouse of fire wood. It's tricky going across the boulders to pick up the wood. We hunt for the right size for our Franklin stove; it takes time and there's a house to clean and repair and the afternoon is passing but we can't leave the cove until we have climbed the cliff to our left to look out over the ocean. We figure that we must be looking at the coast of Portugal, 3,000 miles away. One hundred years ago the sea around us would have been filled with hundreds of ships; now all is empty save for Monhegan's lobstermen.

We escape every afternoon from housework to wander the network of trails threading through the woods along the rocky shore and over the headlands. It never ceases to astonish us that a circuit of the small island of Monhegan takes almost all day. It's partly because the trail is difficult but mostly because there's so much to see on the way. There's the way the sun shines through cherry leaves that have just unfurled; they glow like the red in stained glass windows. Then there's the special place down by Gull Rock where the waves curl so you can see into them just before they break. The best place for a trail lunch is that grassy spot above Pulpit Rock where you can see forever. One noontime a few years back, while eating sandwiches, we heard a swishing noise far below us and looking down we saw a pod of whales cruising by.

I'm Will Curtis of Woodstock, Vermont.
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