When George, who lives in the basement apartment next door, learned that I spent several summers on an island just off the coast of Maine, he wanted to know whether island life was solitary, isolated, and lonely or more like living in a basement apartment, all quiet, dark and cuddly? And the answer is quiet and cuddly, yes, but light and bright and intimate rather than lonely, and therefore requires some care and sensitivity.

Island life … “is safe from the rest of the world, because who is going to pay the fifty-dollar ferry fee just to bother you?” Dan King photo

It’s not like living in Northern Maine or Minnesota near the Gunflint Trail and the Boundary Waters, where you can go several months without meeting another human being, but just the opposite. It is safe from the rest of the world, because who is going to pay the fifty-dollar ferry fee just to bother you?

On the island, life is cuddly in the sense that you are confined to a small area with the same people you will see, work and walk with every day. Being nice is required.

On your daily, early morning walk to the small, and the only, grocery store to see if they’ve got in any fresh bagels, or afternoon, on your walk to the post office for the day’s mail, you are bound to meet your neighbor out walking, too, and also tomorrow, and the day after that and every day. And here’s where the island mentality kicks in.

You put on a smile and greet them cordially, asking how they are this morning, and, here, no matter how you feel, you tell them you’re fine, as you probably are, since you’re out walking where everyone else walks.

You don’t lie about it if you’re feeling low, or scared or just pissed off at how we are treated. Island memory is intimate, compact, unforgiving and long lasting and if you spill your messy pot of emotional beans all over your neighbor, you may end up eating them reheated for several years, if not forever after.

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Intrusive is a scary word on the island because folks have nowhere else to go to avoid an intrusion. On an island, we are all neighbors, and we all know about and care about each other in some way or other and this intimacy can be a wonderful thing. However, it must be managed with great care and sensitivity for the feelings and interests of others.

On the mainland you can fill up the car, catch a bus, take a train, hitch a ride or fly away and away and away and never again have to face your accuser, your own blather, your social ineptitude or physical incontinence, or any other mess resulting from your own stupidity.

The ferryboat only leaves the island four times a day and doesn’t run at night at all. You’ve got to live with yourself, sure, but you’ve got to live with all the rest of them, too. So be nice, be thoughtful and sensitive. Be civil. That’s the island mentality.

Orrin Frink is a Kennebunkport resident. He can be reached at [email protected]

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