Experiencing Monhegan for the first time (again)

Experiencing Monhegan

As with all of this site, Experiencing Monhegan is also experimental.  If sufficient numbers use it… it stays (or getting improved).  If not, we’ll try something else.

So here’s the deal.  What did you feel when you first came in contact with the Island? Please, no full length novels.  About 500 words, maybe.  By way of example, I submit my first impression.

The first time I  saw Monhegan

The year was 1958, the day super dark  gray, but no rain in sight.   Stepping off the Balmy Days onto the slip, I thought I was entering Plato’s cave.  The residents of the cave, in my imagination, where themselves from a long line of cave dwellers who had grown accustomed to the dark which had become their reality.  Beat-up pickups, three accessible phones (coin fed), no community electrical power, no news papers, TV was out of the question, no public water for most of the year, no central heating, no medical facilities, if you did not have your own lobster boat (and lobstering was only possible after a three year residency), you could access the mainland only three times a week (and that would require at least a two night motel bill) etc….oh yes, that was some reality Monhegan offered to potential residents….locals had nothing to fear. These cave dwellers would fight to the death rather than be dragged out of their reality…down the slip… into the promise of light that the Balmy Days offered…my reality.   I could not imagine anyone of their own volition choosing to live on Monhegan.  I could not get back on the Balmy fast enough.

Then, I had it all….male, white, tall enough, great education, (relatively) wealthy, just nothing but choice ahead of me.  It would take less than a decade for my reality to run out of options and decompose.  On the late boat,  Labor Day, 1967, Raquel (RickI), our three children (the youngest then in diapers), our dog, a collection of gerbils and eight truck loads of our stuff passed over that slip into a new reality of sunlight, free of the politics of the day, free from the pressures of working for a corporation, free from mindless consumerism, joyfully dumping the twentieth century for the simplicity and life affirming nineteenth century.

Carl Wincapaw was doing the trucking then. After the first load up to our new home, the Cundy Cottage,  Carl informed me that he had a party to attend but that I could use his truck to complete the move.  Close to forty years later, we move off the Island but sadly, no Carl.


So, this is what I have in mind.  And your first impressions of the Island? I confess that writing about this is like seeing the Island again… for the first time.  I’d love to see your Monhegan….. Just register as an contributor , and post your impression (about 500 words) and include a photo it desired.  Or, send both to me via email with “Experiencing Monhegan” is the subject line.

Let’s see if this works and is fun.    Peter

9 thoughts on “Experiencing Monhegan for the first time (again)

  1. To everyone out there – I’m so looking forward to reading your posts! This is something that I’ve wondered many times: what is it like for most people? I’m sorry I can’t share my first impressions because I don’t remember them. Monhegan got under my skin long before any of my conscious memories, and so I am totally biased, having arrived for my first visit at 6 months. Write on!

  2. I was a little older than Thais, but only 2, so I don’t remember either. But I do remember already at a very young age thinking the island was beautiful, loving the tidal pools (not as many these days), Doug and Harry Odom at the General Store giving me – “the little dahk-haired girl” a piece of free bologna every time I went in with my parents, Ted Davis holding the dock together as he awaited the Laura B, fairy houses and someone selling little beaded rings in the woods), horseshoes at The Trailing Yew. The memories become intermingled over time, especially now, 50-some years later. But already as a little girl, I was mesmerized. Still am.

  3. Peter, lovely story. Um spell check…… ” no PUBLIC water”! Sorry…. maybe you can fix it?

  4. My husband and I arrived on the island September 2006. We had many artist friends that had come to the island to paint, we had heard about it and seen paintings of it when my husband decided it might be a place to check out! So we did. We read alot about it before we got there, so we knew about what to expect, but no amount of reading can prepare you for the stunning peacefulness, the beauty and the FEELING of Monhegan. We did a lot of hiking and each place we went was so beautiful and so different. There were calm days, and wild windy days so we saw some crazy surf. We talked to as many people who lived on the island as possible. It FACINATED us in every way. What a nice change to have no TV, no phone and all the distractions of “modern day living”! Day 6 arrived… it was time to pack up and leave the inn. I couldn’t. I told my husband… “Have you ever felt like you were somewhere that you really FELT like you should be? THIS IS IT.” It was a heartbreaking trip back on the boat. But we left with reservations for the next year. We’ve been there each year until last year, when something came up that prevented us from making the trip. Monhegan is like going back in time in the most positive way with the most interesting people you could ever meet. We have made such good friends on the island that we are in touch with still today. Not a day goes by that we don’t think about Monhegan. Thanks for your story Peter, and for the website!

  5. The first time I visited Monhegan was 1990. I knew very little about it besides that it might be unspoiled nature, something that I yearned for. It was a beautiful day, and I remember walking through Cathedral Woods – the sun filtering down through the trees and illuminating the ferns – at that moment, it was magical. A deer wandered across the path, stopped and looked at us, and continued. It is something that I will always remember – to have briefly met with the grace and magnificence of a creature living wild in those primordial woods. And then, tucked away, could it be, under some low-lying wood – small houses? So blended into the lay of the land that I thought not many people notice these? Ah – the bliss of ignorance at that moment! Further on, the cliffs seemed a bit daunting then – I kept my daughter back from them – how that has changed – now my children call me back from the farthest edge of Black Head!

  6. Well, when my parents went the first time and described Monhegan’s beauty to their colleagues in New York, one of those people asked my mother: “so what do you do there? Just sit on your ass all day and look at the water?”

  7. (Thanks, Peter. I registered as a contributor, but now seem unable to log in. Sorry.)

    I first came to Monhegan in the late 90’s. My friend Frank told me about this remote island that was fun to paint, so a few of us artists went up from Connecticut in September. I had not painted landscape very much, but I thought it would be a fun time with friends no matter what.
    After waking up far too early, driving many hours, rushing to catch the ferry, enduring an hour’s worth of tossing on the sea, and walking up this dusty hill, I finally stopped and took a breath. I had been in motion for most of the day, and then I felt more still than I had ever felt before. There was a buoyancy, a lightness in me. I felt alone but welcome. Forgive the cliche, but I truly felt I was dreaming and floating along. The people I met seemed as strong as the rocks and as playful as the gulls, and they invited honor.
    I dropped off my stuff at the Chadwick House, and was once again in motion following Frank on a hike around the perimeter of the island. Exhausted, we collapsed at the dinner table and welcomed a feast. I wondered why the food and wine tasted so good.
    The next day, we went to the cliffs to paint. Nervously, I set up my palette, placed my board on my easel, and painted the worst painting. There was this eternal sky, sea, and rocks. I had to go into the covering of the pines and cry a little from the clobbering that exquisite vastness gave me.
    Every year I have returned. The trip there still leaves me dizzy. The people are still strong, fun, and honorable. I still feel like I’m dreaming. The food still tastes unbelievably good. And the beauty still clobbers me.
    I have never felt a place to be alive like Monhegan. She gives back to me and lives in my heart.

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