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Smuttynose Diary Part 2

The old necessary /

On Smuttynose, no one can hear you scream. In this case, the screaming comes largely from the gulls, but occasionally from the author who has been mowing an endless lawn and trimming an endless path for days. As the week progresses, life changes to "island time" and everything you do reminds you of the past and the people who wandered here then.




MORE on Smuttynose and the Haley House and Celia and the Isles of Shoals

MISSED Part One?


Americans take too many showers anyway. By the fourth day without running water on Smuttynose Island, the itching desire to be clean has faded, along with any need for computers, electric lights and refrigeration. Last night however, I had a touch of food poisoning, and for a brief period, found myself coveting the luxurious life on nearby Star Island, where hotel visitors get two showers a week and there are real flush toilets.

At Smuttynose, a midnight trip from the Haley House toward the outhouse 100 feet away is always an adventure. This time the flashlight has gone dead, so I manage to light one of the glass lamps after fumbling for matches. The hurricane lamp teeters and the wick stutters in the cool darkness. What moon there is is nearly obscured by a cloud. The lamp glow is so bright I cannot see around it. I stumble on the rocks and, nearly falling, I clutch the burning glass globe -- and shout. Muskrats skitter, gulls protest.

According to one Isles of Shoals legend, 14 Spanish sailors are buried in the darkness just a few dozen yards to my left. Smuttynose photoTheir storm-tossed ship wrecked among the rocks on a frigid winter night. Samuel Haley, whose very cottage Maryellen and I are borrowing for the week, discovered the frozen bodies the next morning. A few had crawled to within sight of the house, drawn by the single lamp glowing in the window.

I summon their spirits now, holding the oil lamp higher. But there is only the deep silence of the island. Not a motor or a TV set. Not a passing car or siren. Not a frog, an insect or a dog. Not even waves sound here in the sheltered harbor. The island is mute except for the perpetual breathing of the wind across the land and the distant toll of the bell buoy that speeds and slows to the cadence of the sea.

CONTINUE with Smuttynose Island Diary

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Friday, December 15, 2017 
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