I am writing this column to you while on a family vacation in New Mexico, within a landscape that could not be more different than our own on Chappaquiddick. The desert sky is so immense, a boundless and ever-changing energy. Yesterday on our drive in, we watched an angry rainstorm move rapidly across the desert, colossal, rolling clouds overhead, lightning splitting the air. It reminds me of watching a storm come in over the ocean, but feels even more all-powerful because you can see so far in so many different directions.

My husband and I, along with our 10-month old daughter Juna, recently spent our anniversary weekend on Cuttyhunk, the outermost island of the Elizabeth Islands. After our East Beach wedding last September, we honeymooned on Monhegan, an island off the coast of Maine, and decided to honor each passing year with a visit to another tiny island. This may seem strange, to live on one very small island and then spend time-off on another. I remember years ago the late Edo Potter of Pimpney Mouse Farm told me she and her husband, Bob, would often spend time each year vacationing on Naushon. This was before I knew Chappy well, and I had a difficult time fully understanding the appeal of this. But Chappy has worked its magic over the years, and as I have developed a deep-seated love for our little island, I have found myself increasingly curious about other similarly remote places.

I am drawn to wild coastlines, uninhabited spaces and remote beaches. Like Chappy, both Monhegan and Cuttyhunk have large swaths of protected land which allows for uninterrupted ambling. It is impossible to not feel the wild history of these places in these wanderings, imagining the first time a human explored those shores. Certainly, some of the landscape has changed, either because of man or nature, but much of it must look very similar to how it has looked for hundreds of years.

I find myself particularly intrigued by the lifestyles of year-rounders living on these tiny islands. Monhegan and Cuttyhunk are much smaller year-round communities than Chappaquiddick. They do not have ferries that carry people and cars back and forth endlessly to a bigger island or even ferries that run more than once or twice a day to the mainland. Chappaquiddickers, in my mind, have a sense of neighborliness and comradery as well as a bartering spirit. These traits have perhaps evolved from necessity as the ferry can limit access to resources and people. I imagine these traits must be magnified in communities that are even more isolated than our own.

Both Monhegan and Cuttyhunk still have one-room schoolhouses in operation but with a dwindling population of students in attendance. Cuttyhunk, the last one-room schoolhouse in the state, is down to only two students. When we were on Monhegan, we noticed fliers posted encouraging young families with children to move to the island year-round in exchange for free housing for a year. Despite these types of efforts to recruit new students, it is likely that these schools will eventually close their doors, just as the Chappy schoolhouse did in the 1920’s.

Like Chappy, the summer population on these two islands swells, bringing in an energy and life-line to supply a living to island residents. This is both a blessing and a challenge, for the same individuals that provide steady income also cause property values to soar, forcing out lower-income buyers and renters. Family land is often divided and sold, as taxes become too expensive to maintain. This must be happening at an ever-more rapid pace for these tiny communities where even a small disruption can have a wide-reaching, rippling effect. On such a small scale, it is easy to see the immediate impact. Perhaps this is why I am so fascinated by these communities; in some ways, they are microcosms of our own, and so, in their ebbs and flows we can see the reflection of our own future.

Chappy is winding down. The derby is wrapping up, the Slip Away Farm stand and the Chappy store are closed and the ferry will be returning to its winter schedule on Oct. 14. Potlucks at the Community Center will be continuing all winter long, the first and third Wednesdays of the month. Enjoy the quiet time.

Chappaquiddick news can be sent to slipawayfarm@gmail.com