Old friends, new friends, and cake…all good reasons to hang around a little longer than might really be necessary.

Today’s notes aren’t really about anything important; just a nod to how it really is a small world, and Maine sometimes feels like one big small town, and funny coincidences make us smile. Let me back up a little. Back in January, right after my article about Rockland’s wonderful “Pies on Parade” event showed up in these pages I got an email from somebody at the Camden-Rockport Historical Society alerting me to the existence of the “Camden Cake Walk.” “I,” thought I, “am in.”

The Camden-Rockport Historical Society and 10 Camden inns offer an annual sampling of deliciousness for those who might manage a pleasant stroll around Camden in May with refreshments (sounds rough… no January ice, no July crowds…. I suspect we can handle this). It’ll be Mother’s Day weekend, too. In the words of their event announcement, “Treat mom, treat yourself, and help preserve local heritage.” Those of us who will be making this sugar-laden circuit will visit the Camden Maine Stay, Abigail’s Inn, Hawthorn Inn, Captain Swift Inn, Blackberry Inn, Belmont Inn, Blue Harbor House, Hartstone Inn, Grand Harbor Inn, and Lord Camden Inn. Each will be serving some sort of cake.

It has been observed more than once that I tend to think with my stomach. Guilty as charged. I’m going to the Cake Walk. If there are to be any other small charitable efforts involving dessert out there, I do hope people will alert me.

So, shifting gears a bit, college spring break rolls around and rather than taking her savings to Florida or some such foolishness our daughter goes down to Norm’s and buys a second-hand Subaru. She decides to register it “3A MOPEM” which, should you happen to be one of the handful of people around here who read Russian (Cyrillic alphabet) will recognize “za moryem,” more or less, meaning “beyond the sea” (or over the water, or across the ocean… you get the idea).

After a reasonable amount of time explaining to the guy at motor vehicles about Matinicus and about being in college studying several languages and that she and her Russian expressions are no actual threat to national security she gets her temporary plate and leaves the befuddled DMV clerks to trying to sort out the young fellow who is trying to register his homemade motorbike and the hard-boiled old battle-ax who wants her driver’s license back. He was having quite a day.

A few days after that I get an email inviting me to participate in a book signing at a bookstore in Belfast called Beyond the Sea. Life is like that.

The bookstore owner is reading “Well Out to Sea,” and has a few questions, mostly about the reality of people who live on the island getting stuck on the wrong side. Sometimes, when you live on an island, you cannot get across the water. Traveling “beyond the sea” becomes a purely hypothetical concept.

At this book signing, a woman shows up who says she recognizes me from my mug in the papers and that we used to work together at the Sail Loft Restaurant in Rockport 25 years ago. She looks familiar and I think for a moment. One thing leads to another and before long we have ascertained that her son went on a schooner Harvey Gamage educational trip as a middle-schooler with my daughter, that the friend she has along with her is the mother of another boy who knows my daughter from the high school they both attended in New Hampshire, that her mother’s best friend is my second cousin and the mother of a former Matinicus sternman, and that another person she happened to mention had been married to one of my editors and their son is another friend of my kids’. Did you follow any of that? It doesn’t matter; the world had just shrunk several sizes. Somewhere in that conversation one of them looked at me and said, apropos of nothing at all, “You look Russian.”

I have no idea what triggered that comment, but 100-plus years ago my father’s father walked, at five years of age, from Minsk to Bremerhaven with all manner of trouble at his heels, or so I have heard. Then, he and his mama Rosa traveled across the sea. 3A Mopem. Yes, that came out of nowhere, in a bookstore in Belfast. Very odd.

Then, into the bookstore walks the woman from the Camden-Rockport Historical Society. She sees me and says hello as I am standing there stuffing bookstore coffee cake into my face. She says, “I’ll see you at the Cake Walk.” Nanette, the owner of Beyond the Sea, wants a photograph of the license plate on the Subaru. Book signing officially over, I call the flying service about going home to Matinicus; they say no can do, the rain has shut them down, and there will be no more flying today. I am stuck on the mainland. No going over the water. “Hey,” somebody says, “just like in the book!” I had mentioned that our island term for the weather is either “flyable” or “not flyable.” She asks if we on Matinicus have a word for this situation. “Stuck off,” I reply. “When you need to get off the island and the weather’s against you, it’s called being “stuck on.” I get another cup of coffee because, hey, what’s the hurry now?

The next morning I showed up at the airport in time for my 8:45 a.m. flight home, which actually left Owls Head at 11:30, due to fog. Stuck, indeed.

Anyway, back to something that’ll make sense to everybody: tickets for the May 7th Cake Walk (1 to 4 p.m.) are available in Camden at HAVII, Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber and Once A Tree, in Rockport at The Market Basket, and in Lincolnville at Dot’s. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children under 12. Bring an old friend, meet a new friend (entirely likely, in such a small world). I hope to be able to get across the water that day and meet 10 pieces of cake.

 

Eva Murray lives on Matinicus Island.