This Tiny Maine Island is 12 Square Miles of Solitude

The first thing you see is the church steeple. It appears almost like an apparition, a slender point of white rising up from the rolling mound of dark, dark green, mile upon mile of spruce forest. You rub your eyes, look again, squinting through the salty spray of the Gulf of Maine. Yes, it’s there, that spike of white, growing larger a your boat chugs slowly closer to The Island.

A 12-square-mile rock in Penobscot Bay, Isle au Haut (“High Island”) is among the easternmost islands in the United States. It’s pronounced EYE-la-HOH, an Americanization of the name given by explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1604 — but regulars refer to it simply as The Island.

I am part of the seasonal influx that balloons Isle au Haut’s population each summer, having been granted the ridiculous luck and privilege of being born into a family whose Boston-based patriarch — my mother’s father — purchased, in the early 60s, a cottage “in town,” which is to say sandwiched between the Island Store and the minuscule post office, within earshot of Sunday’s church bells.