I was up after bedtime the other night making balsam wreaths, one for our kitchen door and one for the island cemetery, where my husband Paul’s parents are buried. I adore the smell of balsam fir. Here in the Anarchic Autonomous Democratic Republic of Matinicus you don’t have to lay down money for your seasonal greenery, although we might make a point of asking a landowner’s permission even if they generally squint and laugh at any mention of it. How cute. Paul’s two shares of the “common-undivided” Condon Lot entitles us, at any rate, to a Christmas tree fresh out of the woods.

The Saturday before Christmas brought a calm day — itself something special — and the Maine Seacoast Mission vessel Sunbeam to our harbor. They’d postponed from the day before on account of high winds (as did the state ferry, which comes once a month this time of year; we’d see the ferry on the following Monday with the propane truck). Recently sprung from a long stay at the Front Street Shipyard in Belfast, the Sunbeam had all sorts of nice interior refits and renovations, none of which were shown off to us on account of — well, you get it. Instead, captain and engineer, nurse and chaplain (the steward being off that day) brought cookies and hot chocolate out onto the wharf, and those of us loitering around had what you might call a tailgate party with the crew. It was a nice chance to wish a happy Christmas through our masks to Mike, Storey, Sharon and Douglas, and indirectly to Jillian who we assume baked the cookies, and to acknowledge that holiday celebrations in the time of coronavirus might still be hopeful.

It being high tide on a good day, there was work happening, hot chocolate party or not. Nick and his sternman unloaded lobster traps off the Pisces. Somebody had landed a kitchen range, in a box, right beside the mast and boom while the tide was up; they’d be back for their appliance later. We all inspected it, of course, because there is little for privacy concerning freight out here. Four or five guys unloaded a half-million pounds of bagged wood pellets off the Liberty Risk into a small pickup that was nowhere near adequate for the task. Cooper and Hailey, both roughly age 2, toddled around and ate cookies and supervised all the work.

The Sunbeam, with its string of Christmas lights high overhead, started away before dark having four hours yet to steam home to Mt. Desert. They left their traditional white-paper-and-red-string-wrapped presents for the littles — a custom that has lasted a century.

For years Paul and I have hosted a party in December, usually on the winter solstice (said revelry accruing a reputation as a singularly heathen expression of faith and culture but that is perhaps exaggerated). Likewise, it has been customary on Matinicus Isle as far back in the annals of history as is known, that the whole of the community (or all who will) assemble at the church on Christmas Eve not for preaching but for a mighty supper. This is not the year for us to crowd around a church-basement turkey. Still, there is talk of Santa appearing on the church steps (assuming a volunteer can be poured into the suit) to take outdoor photos with Cooper and Hailey and any young ones “on island.” Maybe we’ll read “’Twas the Night before Christmas” or something along those lines, and we’ll ring the church bell just because we can, and then every man to his own hearth.

There is talk of a bonfire on the beach some quiet December evening, if we should get another quiet evening — a Silent Night — without the usual half-gale.

At my house we’re growing fat on baklava, and Lucia buns, and latkes, and we have made eggnog. Not enough eggnog for 40 this time, but enough to drink a toast over Zoom more than once, more than twice. I build it from scratch, with reliable eggs and plenty of cream, and a spoonful of the Kraken does it no harm. We had no luck seeing Jupiter and Saturn on the solstice, but we did see Emily and Eric, thanks to the technology.

Christmas this year is working itself out a little at a time, with packages late in the mail and lots of telephone calls and things drop-shipped without wrapping paper, and no new dress required for Auld Lang Syne. But we eat well, and we have each other, and once in a while when the wind doesn’t blow maybe we’ll get two or three together outdoors and watch the stars, or stand around a fire, or elegantly sip from our finest stemware off the tailgate of the truck.

Let us who can make merry, and be exceedingly grateful.