Anyone who lives year-round on an island has likely been asked the question, “What do you do/what is it like there in the winter?” A few years ago, on a winter mailboat ride, some friends helped me come up with an alphabet of responses. We wanted people to know we are not all that different out here; that an island winter, although quieter, includes most of the same winter activities as anywhere else.

But what about spring? No one ever asks what we “do” here in the spring. On the islands we are all at our busiest, with our own dialect for the term. We are occupied with so many different thoughts and activities, it is hard to bundle them into a theme, so I’m presenting another seasonal alphabet.

A is for Alewives. These river herring, that swim upstream to spawn in May, used to be an alternative for scarce lobster bait. Lately, they too are hard to come by. 

B is for Boat schedules. The first Monday in May is when the mail boat changes to the spring schedule. Cranberry Cove boating will start their off-season schedule in mid May. Schedules change again the third week in June. 

C is for Caretakers and Cleaners who are working nonstop to get houses open for everyone who decides that Memorial Day weekend is the perfect time to come back to the island. 

D is for the Dancing Rocks on the back side of Baker Island. The huge granite rocks are a favorite picnic destination for so many people, that we had best take some time to go now, before it gets crowded. 

E is for Exercising our quadriceps. The floats at the town docks are back in the water. Instead of forming a human chain to pass groceries and freight from the boat to the dock, we now make many trips up and down the ramps. 

F is for the Flats of Flowers and plants that will be part of each ferry ride as people get their gardens going. On a crowded boat it can be hard to keep those tender shoots protected. F is also for Fog. Many times, a warm sunny day on the mainland can be a cold foggy day on an island. 

G is for Graduation from the Ashley Bryan School. Meg Stevens and Joe Flores are this year’s graduates. An island graduation is a very special event.

H is for Hitty’s Cafe at the Cranberry House. The building is the home of the Great Cranberry Island Historical Society, with a museum inside and the cafe on the deck. H is also for the Heliker-LaHotan Foundation which sponsors artist residency programs.

I is for everything Islesford from the Islesford Artists Gallery uptown to the Islesford Dock Restaurant and Gallery on the water. The Islesford Pottery, the Islesford Neighborhood House and the Islesford Museum are all preparing for summer.

J is for June with its abundant wildflowers. The lupine, hawkweed, vetch, beach peas, and daisies reward us for a long wait. J is also for June bugs that bomb their bodies against our screens after dark.

K is for Kayak safety. Don’t go out in the fog in one, even with a GPS! They are hard enough to be seen by a lobster boat on a clear day. K is also for Kirby Sholl who is returning to the Islesford Dock Restaurant as head chef this summer.

L is for Layers. When going off island for the day, we are smart to dress in layers because at any time there can be a 20 degree difference between island temperatures and mainland temperatures. 

M is for Mosquitoes. They are the bane of outdoor activities here. I don’t remember the last time anyone said, “Oh, they’re not so bad this year.” 

N is for Norlen’s Water Treatment. Their visits to the islands are part of “opening up” at many of the island summer homes.

O is for Ospreys that nest on the islands. Their high-pitched chirps and overhead hovering make them easy to identify. The osprey nest on Long Ledge is part of the view of any ferry ride to the islands. 

P is for Parking. Applications for stickers were due April 15. Overnight parking on the mainland comes at a cost for island residents. In the summer we pay to park either in Manset or Northeast Harbor. 

Q is for the Quest for summer housing. Summer jobs are plentiful here, but places to stay for the whole summer are not.

R is for Road construction on the mainland. The extra time it takes to wait your turn with one-way traffic may make the difference between catching the ferry home or missing it. One could call the boat’s cell phone to ask them to wait, but often the construction is in a spot with no cell coverage. Plan ahead! 

S is for Swimming lessons. For the rest of the spring, Friday swimming lessons at the YMCA in Bar Harbor are part of the Phys Ed. curriculum for the Ashley Bryan School students. S is also for Sutton Island, where ferry stops are increasing. 

T is for the Terrific Town of Cranberry Isles. Our town of five islands is made up of people who don’t want to live anywhere else. 

U is for the Uncertainty of spring lobster fishing. Last year and this year have not been banner springs, so far. Ugh.

V is for Vegetable gardens. Out here we need fencing to protect them from deer. 

W is for Winters Work and the Whale’s Rib. The gift shops on Islesford and Great Cranberry respectively are getting organized for a busy season.

X is for Xenophobia. It’s a feeling we might experience with a sudden influx of day trippers after a quiet winter. 

Y is for Yellow, a prominent color on many of the May warblers we’re watching before the trees leaf out in full. 

Z is for Zig Zag, the route we take on bikes or in vehicles to get from one point to another among groups of people who stop on the road, enthralled with late spring in Cranberry Isles.