Experiencing Monhegan

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Another Approach

A Possible Next evolution of Monhegan Commons

When announced that my involvement in Monhegan Commons was coming to an end, I received a lot of lovely notes of what a fine thing it was and what a wonderful job I had done….but not a long lineup of volunteers to take it over.  Actually not a one.  Shy?

Another approach…..Below is how I wanted to fashion MC…..(from About…a statement of purpose)

Monhegan is not just an Island twelve miles off the coast of Maine. There are as many Monhegans as there are minds and hearts that can conceive of it. Monhegan Commons is in search for the essence of Monhegan. Monhegan can be described, only in part, but never defined.   While the site centers on an Island, it really is about the sharing of subjective experiences for the purpose of enriching our own  experience as well as the building of community… a community of individuals who are sharing a commons …  the Monhegan Island that exists not 12 miles off the coast of Maine but the one that resides within our minds, hearts, and imagination.  For, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Fox explains to the Little Prince: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

So then, what Monhegan is in your heart?  This is a commons after all.  This Monhegan belongs to us all.  Tell us of yours and enrich it with ours.

Literally, what is the essence of YOUR  Monhegan?  Granted, words (language) do not always deal with “essence” well…. unless you are a poet.  So…. express it in art, photography, dance, music, meditation, whatever…. and do it for all of us that the essence of OUR Monhegan might glow anew, brighter, wider.  Let’s see where this goes..


Thomas Crowley, Jr’s Monhegan

First Contact, Lifetime Impact
I first sailed into Monhegan when I was 17. It was 1965. I saw a man walk out of a shelter made of driftwood followed by goats. I saw a white hotel on the other island and no one was there. I heard a car engine and then it stopped. It was a Jepp running the only lights on Monhegan. I was just out of reform school (Grand Theft Auto) and my dad was a recovering alcoholic with the shakes. I made black coffee for him as he steered into the harbor on our little chartered sailboat. In 1971, I left Monhegan at sunset on the schooner “Bowdoin” and sailed all night to Boston. I came back in 1972 as mate on the schooner “Adventure” with my new wife. For the past 39 years, I have gone out once a year to walk the cliffs with my wife and children to show them what I saw 46 years earlier. Much the same, much different. Now, I write about it to share with others who may never see it as I saw it.

Larry Wilson’s Monhegan

My first experience of Monhegan was summed up in a sonnet I wrote which starts :
“we came last summer, just the day, an impulse ticket out of Boothbay Harbour, and
the Island hidden, clouded, veiled in rain…”
Someone had declared a poetry night at the Library and I wrote two sonnets in an afternoon and read them that night…
I remember that first visit so very clearly–the slight grumpiness of agreeing to my partner’s wish to visit this oh-so-famous offshore artist’s colony, and the vast family of daytrippers in saris and inappropriate shoes who took up too much of the ferry’s air and space and conversation… And the Island rising on the horizon like a dream, like Oz, like a half-subsided cake out of a troublesome oven, and I was thinking “what a waste of a day…” and never was I more wrong. Off the boat, up the hill, away from the clattering masses… into serenity. Into quiet, peace, surrounded by unquiet, un-peace, un-safety. Up the headlands, around the edges, food and drink, down to Lobster Cove, and discovering a cottage for rent with a view of sky and sea and sweet nothing, and, luck of all luck, it was free the next summer, and we were free  the next summer…
I haven’t been back since that lovely free summer. We did try–the owner of Four Winds had mis-booked our second reservation, and (knife in the heart) we were denied a return visit. East Boothbay just doesn’t cut it when Monhegan shimmers on the horizon like the Emerald City. But its hooks are in my heart and, wherever I go in the world, wherever I holiday, I am looking for another Monhegan. I have yet to find one.
Stupid. Silly. It’s just an island, for chrissakes…
But it sang to me. I stepped off the boat, onto stone whose roots reached into the center of the earth, and it whispered, it hummed, it sang, “Welcome home,” and it’s stupid and naive and silly of me, but I would fly there now, sail there now, just to be there for a day, a week, a month… I would live there, teach there, sketch there, pot there, walk there, impossible a daydream as that is, cold as it would be there in winter, crowded as it would be there in summer… I would stand there, summer and winter, and feel my roots sink as deep as the Island’s, and know that I was home. Home… a Midwestern/suburban/transplanted/expat/American/Englishman yearning for a rocky island in the middle of a distant sea.
And who here would want to join me?

Dawn Peck’s Monhegan

I have been really enjoying all the responses to Experiencing Monhegan (for the first time or again).  Monhegan seems, based on so many of these descriptions, to be a true wellspring to many people – a place to be renewed in whatever way each needs to be.  That is amazing.  My own first experience of Monhegan came after many years of wanting to go there as a child and having no one take me.  Sigh.  I finally got the opportunity, when I “dragged” my youngest child (as a surly adolescent) along with me for a day trip there on our way north to a wilderness canoe camp in northern Maine.  We went for a day in June – a rainy, foggy, sea-sick inducing day on the water.  I pulled her along a too-long hike for the time we had (did not follow the visitor map instructions for which hikes are recommended for day-trippers).  But, I was smitten.  I convinced my husband to go back the following summer to celebrate our 30th anniversary (there is no where else in the world I would like to go).  That was 7 years ago, and we have returned each summer.  Now I am focused on trying to stretch out our one week to longer and longer…..   And, amazingly, the “surly” adolescent, who is no longer an adolescent, wants to return!   A wellspring indeed.

Remembering Monhegan

(This isn’t MY (Thais Faller Gloor’s) memory, but the response of a friend that brings to mind many things.) Last summer a first-time visiting friend of mine commented after a couple of days on how “immersed in the earth” she felt while on the island. I loved the way she put it, and totally agreed without hesitation. When we go camping, or swimming, we expect this “immersion” and so don’t notice it in the same way. There’s something about being in a place where humans live and thrive on a daily basis, without asphalt under our feet, that wakes us up to realize that the two are not mutually exclusive.

Experiencing Monhegan — Thom Peters

I’m a newcomer and a one-timer (so far, anyway). My wife and I came to celebrate our 25th anniversary this past August. Neither of us are “artists,” per se, although we both play instruments and sing in choirs and I like to write poetry. But we both were seeking a “place away from the pace.” The ferry was the most important part, perhaps: the length of the ride, the size of the waves, the pitching of the boat. When folks began to disperse upon disembarking, the sense of being somewhere else grew more. The “trek” to the Trailing Yew was accompanied by the growing realization that we had to be ready and willing to accept whatever hospitality would come our way. We need not have worried.

We hiked the circuit of the island the following day. We took our time, enjoyed the seals frolicking at the north end, lost the trail a few times, but did not worry since it was an island, after all. As the afternoon wore on, we ran in to more and more hikers travelling the opposite direction, with many of whom we shared pleasantries, observations about the day, the island, the view, and offered to take pictures of one another. I think we could have walked all day, but we were glad for the food and hospitality of our new friends at the Trailing Yew.

One more gift of the day was to be had. We were treated to a visit by a ring-necked pheasant shortly before we returned “home.” These birds have become auspicious for us. We rarely see them, except on important occasions: the day we moved into our first house, for instance, and then when we pulled into our first bed & breakfast in Scotland where we ventured for our 10th anniversary. And now, for only the third time, on Monhegan as we marked our 25th anniversary.

That night I awoke and ventured outside to see the Milky War, the stars in constellations, and other stars, falling, shining but briefly. I was struck by this metaphor: I envy the long-term community on Monhegan. I cannot afford to visit there often enough to be regarded “a regular,” but I hope I will always be welcomed as a star, even if just a shooting star.

It’s a miraculous place.

Experiencing Monhegan – Joy Bristol

I first came to Monhegan in the late 90’s. My friend Frank told me about this remote island that was fun to paint, so a few of us artists went up from Connecticut in September. I had not painted landscape very much, but I thought it would be a fun time with friends no matter what.
After waking up far too early, driving many hours, rushing to catch the ferry, enduring an hour’s worth of tossing on the sea, and walking up this dusty hill, I finally stopped and took a breath. I had been in motion for most of the day, and then I felt more still than I had ever felt before. There was a buoyancy, a lightness in me. I felt alone but welcome. Forgive the cliche, but I truly felt I was dreaming and floating along. The people I met seemed as strong as the rocks and as playful as the gulls, and they invited honor.
I dropped off my stuff at the Chadwick House, and was once again in motion following Frank on a hike around the perimeter of the island. Exhausted, we collapsed at the dinner table and welcomed a feast. I wondered why the food and wine tasted so good.
The next day, we went to the cliffs to paint. Nervously, I set up my palette, placed my board on my easel, and painted the worst painting. There was this eternal sky, sea, and rocks. I had to go into the covering of the pines and cry a little from the clobbering that exquisite vastness gave me.
Every year I have returned. The trip there still leaves me dizzy. The people are still strong, fun, and honorable. I still feel like I’m dreaming. The food still tastes unbelievably good. And the beauty still clobbers me.
I have never felt a place to be alive like Monhegan. She gives back to me and lives in my heart.

Experiencing Monhegan for the first time (again)

Experiencing Monhegan

As with all of this site, Experiencing Monhegan is also experimental.  If sufficient numbers use it… it stays (or getting improved).  If not, we’ll try something else.

So here’s the deal.  What did you feel when you first came in contact with the Island? Please, no full length novels.  About 500 words, maybe.  By way of example, I submit my first impression.

The first time I  saw Monhegan

The year was 1958, the day super dark  gray, but no rain in sight.   Stepping off the Balmy Days onto the slip, I thought I was entering Plato’s cave.  The residents of the cave, in my imagination, where themselves from a long line of cave dwellers who had grown accustomed to the dark which had become their reality.  Beat-up pickups, three accessible phones (coin fed), no community electrical power, no news papers, TV was out of the question, no public water for most of the year, no central heating, no medical facilities, if you did not have your own lobster boat (and lobstering was only possible after a three year residency), you could access the mainland only three times a week (and that would require at least a two night motel bill) etc….oh yes, that was some reality Monhegan offered to potential residents….locals had nothing to fear. These cave dwellers would fight to the death rather than be dragged out of their reality…down the slip… into the promise of light that the Balmy Days offered…my reality.   I could not imagine anyone of their own volition choosing to live on Monhegan.  I could not get back on the Balmy fast enough.

Then, I had it all….male, white, tall enough, great education, (relatively) wealthy, just nothing but choice ahead of me.  It would take less than a decade for my reality to run out of options and decompose.  On the late boat,  Labor Day, 1967, Raquel (RickI), our three children (the youngest then in diapers), our dog, a collection of gerbils and eight truck loads of our stuff passed over that slip into a new reality of sunlight, free of the politics of the day, free from the pressures of working for a corporation, free from mindless consumerism, joyfully dumping the twentieth century for the simplicity and life affirming nineteenth century.

Carl Wincapaw was doing the trucking then. After the first load up to our new home, the Cundy Cottage,  Carl informed me that he had a party to attend but that I could use his truck to complete the move.  Close to forty years later, we move off the Island but sadly, no Carl.


So, this is what I have in mind.  And your first impressions of the Island? I confess that writing about this is like seeing the Island again… for the first time.  I’d love to see your Monhegan….. Just register as an contributor , and post your impression (about 500 words) and include a photo it desired.  Or, send both to me via email with “Experiencing Monhegan” is the subject line.

Let’s see if this works and is fun.    Peter