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.

3 thoughts on “Experiencing Monhegan – Joy Bristol

  1. Perfectly said, Joy. Two of your paintings adorn my old 1872 home kitchen in Carson City, Nevada and I’m transported to Monhegan every day when I look at them. I have a condo in Portland but increasingly drive directly from the airport to Port Clyde to get my summer Monhegan fix, returning to Portland only when vacation time runs out. Thank you for your submission and the joy I get from your work.

  2. Peter,
    I am so happy to hear you are enjoying the paintings. They are little bits of that magical place interpreted as deftly as I can manage. Hope to run into you on the island.

    Thank you for posting my clumsy words. What a thrill!


  3. “I set up my palette, placed my board on my easel, and painted the worst painting.”
    I had to laugh when I read this because you completely captured the overwhelming feeling of being there, whether you are trying to capture a painting, a photograph or just a memory to take home. It is impossible to take the whole thing home; you must return… and no one who hasn’t been there really understands, do they?

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