I live on a part of Deer Isle called Sunset, with my house sitting next to Mill Pond. Although I can’t see the tidal pond from my window, it’s a stone’s throw away, and shortly after I moved here an old-time fiddle tune called “Ducks On The Mill Pond” quickly jumped to the top of my list of tunes to learn.
Not to paint an overly idyllic picture, but Sunset happens to be one of my favorite parts of the island. Despite the name, it’s the morning sun that I find most impressive; it’s sure to wake me and start my day.
At some time of the day, depending on my schedule, I like to walk to the post office. Even if I’m not expecting anything, it makes for a nice walk and is short enough if it’s really cold, snowing, etc. In addition to the rewards and challenges that make up my fellowship, I walk to the post office even when I know the mail hasn’t come because it serves as a simple daily reminder of why I decided to be an Island Fellow.
When walking to the post office, it’s the woods and the road, and with the warming weather, the smells and sounds. Sometimes it involves being sidetracked by walking to the shore, which is a visible distraction on the return trip to my house.
It’s not a guarantee, but there is usually somebody at the post office when I arrive who is also checking their mail, allowing for the friendly and courteous exchange of “Good morning” or “Good afternoon.” As most islanders will tell you, one “notices things” when living on an island and I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one who makes trips to the post office when mail isn’t there.
My trips to the post office have sometimes involved interactions beyond the friendly “hello.” Shortly after moving here, the local paper did a short piece on me to introduce me to the community. Among other things, I mentioned in the interview that collecting records is a hobby of mine. A few days later, I saw a neighbor at the post office who quickly asked me if I wanted a Fugazi record.
“It’s just sitting in my basement,” she told me. Fugazi happens to be one of my favorite bands, and to put it simply, not the type of group you’d expect to be discussing in an island post office of all places.
“Yes, of course,” I said, and pondered the uniqueness of the situation on the way back to my house. It was one of those “Did that just happen?” situations.
But for me it made complete sense—had I been in a big town, something like that would never have happened. Sure, I could go to a hip record store whenever I wanted and buy a copy, but without those kinds of options much more interesting ways of interaction and exchange seem to surface.
On another trip, I was returning to my house when I recognized the oncoming car slowing down. It was a community member I had been trying to contact by email recently regarding an upcoming project. Naturally, we caught up on the project not via email, but while stopped in the middle of the road.
Growing up on a dirt road in Virginia, I’m no stranger to conversation of this sort, often practiced while leaning a bit out of the window of one’s truck. It’s casual, timely and sincere all rolled into one.
While my fellowship is very much a schedule of meetings, webinars, phone calls and writing emails, its backbone consists of the much more interesting and genuine interactions that find their way into my schedule whether they’re planned or not.
Ian Watkins is an Island Fellow on Deer Isle through AmeriCorps and the Island Institute.