Editor’s note: Ian Watkins is an Island Fellow through AmeriCorps and the Island Institute on Deer Isle, working at Deer Isle-Stonington High School. In this, his second year, he will write a regular column about his life and work.
Do I live on a Maine Island? Yes, I do. But to be frank the answer is much more complicated. Being completely honest with myself, I’m a stranger. While I would have freely admitted this prior to my moving here in September of last year, I didn’t necessarily feel a stranger to Maine.
See, I grew up coming to Maine in the summer. My family has been lucky enough to “get away” to Maine for almost the last 100 years, spending summers on Mount Desert Island, particularly off Cape Road on the “quiet side” of the island.
But like I said: I’m a stranger.
While my connection to the Maine coast was deep prior to moving here, it was in reality only a connection to a small portion matching a particular summer routine. While this routine was older than I am, exercised by my family before me, it reflected nothing of the routines one follows in the action of calling a place home. Quite the opposite, our routine actions of home were left behind in Virginia or elsewhere to be picked up again several weeks later.
This was a habit I had to break immediately upon moving to Deer Isle. It’s a reality that I imagine many struggle with after picking up roots and moving to a place that is so often identified as being quiet and quaint; the simple life; the way life should be.
More accurately, my time living in vacationland has been “the way life is.”
Life is not a vacation, and living on a Maine island comes with just as many challenges as anywhere else. In fact, it’s a whole different set of challenges and I’d be lying if I said I had to face them myself. Maine islands are first and foremost where people live and call home. To be more exact, it is a particular type of people who call islands home; it is not for everyone.
I’m not certain whether I’m that type of person or not (after all I’m a stranger, right?), but I do know that islands offer a sense of place that is often lost or blurred in other locations. It’s the act of living along side that sense of place that makes for a particular type of person.
While I might be a stranger, my work and living here has afforded me the extremely unique opportunity of paying attention, listening and getting to know a place that another job could never offer.