The work of an Island Fellow often follows a schedule quite different from those work roles most people are accustomed to. The standard 9-5 shifts followed by going home don’t really apply.
Sometimes, I find myself working from home. As I write this, actually, I am sitting at my home desk as the snow falls outside. Other times, I am at the island high school from sunup to sundown. Even then, going home can be followed by attending an island event or running into someone at the grocery store, a situation than can very easily find me still carrying the title of Island Fellow.
In a way, an Island Fellow is always on duty.
There have been a few times where my recognized role as an Island Fellow has caught me off guard. Early last spring, I decided to take advantage of a Saturday off that was sandwiched between two busy workweeks. Winter had decided to not let loose its grip, and this particular Saturday was one of the first recognizably warmer days of the change in season.
Knowing that a walk in the woods and along the shore would do me good and serve as a quiet respite, I decided to take a stroll to Barred Island, which is accessible during low tide. I was quite honestly looking forward to a little seclusion and was fully expecting to be alone, something I have found surprisingly difficult to accomplish at times here on Deer Isle.
I pulled into the parking area to see no other cars, a sure sign that I would indeed be alone on this walk. Leaving the parking area, the trail is quickly surrounded by green moss as you make your way down the quiet path. After circling the island at low tide, I retraced my steps and began the steady walk back up to the parking area. By now I had been alone for close to an hour, and was fully expecting to remain so for the rest of the outing.
Coming to a boggy section with a small walking bridge, I had my head down watching my feet as I made my way across. Breaking my perceived isolation, I was startled by a cheerful “Hello.” Caught off guard and quickly looking up, I saw that two guests now joined me.
“You’re the Island Fellow,” one of them asserted before I could respond. Still attempting to gather myself after the surprise of not being alone, I was also realizing that despite being recognized as the Island Fellow, I had never before met these people. Very much surprised, I greeted them and said that I indeed was the Island Fellow.
After informing me that I “looked the part,” a short chat followed before we parted ways. On the way back to my car, I found myself not just revived by my solitary walk, but also by the surprising and unexpected island meeting that had occurred along the way.
Ian Watkins is an Island Fellow through AmeriCorps and the Island Institute, working with high school students in schools in Hancock and Washington counties.