Thursday, July 19, 2012

Community lost and regained - Eric

Island in Maine
I was six years old when my father bought a small island in Cushing, Maine. It was winter when he and
Mother came to look, having received a letter from the owner, Dana Herrick, who had retired from lobstering to Florida.

Jim Seavey, who fished from the nearby harbor known as the Pleasant Point "Gut," took Dad over for a look in his skiff. They had to break some ice with the oars to get ashore. Mother thought it was a crazy idea at the time, but grew to love spending all the summer on the island, she and we three kids.

We rowed everywhere, but also walked on the paths that went along the coast from house to house. The road to Fales Store, five miles up Pleasant Point Road, was not paved then. Dad drove up from Massachusetts every weekend, bringing lots of lovely fresh food from Haymarket Square. We were allowed to stay up late on Fridays, awaiting his arrival.

There was a real community then, among the houses clustered around the Gut. People looked after "those summer folk" on the island. Before a hurricane in the mid-fifties Charlie Stone rowed over. We kids ran and alerted Mom: "Charlie Stone is coming!" He was a taciturn man, single, who lived with his mother Maude across the harbor. He got out of his dory, shambled up the rocks carrying two jugs of fresh water. "It's coming on to blow. You folks might want to stay indoors." He addressed the ground just in front of my mother's feet, and put the two jugs of water down. We could feel that we were being held by this community of fishermen and their families around the harbor.

Several years ago I retired here, to live on the island in the summer, and to build a shop on the mainland hill we called "the mountain" when I was young, which has since become my winter retreat. My partner Cynthia is still wintering in Rhode Island, where I worked and we raised our family. Her ties are stronger there: she has her yoga practice group, her church and choir. She loves living on the island in the summer, but living on the end of the point in Cushing is too remote for her in the winter.

We struggled with this problem for years, until I began coming to the Belfast Cohousing group. The attraction has been strong for me: suddenly here were a group of people who wanted to live in community. Every next person I met gave me a more positive feeling.

After a couple of weeks with the Cohousing community, I realized that I had been nurturing a fantasy that my harbor place at the end of Pleasant Point would revert to the community of my youth. All the fishermen have moved away: the taxes are too high. The people who live here now are mostly from other places, mostly retired. The paths between the houses have grown over. The Grange Hall has fallen into disuse. There is another future there, and it does not have the connections to the land, to the sources of spirit I find so compelling.

That's why finding Belfast Cohousing has been something of a miracle for Cynthia and me--a place we could both imagine living and loving.

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