A quick post here to add a link to a gorgeous album of photos taken by Peter Cunningham on our Kent Island trip. Please enjoy and share!
Days 4, 5, 6
There is nothing to do on Grand Manan. No mall, movie theater, no pub. Still we have been busier than bees in a clover field for the past few days exploring the place and getting to know people. Squid jigging at midnight at the fisherman’s wharf, hiking to Hay Point with the Monday Morning Hikers, sitting around a beach fire watching fireworks pop from several spots along the shore including our own, riding out with the pile driver to observe repairs on the Intruder weir and to Dark Harbour to watch the seining of that weir have all been part of the orientation for our visitors to island life.
We are so grateful for the great generosity of islanders who’ve been sharing their stories and educating us about the state of the fishery and concerns about its future.
Page and I took a walk at the Anchorage Park and into the Bog Trail where we found orchids and pitcher plants blooming, and tassels of wild cotton topping their stalks. We were up to our ankles in wet peat, but that was no price to pay for the strange beauty of the plants adapted to this habitat.
The Grand Manan students have been great ambassadors for the island, as they work on projects about the places that mean something to them and the stories that come out of those places: Dark Harbour, Cheney’s Passage, Stanley’s Beach, Eel Lake, Seal Cove, out on the water and more.
Today we all made a field trip to the Bowdoin College Scientific Station on Kent Island, thanks to Russell Ingalls who ran us over from Seal Cove through thick fog.
Damon Gannon, Director of the station, told us about research being done on the 40 -50,000 Leach’s Storm Petrels, oceanic birds that nest in forest burrows on this small island. Here’s the link to the Bowdoin College Kent Island Scientific Station:
Peter Cunningham took us to Fog Heaven where we learned about the work his father Robert Cunningham did here for 60 years or so studying fog. “A pure scientist,” Peter calls him, just as Peter is “a pure photographer,” both of them moved by a genuine curiosity to know. The weather station is gearing up to begin again sending out data, so this site will continue to make a contribution to understandings about climate change, building on decades of data already gathered.
Stay tuned for guest posts here from Jan, Page and Paco, along with some of their photographs from their travels. Harley Cary and Page Buono have also posted very poetic photos on their Facebook pages. Check them out!
July 11, 2015
Our pilot program of Field Studies on Grand Manan has begun with Page Buono, Paco Cantu and Jan Bindas-Tenney arriving from Arizona on July 8. Supported by the Agnes Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice at the University of Arizona, the project plans to bring students from the Creative Writing Program to the island over the next five summers. They will work during a two-week stay on their own writing projects and with island youth to help them to tell their stories of coming of age in this place where sustainability of the local culture is deeply tied to the sustainability of marine life.
The goal is to spur documentary arts projects that will explore the story of Grand Manan Island (population 2500) and its 200-year history of traditional fisheries. We will explore how the arts and culture can contribute to our understanding of climate change and sustainability. Island culture is undergoing dramatic change with the decline of fish in the North Atlantic and the rise of corporate aquaculture. But climate change has also meant a boom for the lobster fishery, as lobsters move north for colder waters and new markets have developed in Asia.
Page caught this iconic view of Swallowtail Lighthouse with the Grand Manan V rounding the bend on its way to North Head.
Day 1 and 2
We began Thursday with an early breakfast with the Grand Manan Rotary Club, where our group was joined by Carly Fleet who has been our able liaison with school and community.
Grand Manan high school teacher, chef and tour guide Robbie Griffin gave us a full day’s tour beginning with the first Anglo settlement at Bonney Brook in 1779, and running all the way from Southwest Head to Swallowtail. We were especially interested to see the new lobster tank storage facility and learn a bit about how lobsters find their way to market. We experienced true island hospitality throughout the day, but Robbie’s lunch was epic. Seafood chowder, lobster rolls and strawberry shortcake. What a welcome. Liam Watkins joined us for the day, a talented Grand Manan student (just graduated!) who had recently built himself a mahogany electric guitar.
McLaughlin’s Wharf in Seal Cove
We planned to do independent research on Friday (Paco contemplating border issues and island life, Jan exploring Dark Harbour and setting up interviews with fishermen, Page writing and making watercolors), but that plan was interrupted when I spotted from my second floor deck that the pile driver had been towed out to the herring weir known as Intruder. This was a rare opportunity for us to get out to Swallowtail and perch on the cliff above the weir to watch construction as the bottom stakes were driven into the seabed and top poles attached.
Here is the Intruder in previous summer, all strung up with twine and ready to capture herring that venture near shore.
We ended the day with a beach fire and had a chance to see Liam’s amazing guitar–well, a few of them–and hear a few tunes from him, Mackenzie Russell and Harley Cary on a warm summer evening by the sea. Writers call such moments research. It’s a tough life.
Book tour has continued with the triennial Art & Environment Conference at the stellar Nevada Museum of Art. This gathering offers a pinnacle of inventive and collaborative art projects related to environmental concerns. Among the inspirational artists there was the stunning Petah Coyne.
Collaboration and field work were hallmarks of much of this work and I recommend exploration of artists David Brooks and Maya Lin, for starters, to feel encouraged about the talents being brought to bear to raise attention, conscience and action–“art that walks in the world,” as Bill Fox calls it. With great gratitude to Bill and his colleagues at the museum for the brilliant work in spurring this gathering.
Yesterday I read at the legendary Elliott Bay Book Company. A truly great book store filled with books and book lovers and coffee drinking readers. Great to reconnect with old friends there Sarah & Shelly & meet new ones. People always bring animal stories to these events. I was moved to learn about concerns here in Seattle for the elephants in the local zoo. Elephants in captivity so often carry great burdens of sadness. But, even more vexing, is that elephants in the wild carry perhaps even greater burdens of violence. It seems they may be the most beloved and most tormented creatures with whom we currently cohabit the planet. I learned also about the Mfubu Lodge and Gallery in South Africa http://mfubu.com on the edge on the Kruger National Park, a sanctuary for animals and people alike, all of whom need the solace of protected places.
Thank you, friends along the road for welcoming me and Zoologies. On to Olympia for reading 7 PM October 13 at Orca Books then Portland for reading 7 PM October 15 at Annie Bloom’s.
This week the University of Arizona Poetry Center hosted a book launch and reading for me and the marvelous poet Susan Briante. We had over 200 people in the audience. Tucson is a great town for writers and books. I’m grateful to live in such a community. As I share stories from this book, I am coming to learn how much people love to hear the one about the two elephants I met at the Little Rock Zoo. At the reading last week up at the Grand Manan Library, a woman in the audience who had clearly been moved by the story bought a copy of the book for a friend who had worked at an elephant refuge in Maine. Yes, Maine. A place in Hope where elephants could retire in peace. Something had gone terribly wrong there and an elephant had trampled his keeper to death. A bad day for an elephant can be perilous for a human being. She was giving the book to this other woman who had been there in hopes she might find some consolation in its pages. That is my hope. And in Tucson I heard story about an elephant grieving for a man he’d been close too, lingering over the place where he’d died and repeatedly touching the ground, maybe even stroking it.
This morning I had some time to walk near my new house off Territory Drive in the Tucson foothills. The desert is radiant green right now after a hearty monsoon season. Sonoran Birds of Paradise exploding into late bloom. Fairy duster too. This neighborhood is right near the base of the Santa Catalinas, so that the mountain presence is always in conversation with human habitation. There’s a lot of said habitation up here, but in my neighborhood the houses and condos are laid out in such a way that the desert remains gorgeously in tact. Walking along hilly Territory Drive and appreciating the visual balance between land and houses, I remembered the master work by Rene Dubos, The Wooing of Earth. He wrote that the landscapes we love are most often not ones that speak of pristine wilderness but rather landscapes such as Tuscany or Vermont where the scene suggests a long and balanced relationship between land and people, patterns of use that speak of an equanimity between nature and culture–or perhaps a seamless presence in which there appears no boundary between the two. They become one at least in mind’s eye and that is a nourishing vision.
September 25, 2014
Last night the Grand Manan library hosted the book launch for Zoologies. We had a great island crowd of about 45 people, a few of whom had to race down island from the ferry that arrived at 7 PM. I’m grateful to our host Kendra Neves for her hospitality–and the delicious cakes and fruit provided for all to enjoy after the reading. Our family’s cottage on Grand Manan came to us through the generosity of a librarian, so this night was special to me. In 1956 when our family first visited here, driving up from Connecticut and taking a ferry that slung cars with a winch onto its deck, we stayed at the long-ago demolished Rose Cottage Inn. We all fell in love with island’s grand beauty and rich history as a fishing culture. “We’re going to buy a house,” my mother declared. She was a very determined woman. “We can’t afford it,” my father argued.” “We will use Frances Shed’s money,” she declared. And that we did, buying a small cottage built in 1864 on the long bank near Castalia. Frances Shed had been the librarian at the public library in Wethersfield,Connecticut in the 1930s when my parents moved there from NYC. My mother befriended her, often hosting her for Thanksgiving dinners and such. Frances, a modest women of quiet and proper demeanor, had no family. When she passed, she left her small stock portfolio to my mother. So in the mysterious ways of personal history, libraries have ferried me to this special place and moment.