Monday, July 30, 2007

Notes from my Monhegan Journal: Part One

Notes from my Monhegan Journal - aka The Lande That The Internet Forgot


I went to coastal Maine, to paint with my mentor J. for a week. We met up on Monhegan Island, population 75.

I make a list in my journal of my muses for the trip. I do that for all my painting adventures, and certainly some of you dear readers have made the lists over time.

My goals: to paint, to think, to spend time by myself, Capture that North light. Three generations of Wyeths worked here. Experience the smell. Sound. Taste. Synesthesia... And to find the legendary lone Siamese cat of Monhegan Island.

It was a long drive through Ontario, upstate New York, New Hampshire and then Maine… took two days. I reached the the ocean at dusk. After fried clams and lobster salad at “The Harpoon”, and a nightmare-laden sleep at Port Clyde’s Seaside Inn B&B, (in “The Captain’s Room,”) I awoke to dogs barking and babies squalling in the heavy fog. When it lifted, a glorious light revealed the dock:

Trembling with cymophobic fear, I took a small WW2 boat over to Monhegan. One sits atop one’s bags on the prow, as the boat lurches out into the Atlantic. It was a thrilling, rollercoaster crossing. Dramamine was my saviour for twelve long nautical miles…

A lighthouse en route, where Tom Hanks was filmed as Forrest Gump:

I arrived, mad with salt air and grinning, kissing the ground (well, not really but almost.) Cute German exchange worker Stephano is very kind with my insanely heavy, canvas-filled luggage, and tells me to just wander to the inn anytime, he will take care of my stuff. So, I do just that and take some photos as I climb to the hilltop to see the view.

Electricity is a novelty, they only recently brought over a generator for the isle. There are no cars, no roads, no phones, no streetlights. I packed a Faraday flashlight, a Petzl Tikka headlamp, and a small scope for looking at the stars. A home:

A one room school, for the five students on the island.

Humble is the order of the day. Winding goat paths for roads. Mud. No hotel, but a couple of spartan Inns, most of which have communal bathrooms. You pass dudes in lounge pants brandishing toothbrushes in the hallway. Yet, there is art everywhere! This is the Gallery, prices range from $300 for a tiny sketch, to the tens of thousands.

Bicycles are not permitted on the trails. Everyone walks, except for those driving a couple of old, hulking trucks or golf carts used to haul things. Fuel for cooking (propane) is brought over by boat. There is Crab and Lobster. There is “Hot Fat”, a fish and chip stand. What is it here that is the main desideratum?

Innkeeper Holden greets me by name at the Monhegan House. It seems my reputation precedes me. (Thanks a lot, J.!) After the Day Tourists have caught the last boat back, all is quiet and strange and serene. I am oddly anxious. I pace the shore clutching my sketchbook and brush, wanting to do perfect, brilliant work immediately and failing miserably. J. tells me to chill and just let it happen naturally.

People wander down to Fish Beach to watch the sunset. I asked myself, What will this do to my brain? Will I be lonely?

Part One / Part Two / Part Three / Part Four / Part Five

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