For many of us, it feels like there are separate "rooms" from which our lives are made: work, leisure, home, hobby. So it's not surprising that the people we're near to often witness different sides of us... sides which emerge only when we're in one of those rooms with them. Friends know us differently than family, family different from co-workers and so on. But my partner Mike seems to have no walls; he shares of himself and his life with practically everyone - regardless of what room you met him in. And so it was on Thursday last week, when all the people who work at Grain met at his home - which is also a cool old boat - so that we might all spend one of the rare days of a waning summer chugging down the Piscataqua River and out to sea.
Our destination became Star Island in the Isles of Shoals, a rarity itself; steeped in history, and today active with the good works of the stewards of that place. In the winter, I am the lesser of two winter caretakers employed for the last eighteen years to watch over the place for five months of gales and freezing temperatures. So I've had a special connection to those islands for many years which, even in all that time, I've made no opportunity to share with the great people I work with. Star Island, though not the largest of the islands, hosts hundreds and hundreds of people each summer for retreats, learning, and contemplation. This being the tail-end of their season, the island was sparsely peopled, and as Mike's sweet old cruising trawler made up to the docks and our friends from work made their way ashore, they found plenty of sun and space to explore. I, of course, had work to do while we were there so - as our crew made their way about the island soaking up it's beauty and the vibe - the other caretaker Alex & I watched their figures from a distant roof where we were removing solar panels to re-purpose elsewhere.
In the centuries since it was first discovered by the legendary John Smith (in the mid 1600's), the place has served as seasonal fish-camp for early European fishermen, a haven for pirates, one of the first sites of the earliest of northern New England's famed grand hotels, and the home of a colorful permanent fishing community that was so remote from the civilization being established in the burgeoning American colonies, that they had their own dialect and ribald forms of humor. They even referred to their trips to the mainland as "going to America". In recent years, the amazing people that run this amazing place have been remaking the island into a model of sustainability, and last year installed the largest off-grid solar power facility in New England.
After a perfect day of swimming in the ocean, good food, beer and sun (and with solar panels stowed safely aboard) we headed back "to America" stopping for one last swim-call off the boat midway, people hooting and hollering as they jumped from the flying bridge. Mike often reminds me in ways like this of the value of sharing, and though his sort of wide-open "roomlessness" is not in my nature the way it is in his, it pleases me to see how happy it makes him, and to see the people I care about relaxed, sun-drenched and laughing.