The Working Waterfront

Keeping islanders busy through COVID and winter

Chebeague Island embraces activity, from dance parties to cooking

Kiran Grewal
Posted 2021-03-09
Last Modified 2021-03-09

I am a sucker for a pretty view. If you were to scroll through the pictures on my phone, you would see an abundance of sunsets over beaches, waves crashing against boats in the bay, evergreen trees swaying in the wind, the lamplight breaking through the thick fog on the wharf—everything that makes living on a Maine island especially breathtaking. In the few months I have been here, it hasn’t yet gotten old, and I doubt it ever will.

The physical beauty of Chebeague Island is only a small part of its magic. The close-knit community of year-round residents is kind, supportive, and incredibly welcoming to someone who was essentially a stranger, who showed up out of the blue to live here and help out for two years.

From the very beginning, the people I met have offered generous (and needed) advice without reservation on how to live like an islander. They’ve helped me with everything, from how to start a fire in my wood stove, where to park my car when it snows, and even information about the type of gear I’ll need when the real cold sets in.

Both loved ones and new acquaintances often wonder how I ended up on an island in Maine…

Even when I decided not to travel out of state to see my family for Christmas, my advisors made sure I had somewhere to go and treated me like one of their own.

I had been a bit nervous about moving to a new community during a pandemic, especially considering my job is rooted in community integration and mobilization. The island, at first glance, can seem closed off to newcomers. Businesses are either closed for the winter or strictly offer curbside services. Yet there has been great joy in exploring and creating new ways we can still connect. I was able to fill the fall with outdoor events such as kids dance parties and socially-distanced Halloween celebrations.

Kiran Grewal
Kiran Grewal

Now, the winter has become an exciting time of innovation: I have been working to create virtual painting nights, cooking nights over Zoom, group wellness classes, and outdoor events in the snow. Creating and coordinating programs for the recreation center means I am able to provide opportunities that allow for safety without sacrificing fun for community members, allowing us to be together and stay well.

Both loved ones and new acquaintances often wonder how I ended up on an island in Maine. How did I manage to find this opportunity, they ask, and why would I choose to come to such a remote corner of the world? But as someone who tends to make unconventional choices, like pursuing an environmental studies degree, or becoming a Peace Corps volunteer, these are questions I have become accustomed to hearing.

I can answer them because I have been fortunate enough to enjoy the process of discovery, of learning about myself and these new places, of meeting incredible people amidst beautiful backdrops. Yet again, I feel as though I have stumbled into paradise.

There are a lot of ways that I am reminded of how lucky I am to live and work on Chebeague. Hearing from families who are glad to have more activities for their kids on the island, seeing kids dress up to go to the rec, and getting to know new islanders who are excited by any given new rec center event, remind me that my work is appreciated and important.

I get to stay in touch with the community through Chebeague’s online forums and Facebook groups, where people are always sharing the latest photo they took of moon rises, snowstorms, and wildlife. Residents of Chebeague manage to find beauty in a place they have lived in and been looking at for years or even decades, equally as enamored today as they were when they first stepped off the ferry. With each shared photo, I feel as though I am right where I should be, and never will I take that for granted.

Kiran Grewal grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Bucknell University in 2019 with a degree in environmental studies and a minor in classics and ancient Mediterranean studies. She joined the Peace Corps as a health and HIV/AIDS Educator, and served in Zambia until being evacuated due to COVID-19. She is working with the Chebeague Island Recreation Center.