Reflections is a monthly column written by Island Fellows, recent college grads who do community service work on Maine islands and in remote coastal communities through the Island Institute, publisher of The Working Waterfront. Tarah Waters works in Eastport creating an arts-based internship program for local students.
It was a cold Saturday morning and my eyes were swollen from crying. The cool air felt soothing against my warm cheeks as my tired feet slowly guided me down the creaky old wood steps. I pulled my hood over my head and walked to the water’s edge as the night sky clung tightly to the last hour of darkness.
I sat in the silence and waited for the sun to greet the sea. The still water reflected my emotions in that moment, as if together we understood the blessing of a new day. Shades of pink and golden yellow emerged from the depths of the horizon, and the darkness slowly faded, casting light to the reality I was facing.
The news of my mother’s passing stunned me like a shot to my chest. My breath was stolen from my lungs and a lump had formed like a rock in the base of my throat. While I knew I was feeling emotional shock, I also felt as though I was in a state of complete calm awareness, like a meditative experience. I was overcome with grief, nostalgia, and at the same time, tranquility.
A weight was being lifted off me after years of struggling with my mother’s addictions, yet I also felt the burden of the knowledge that my mother would be absent for the rest of my life. She would not be here when I felt the need to share the moments and experiences that any child would want to share with a mom.
It was both devastating and comforting to receive this news in Eastport during my last months as an Island Fellow. I was afraid the experience would cast a shadow on my impression of Eastport, but was comforted knowing I could come back and be among friends who care deeply for me.
I went back to Colorado to be with the rest of my family and to help take care of the funeral and the final arrangements of her estate. After two weeks home, I was ready to be away from the sorrow and back to the Eastport way.
I knew that I was still in a daze when I walked into my apartment. I stumbled up the steps and dropped my bags on the floor.
I looked around to see what needed to be tended to. I glanced at my busted-up road bike in the corner. There was a grocery bag dangling from the handlebars. I walked over to see what it was, thinking that maybe I had forgotten that I had put it there.
I saw that the bike was no longer broken. It was fixed! New pedals, brakes in good form, gears adjusted. Tears formed in my eyes because I knew that now I was truly home.
A good friend had asked my landlord to let him into my house, had taken the bike and fixed it for me while I was away. I was blown away by this show of love. As I touched base with others, I soon realized I was being cared for not only by the friend who fixed my bike, but also by many people from the community here. I was showered with concern, compassion and support.
Leaving Eastport will be difficult, but I am walking away knowing that the people and the city have made a forever space in my heart. Though my trails will lead me far away, I know that I will always return to the shores of the easternmost city of America.