The Working Waterfront

My cup runneth over—island summer abundance’s many forms

A busy time, but year-rounders can find much to savor

Courtney Naliboff
Posted 2015-09-24
Last Modified 2015-09-24

I have mixed feelings about summer.

For some on North Haven, as in any community whose economy centers around fishing and tourism, summer is a time of 12-hour or longer work days, of hustling to seize every extra opportunity for income before the quiet of the cold seasons. I love to see our seasonal friends return, but I don’t love fighting for parking spaces downtown. Farm stands overflow with abundance, but sell out almost instantaneously.

It is an especially busy time for my husband, in his role as programs director of Waterman’s Community Center. He and the executive director work seemingly endless days overseeing the coffee shop, children’s programming, theatre performances, films, lectures, art openings and concerts that enliven the season. It’s a noble pursuit, but I see him infrequently.

Although in past summers I’ve joined the frenzy, working as a hostess at Nebo Lodge, tending bar or cooking breakfast in my own or others’ restaurants, directing plays and teaching summer camp, this summer—other than acting in a play, which is a lot less work than directing—was spent mostly at home.

My daughter went to daycare a few hours a week and I wrote, studied my lines in our porch swing, weeded the gardens and cleaned the house at a leisurely pace. She started walking at the beginning of the summer and every day would toddle over to the boot box and gather my shoes and her shoes and pointedly dump them at my feet.

“Hat! Hat!” she always added, laughing when I climbed the boot box to grab it.

Fully accessorized, she pounded on the door until I opened it, and away we went. We strolled around the yard for hours, checking on tomato blossoms and zucchini seedlings, later admiring squash blossoms and the tiny fruit attached. We wandered down the driveway picking and eating raspberries. She sniffed flowers, or pantomimed sniffing them, the gesture exaggerated in mimicry of my example.

At our tiny house uptown, summer was quiet and full of abundance. It was pockets full of sun gold cherry tomatoes and zucchinis so dark they were almost black, and bees buzzing on the lavender and the Penobscot Island Air planes buzzing overhead, similar in size and timbre.

It’s easy to slip into resentfulness at the summer influx’s intrusion into our three seasons of quiet, with time for dinner parties and a guaranteed table at restaurants, albeit in their truncated schedules. But the summer season also gives North Haven an excuse to demonstrate the artistic heights it can achieve, with talent and creativity in as great abundance as fruit and flowers.

The North Haven Library plunged into the publishing world this year, releasing a slim and attractive volume of renowned poet Elizabeth Bishop’s journals written while summering here. To celebrate its release, Waterman’s co-hosted a film premiere and symposium featuring some of the greatest literary minds in the country. I was hired to publicize the event, but it exceeded all of our expectations with two sold-out audiences and vibrant discussion of a great poet’s life and work.

During the mid-morning break in the program, I went next door to the Red Barn, Waterman’s auxiliary space, where my good friend Carrie Brezzo had set up a pop-up shop of her original clothing line. Crossings: A CarrieSewFancy Summer Collection sold briskly, sending her back to the sewing machine to make more clothes to sell during the weekend run. The barn was transformed into the fashion equivalent of a clam bake, with coordinated colors and rustic seaside decor. The clothes, in gorgeous Italian linen, felt classic and contemporary at the same time. It seemed like all the island’s women were wearing them.

It almost felt like too much, these two extraordinary events happening simultaneously, set against a golden summer. That we should be so lucky on our tiny island to hear the clever banter of publishers and poets and walk into the hot sunshine and admire the creative output of a member of our year-round community, and go home and eat blackberries off the bush and watch apples swell on the tree and hummingbirds visiting the bee balm—my cup runneth over.

With summers like these, we need our three quiet seasons to rest and plan, to send energy back to our roots like the dandelions. North Haven summers are manic and joyful, frustrating and frenzied, glowing and quickly gone.

Courtney Naliboff lives, teaches and writes on North Haven.