I had a rough winter. A few unrelated events made me question, for the first time in a long time, my comfort level in the community I’ve called home for over a decade. The political climate didn’t help. Things calmed down after a while, and the winter routine of blizzards, Pilates classes and pep band at basketball games helped me to remember how much I love my island home, and that it’s worth it to work through the rough patches.
The unseasonable warmth—and then unseasonable cold—that ushered in the end of February and beginning of March also brought two events that, in their need for a trusting and open environment, completely restored my faith in and sense of belonging on North Haven.
The first happened in a brewery.
Dave Macy, our minister, and Ben Lovell, North Haven Brewing’s master brewer, organized a weekly “Pub Theology” event with the tagline, “Different brews, different views.” I missed the first one, and was on pager call as an EMT and would have had to limit myself to a soda or water with my theology. But at the second one, I found a safe space to express my fears, my secular humanist views, and the tenuous balancing act of being Jewish in rural Maine, while enjoying a half pint of A.M. Coffee Stout.
Eleven of us gathered in the brewery at 7:30 p.m., after their regular hours. Ben and Jesse milled around in the brew house, doing mysterious things with hops and grains that smelled yeasty and promising. The work required them to wear rubber boots.
Each small table in the brewery had, along with the requisite pretzels and trivia cards, a piece of paper with five discussion questions, thought-provoking prompts including, “What is the biggest challenge to believing that there is a God?”
The group of us, diverse in our beliefs, ages and experiences, talked openly and trustingly for over two hours. The point wasn’t to change anyone’s mind, it was simply to explore the broad spectrum of faith—in a religion, in a spirituality, in the universe, in humanity—that keeps us grounded and sane. I left feeling enriched and more connected to my friends and neighbors.
The next evening brought another opportunity to reaffirm the trust built up between islanders, this time through theater.
Ryan Jackson, a member of Everyman Repertory Theatre and a Midcoast theater educator, came out to North Haven to do improv workshops in the school and community. Wednesday evening saw 16 of us—a huge turn-out for winter—dancing, shouting, rolling and laughing hysterically as he coached us through two hours of warm ups and games.
Improvisation isn’t easy, and it can be terrifying. There’s self-imposed pressure to be funny or clever, and a need to believe in the support a scene partner can provide. I teach a middle school improv class each winter, and believe strongly in its importance as a way of encouraging and teaching trust and collaboration, but I rarely get to do it myself, and always found it intimidating as a young actor.
But the group of us, many of whom were, not coincidentally, at Pub Theology the night before, secure in our support system, took turns interacting with props and each other and finding joy and spontaneity. We were given opportunities to make quick decisions, trust our instincts, and rely on each other.
Six weeks earlier, this level of trust would have been impossible for me. I was ready to hide from the world, even more than I already do out here in the ocean. But North Haven is home, and it’s a place where trusting, loving support is part of our fabric —even if I lost sight of it in the depths of winter.
Courtney Naliboff lives, writes, teaches and parents on North Haven.