Reflections is written by Island Institute Fellows, recent college grads who do community service work on Maine islands and in coastal communities through the Island Institute, publisher of The Working Waterfront.
After three days of orientation as a new Island Institute Fellow, I hit the streets—the main street of Blue Hill, to be specific, and walked through the quiet neighborhood. Everything was new.
I barely knew where I was and had to pay attention to my route to remember how to get back to my apartment, my home. I was hard at work putting books on shelves and sheets on the bed to make it feel that way.
The possibility of finding a community garden, a place to swim, a kind neighbor (hopefully getting rid of some furniture), and a good tree made each turn feel like the cusp of a wonderful opportunity.
On my first night in Blue Hill, I walked into the town park and looked out at the clam flats that surface at low tide.
Now at the end of my first month as an Island Institute Fellow, I reflect on the way a new place transforms into a known place through the small moments that fill each day. One week in, I was sitting in the Brooklin Town Office in a meeting whose topic was “Grace has arrived!”
Introductions filled the hour, exemplifying how my first week passed by full of unfamiliar faces and places. Three weeks in, I was sitting in a town office meeting, already making my opinion heard on committee projects. Within a few weeks, my position has comfortably transformed.
With relief, I have realized that this job speaks to my heart. There are opportunities every day to contribute to a cause greater than myself. Even when I update mundane resource sheets, it means that I help a community member get a free heat pump water heater. No more cold showers and no more fossil fuels!
The people around me put the word “committed” in committee, and we resolve to help Brooklin prepare for and prevent the ongoing effects of climate change. I am so grateful that there is a human point to my day-to-day work.
I have found magic every place I go. In mid-September, a yard sale seemed to wait around every corner. With each passing week, I recognize more friendly faces at the farmers market, where recently I listened to three people spontaneously sing in tribute to Jimmy Buffet after the announcement, “I’ve got a guitar in my truck!”
Although community integration takes time and I am still finding my crowd, the libraries in both Blue Hill and Brooklin always have countless events. And today, I can proudly say that I no longer need Google maps to make the beautiful drive from my apartment into Brooklin.
On my first night in Blue Hill, I walked into the town park and looked out at the clam flats that surface at low tide. I was so happy to witness the tides and to live so close to the ocean. I went into the local bar and met the owner and two bartenders.
With my roommate Alice, also an Island Institute Fellow, the five of us talked through the slow evening. “How long are you in town for?” the bar owner asked. I had my first of many experiences sharing the truth that has made everyone’s smiles beam: “Two years!”
With 23 months left, I am excited to grow my roots here, to get to know Blue Hill and Brooklin even better. No longer on the cusp but fully in this wonderful opportunity, I look forward to the small moments of every day ahead.
Grace Carrier works with the Brooklin Climate Response Committee to facilitate energy efficiency transitions for residents and host educational forums.