On the Island

Becoming a Shoaler

Becoming a Shoaler by Nelson Linscott

The winter months after my first visit to Star Island were cold and dreary. Baxter was not feeling himself again, but who does feel well trudging through slush and snow dreaming of warmer months ahead? As storms raced through, I thought of Alex de Steiguer, the longtime Star Island winter caretaker, out there on her watch. I thought of different areas of the island in snow and ice, aided by photographs by Alex. It had been months since I had stood on Star Island rock, yet I was still Starstruck. Star Island had changed me for the long term and wasn’t letting go. I wasn’t resisting. I love Star Island. I began thinking of the next trip. The tug of the island ebbed and flowed like the moon to the sea.

Winter held on into April, but when the last storm came and went and the first signs of spring were apparent, I started planning. More importantly, I came to the realization that Star Island is my Spirit’s Home. There was a reason I was being tugged back to the island. During my first visit, I realized that Star Island isn’t just the beauty of the island and the buildings, it was the love of the people. Now I realized it was more than that. Before I visited, I was not sure I realized I had a spirit. Now, not only do I realize I have a spirit, it resides on Star Island. “Whoa”, the old hippie said. “This is getting heavy!” Heavy it is. Let it be.

Planning began in earnest. I had specific photos I wanted to take. I already had them in my head. The iconic Oceanic stairway curtain shot was one. I realized with the numbers of visitors that have come to Star Island, with every phone there was a camera, and most every area had been photographed, but not every photograph had been taken. I was going to put on my magic glasses to see things that hadn’t been seen before and record it through the lens of my camera. That intimidated me for a few days, but I decided that I shouldn’t plan a thing. “I’ll just let it fly!”

June came very quickly, and unfortunately, Baxter began feeling sick. On the exact day the year before, Baxter became very ill. Money is always a problem for me and I began to worry. For days, Baxter didn’t eat and hardly drank water. I was desperate. I explain to the vet that I was broke and my dog may be dying. He agreed to see him. Baxter was prescribed antibiotics and an appetite stimulant. On the day we were heading to the island, it didn’t look good. The meds didn’t seem to work. Two hours before the boat was to depart, I had to make a decision.  I decided to stay at home. I was heartbroken and very concerned that Baxter wasn’t long for this world. A friend gave me the advice to go. I was suddenly struck by the epiphany that Star Island would save Baxter. We headed to Portsmouth and to the dock.

The day was clear and warm, I was very stressed out, and Baxter was feeling ill. In his stroller, he was panting in the heat, shade was hard to come by. A woman was sitting by the loading dock eating a bacon sandwich. I had placed Baxter on the ground so he could squeeze himself into a small spot of shade right beside the lady and her sandwich. Two pieces on bacon fell from the woman’s sandwich and Baxter jumped on them and devoured the bacon. I thought, “Oh NO!  He hasn’t eaten for days!” I was waiting for the eruption, but he held it down and started feeling a little better. I was still apprehensive as we boarded the boat, and within minutes we were on our way to our second visit to our Spirit’s Home.

Due to a change in rules, we didn’t take the Thomas Laighton – we took the work boat with the baggage and the Pelicans. Though I had seen the Pels the year before, I hadn’t been alone with them off duty. Oh to be young again, I thought as they talked, listened to music, overflowing with energy. I had to laugh. Some of the antics were hilarious. I could tell the one newcomer was a bit overwhelmed by the experienced Pels, but the time we hit the dock, he was joining in the festivities. We were about a half hour ahead of the Laighton. Baxter and I headed to our room for a little rest and relaxation before the all-important fire and water safety class. We were back! I had rejoined my spirit. It was time to explore. I felt much more relaxed than I did the year before. It was like I had never left. Baxter had other plans – he fell asleep. While Baxter slept, I went to supper, joining old friends and making new. I found that there was a veterinary tech in the house. I began to regain my confidence. When I returned to my room, Baxter peeked to make sure it was me and fell back to sleep. It’s OK, I thought, I am back at Star Island. I am among friends. What could go wrong!

On the Island

A Shoaler in the Making: Part 7

A Shoaler in the Making: Part 7 by Nelson Linscott

It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside
I’m not one of those who can easily hide
I don’t have much money but boy if I did
I’d buy a big house where we both could live
If I was a sculptor, but then again, no
Or a man who makes potions in a traveling show
I know it’s not much but it’s the best I can do
My gift is my story and this one’s for you
And you can tell everybody this is your Star Island Song
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind
I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world

Altered Version of Elton John “Your Song”

Here we are closing in on the month of June when Star Island comes alive for the summer season. I will be going June 15th and I am so thankful, exuberant, and emotional to be a part of this island and the the people who make it what it is. This will conclude the series of my 2018 trip to Star. I will be picking it back up after returning June 22nd. I hope you all enjoyed the series. It wouldn’t have happened without so many people at Star Island. I love you all. I will pick up the story in July.

As I have said before but I must emphasize even more today that Star Island is more than the  natural and man made beauty of this rise of rock in the Atlantic Ocean. It is the people – every visitor, volunteer, and employee. Every smile tells a story and smiles are as numerous as stars in the sky at Star Island. I have learned the power of a smile. Even on the darkest days, a smile – even a forced smile – changes your demeanor. Smiles are contagious. You can’t help but smile on Star Island! These smiles trigger more than happiness. Smiles trigger spirituality. The emotional and spiritual impact of smiling heals us. There is much healing at Star Island. I know this personally.

With the reassurance of multiple smiles, Baxter and I were welcomed with no preconceptions. These smiles gave me the feeling that, “We got this.” While most times we think that smiles are a sign of happiness, but that works in reverse too. Smiles make us happy! I had many worries before I stepped foot on Star. Health issues of both myself and Baxter worried me. Within minutes, the worries were gone. Star Island is an island of love. I gazed out from Star toward the mainland recognizing landmarks and thought, “We aren’t very far from home.” But we were. We were a million miles away.

As we were heading back home after a wonderful week at Star Island, I vowed to keep the Star Island aura about me. I have spread the Star Love to everyone I can. It’s been over 300 days since I have set foot on Star Island and I feel like I am still there. Writing this series, the Friends of Star Island Facebook site, and my photos I post are from the heart. Without the winning of the Veterans Raffle last year, this would never have happened. I am hooked. I am in love. I need to give back, and words, images, and love are my way. Thank you everyone. I will see you all soon. I will be back with help from my friends! Tell your friends about Star Island. Tell everyone. This story is yours. It is ours.

Peace and Love ॐ  Nelson and Baxter

Newsletter

Spring Newsletter 2019

Star Island had a wonderful year, full of fascinating programs, exciting projects, community building, reflection, intention setting, gratitude, and joy. The 2019 spring newsletter celebrates all we have accomplished together, and what we look forward to in the coming months. We hope you have enjoyed reading the spring 2019 newsletter. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out here!

On the Island

A Shoaler in the Making: Part 6

A Shoaler in the Making, Part 6 by Nelson Linscott

There are in our existence spots of time,
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue, whence, depressed
By false opinion and contentious thought,
Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,
In trivial occupations, and the round
Of ordinary intercourse, our minds
Are nourished and invisibly repaired;
A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced,
That penetrates, enables us to mount,
When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen

– William Wordsworth, The Prelude. Book 12. 208-218 (1850 edition)

I woke slowly and gently, one eye opening at a time and the thin red flame cap of the sun broke the horizon, casting its light though my window painting pink and gold on the wall behind me. I looked down past my rumpled pillow to see Baxter looking up at me with a curious smile. I greeted Baxter and asked if he was hungry, a question I already knew the answer to. I struggled out of bed, my back was stiff as a board and the pain reminded me that I was still alive. I checked my watch. It was 4:12 am.

After feeding Baxter, I threw the curtains open to the glory of Star Island. I opened the door and like he had been living at the room in the motel for years, Baxter limped out of the room and down the stairs to relieve himself. I stood on the porch gazing at the new morning and started snapping photos. Baxter found a spot at the bottom of the stairs to nibble grass and look at his new surroundings.

It was time to explore! After Baxter finished his breakfast, I popped him in the stroller and headed toward the Oceanic. There were a few people, employees and visitors who greeted us as we looked around. Inside the Oceanic, I was amazed at the lobby. Behind the main desk, up on the wall in a prominent place, I spied a clock. It was definitely old and obvious to me it was a Chelsea Clock. Chelsea clocks are high quality clocks, are made to this day as they were in the late 1800’s in Chelsea, Massachusetts. The company is well know for their nautical clocks. I put my camera to my eye and using the zoom lens to it’s maximum, I could see engraving in the brass patina top and bottom of the outer ring.  In Memoriam was engraved around the upper radius and below was engraved Ellen Adams. I was instantly very interested. Here it was 4:30 a.m. and I began asking. “Do you know the history of the clock in the Oceanic Lobby?” I received several suggestions on who to ask but at 4:40 am I had only the internet to investigate. I couldn’t find a thing about that clock. I then started examining all the antiques, books and anything I could find. Being a watch collector and sometimes watch and clock repairman, I was still stuck on that clock, but there were people to meet, things to see and breakfast to eat. Breakfast was a ways off so we headed out, Baxter in the stroller and me pushing on rocks, sand and hills, a labor of love. I started taking photographs.

Though I come from poverty, I have always found a way to obtain a camera. I started taking photos in the late sixties on a Yashica TL Electro-X. I have taken hundreds of thousands of photos. I am told I have the knack. Photography, like poetry and writing have come to me by reading. I am a high school dropout. I had learned everything I needed by eighth grade. By reading, I became educated. I have amassed a library of over a thousand books. I hit the road at age sixteen, living in hotels and sometimes wrecked cars and dilapidated buildings. I love exploration, meeting new people, and spontaneity. Bohemian life was my way.

I knew before I won the trip to Star Island that it was a photographer’s dream. Documenting my trip photographically was going to be easy. Caring for a hurt dog and myself, keeping my anxiety, PTSD and other maladies would be a challenge. I also had the innate feeling that there was something uniquely beautiful about the people of Star Island. This feeling was already substantiated waiting to board the Thomas Laighton in Portsmouth.

Down the hill we rolled, heading for the dock to look back up toward the Oceanic as a summer sun rose behind me. A seagull swooped by. The lights of the grand hotel still blazed. I clicked off several photos, let Baxter out of the stroller to sit in the glass. Baxter snuggled against my leg. “I am the luckiest man in the world”, I thought.

Finally we were signaled that breakfast was being served. As I walked in with Baxter in tow on his leash, I scanned the tables to find my group. Every table was buzzing with excitement, every face had a smile. I knew Star Island was more than its man made and natural physical beauty. The people who guided me here despite Baxter’s handicaps and my own made us feel like I always imagined a family would be like. Shoalers are the family I never had. I became acutely aware of every moment, living and loving every minute. I didn’t think of the past or the future. I was busy with now, and now made every event, every new friend and every sky, a moment that stood as unforgettable to a Kittery boy and his dog whose solitary love was about to burst open to include everyone. My distrust of people, the result of being abuse as a child, was gone.

As I ate my oatmeal, I asked if anyone knew about the lobby clock. I knew the Chelsea clock had a story, and I like stories.

 

Photographs by Nelson Linscott

On the Island

A Shoaler in the Making: Part 5

A Shoaler in the Making, Part 5 by Nelson Linscott

Star Island Bodhicitta

I went voluntarily sent
by luck of the draw
Though my World resides
inside a temporary shell
that will crumble into dust
The island called to me
a place I only dreamed of
I felt the spirit long
before I set foot upon the rock
the beauty of the land 
cold Atlantic and sunrise sky
could not compare to the people’s 
pulsing, loving hearts
I am not dust yet
I shall return

NL June 2018

Some may say when contemplating the life I inherited, I am not very lucky in life. I disagree. I have been very lucky. I wouldn’t be alive if not for luck. Many times I found myself in a wrong place at the wrong time, but I stumbled out all of these misfortunes always a bit more clever and most times no less for wear. But Star Island!! Star Island, I was at the right place at the right time. I am a lucky person. I don’t remember signing up for the Veteran’s Raffle. For a while I was convinced that someone else signed me up. I think it may have been Karma, but I haven’t blessed this world with enough positive Karma to deserve a trip to Star Island.  Maybe it was some other Divine Intervention.

Baxter sat tall in his stroller as we strolled the walkway, up the hill to the porch of the grand Oceanic. Ally pointed out a few highlights as I stared out to the sea that I had just crossed. Being hearing impaired, I noticed the absence of background noise. The gentle breeze stirred the air with a scent of salt and blossoms. One lone cloud slowly rode the air currents above. The Thomas Laighton was busy getting ready for the trip back to Portsmouth. We headed for the room, on the boardwalk to “The Motel”. After a little talk, Ally left and Baxter indicated he wanted out of the stroller.  I picked him up and cringed as I looked at his right rear leg. He was obviously in pain. Hopefully, this was going to work. With the front door open I emptied my bag. Baxter sniffed every corner, nook, and cranny of the floor and plunked down in the frame of the open door and gazed out over his home for the week. I opened the window over the desk and sat peering out over the same view Baxter had. I had to attend a fire safety presentation in an hour and then surely supper would be served. I closed my eyes and created the internal vibration in my head, silently repeating my mantra. Ten miles out to sea from my Kittery home, I sent my message of love through my internal vibrations and feeling them being returned sitting in a different chair, a different place, with different people, I settled into a deep meditative state. When I opened my eyes, Baxter was on his side, pink tongue extended. I stood and stepped outside to the rail. I thought, “this is going to be fun.”

Photos by Nelson Linscott