On the Island

Coming Home to Star by Sarah Phipps Gordon

If Einstein had ever visited Star Island, the theory of general relativity may not exist.  

 

Hear me out. 

 

I am about to sacrilegiously over-simplify this: according to relativity, time passes more slowly closer to the center of the earth than it does at higher altitudes. Therefore, given the ridiculous rate at which time passes during an average week on Star Island passes, we, as Shoalers, defy the theory of general relativity.  

 

Well above sea-level, two years have passed with neither stepping foot on the sun-baked pier, nor hearing the music of the creaky porch slats. That elevated time away indisputibly falls into the category of, “time goes on crutches” (Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing).   

 

When I arrived for Arts in June, after that brutal respite, I expected a “kiss the ground” moment at the pier – or at least some ugly crying. Instead, I breathed. That’s all. You know that feeling, of coming home to Star: grounding, fully feeling the air inside and outside of you align, seeing the sky join the ocean, and, despite all life’s chaos (raging understatement), believing that everything makes sense again. Ultimate muscle memory.

 

Our time away was a period of such grief, stress, loss, and loneliness for us. How slowly has that time passed for you? Asking for myself. 

 

We can finally come back to poke our souls awake.  

 

2021 Island living proved magical as ever, from the first meeting: listening to “Fire and Water” from Adirondack chairs on the front lawn. The historical and logistical significance of a water lecture being shared from the front of the Well House was certainly not lost on this audience.  

It also set the tone for a week of creativity and improvisation regarding how we at Arts hurrahed through our conference. Traditions organically transformed. Zumba on the tennis court? Sure! Chapel in Brookfield, streaming in from New Jersey? Beautiful and transcendent (literally). Oatmeal or compost cookies – I’m wondering now about leftover compost cookies being used as the next day’s oatmeal (Mystery Oatmeal? Maybe not) – tasted better when eaten at a picnic table. Old and new Shoaler friends popped in and out of informal seating as they tried to catch the best harbor view during a meal and have as many conversations and catch-ups as one can squeeze into an hour. 

 

Speaking of which, did you know that the sun can keep the cheese in your grilled cheese sandwich quite evenly and perfectly melted?    

 

The front porch housed an audience for more than the setting sun.  

 

Back to more physics. I will never believe that time does not fly by at an unimaginable pace while at sea level, sharing lime rickeys. Watching a lantern candle flicker. Listening to sea gulls caw, and dodging their protective attacks. Climbing rocks. Falling into a trance at the low toll of the chapel bell. Getting feasted upon by mosquitoes. Breathing.  

 

Our time among the waves passes with such haste, that I’ll be attending a September conference, too. I also want to be as prepared as I can be to argue with Einstein himself.  

On the Island

Day Visits to Star in 2021

You can now visit Star Island for a walking tour or for the entire day (on weekends) in summer 2021!

We are excited to welcome visitors back to Star Island this season. To help keep all island visitors safe and to limit the spread of COVID-19, Star Island has implemented protocols in accordance with CDC Guidelines and NH Best Practices Guidance. Following these few simple precautions should not detract from your time on Star and will help ensure we can continue to allow the public to enjoy the island this season.

  • While boarding and disembarking from tour vessels all visitors are required to wear a mask and maintain 6’+ distance from those not in their group.
  • If you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 please keep your mask on when you can not maintain social distancing from other guests or island staff. Otherwise you are free to remove your mask once you have made your way off the pier.
  • If you are unvaccinated, please keep your mask on at all times.
  • Guests staying briefly on Star Island (walking tour, approx 1 hr) – Restrooms are available on the vessel which brought you to Star island. There are no restroom facilities on island but your tour vessel will remain at the pier during your tour for your convenience.
  • On weekends from June 26th – August 22nd guests have the option of enjoying Star Island for the entire day! Please use designated restrooms on the island at the Brookfield building (see map on Pier).
  • In order to provide separation between our overnight guests, who are taking additional precautions to come to the island, day visitors unfortunately will not have access to the buildings, porches, etcetera with the exception of the restrooms in Brookfield (see map on Pier).

Although things will be different, we are committed to making the day visitor experience a pleasant one.

  • We have added many picnic tables and Adirondack chairs which will be available to day visitor guests
  • On most days starting June 26, the Gosport Grill will be open (weather dependent) for lunch, with extended hours on weekends. Of course, day visitor guests are always welcome to pack a picnic lunch.
  • We are hoping to continue to expand access to island favorites such as the Rutledge Marine Lab, the Shops on Star, Vaughn Cottage and the like as guidance and conditions allow so stay tuned for updates!

 

On the Island

Important Star Island Policy Update

Based on recent changes to CDC, State of NH, and other guidance, we are pleased to announce several updates to the COVID-19 policies for this season’s conferees and employees. Please note that every overnight guest must show either proof of full vaccination (2+ weeks after final dose) or a negative PCR test result at the dock.

For those that are fully vaccinated (2+ weeks after final dose):

  • Masks and social distancing will not be required outdoors (but are still required indoors, on the front porch of the hotel – where many people congregate – and while boarding/disembarking the ferry)
  • COVID-19 testing prior to arrival will not be required
  • Proof of vaccination will be required

For those that are not fully vaccinated (including children):

  • Individuals must either be distanced 6’+ or wearing a mask when outdoors
  • Proof of a recent (within 72 hours) negative PCR test result will be required (please reach out to our island medical team at FAS@starisland.org if you would like assistance lining up a test). If you have tested positive for COVID-19 within 90 days of arrival, please email FAS@starisland.orgfor alternate instructions.

All overnight guests MUST either provide proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test result in order to board the ferry to Star Island.

Recognizing that Star Island is a public/congregate setting, and that there will be unvaccinated people on island this summer (including children), masks will remain mandatory for everyone (regardless of vaccination status) when indoors, on the front porch, and while boarding/disembarking the ferry. We will continue to evaluate our health and safety protocols as the situation with the pandemic evolves and we monitor how things are going this summer. We are exploring the implementation of dining “pods”/assigned seating at meal times – stay tuned! Please see https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/covid19/documents/fully-vaccinated-guidance.pdf for more information.

Important Reminders

Alternative Travel Plan: Every person (regardless of vaccination status) should make a plan for the possibility of leaving the island early that is relevant to their situation. Star Island will provide boat transportation from Star Island to Portsmouth. Please see our FAQ page for more information.

Vaccination Policy: All employees and overnight guests age 16 and up are expected to be fully vaccinated (2+ weeks after final dose) against COVID-19 prior to coming to Star Island, and to furnish proof of vaccination (e.g. your Vaccination Record Card). If this poses a challenge/issue for you, please reach out to our medical staff at FAS@starisland.org. Children 12-15 years old are expected to be fully vaccinated (2+ weeks after final dose) against COVID-19 in time for their conference as they are able and to furnish proof of vaccination (e.g. their Vaccination Record Card). We understand this may not be possible for everyone (e.g. some may have received only one vaccine dose before arriving to the island).

The safety of everyone on Star Island remains our top priority. Questions or concerns may be directed to our medical staff at FAS@starisland.org. For more information, please see our 2021 update and FAQ page.

We look forward to welcoming you back to Star Island this summer!

On the Island

Turning Crisis into Opportunity

As all Shoalers know, fire safety is a foremost concern on Star Island. Given our historic facilities and remote location, vigilant attention to the upkeep of our fire safety system is critical to Star Island’s continued ability to welcome overnight guests safely, as we have for over 100 years. In addition to strictly enforcing fire safety practices, each year we aim to improve elements of Star Island’s fire safety and suppression system.

During Star Island’s closure in 2020 due to COVID-19, an important objective of our summer plan was to turn crisis into opportunity. Rather than boarding up the island, a small crew kept watch over Star throughout the summer while completing needed improvements to ensure that when we return, the island will be even better than when we left it. One such improvement completed last month, in keeping with our focus on fire safety, was the replacement of PVC plastic sprinkler pipes with iron and steel pipes, because the plastic ones become brittle and fail over time and steel pipes are tougher and longer-lasting. In critical corrosion areas, we use galvanized pipe. This is part of an ongoing, multi-year effort to upgrade our island-wide sprinkler system.

Fire safety improvements are crucial to our efforts to preserve treasured historic resources on Star Island like the Oceanic Hotel, which is recognized throughout New Hampshire as an important historic icon. Star Island has received four significant grants from the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) to preserve the Oceanic, and in 2015 the hotel received a “Seven to Save” designation from the NH Preservation Alliance. This year, in partnership with the 1772 Foundation, which invests in historic preservation efforts across New England, the NH Preservation Alliance issued a grant of $6,113 to Star Island in support of our sprinkler system improvements this summer. These funds were matched dollar for dollar by unrestricted donations to Star Island.

Star Island and its facilities are a historic treasure. In order to preserve the Oceanic and the other historic buildings that make up Star Island’s facility, making them available to current and future generations, we must remain vigilant in our efforts to implement fire safety improvements. Support from funders who value historic preservation is essential to these efforts. We are grateful for the support of the 1772 Foundation and the NH Preservation Alliance, which helps us preserve and protect the Oceanic and other historic buildings on Star Island.

On the Island

Reflections – by Carolyn A. Kerr – SG2 Chapel Service

Do you have a “rock” that you cling to? A solid rock? A spiritual rock? A talisman, a memory that acts as a guidepost and helps keep you on solid footing?

My “rocks” include my human and feline families (my cats Apple Cobbler and Lucie Louise), close personal friends, my church family, Star Island and, of course, my Star Island family. Like the rock on which the Chapel sits, my rocks are solid, immovable, and permanent.

But this last year I felt some of my rocks crumbling.  My mother, Harriet Kerr Swenson, died on August 23, 2019, two weeks after I returned from the Star Gathering 2 conference. Some of you may remember when I had many frantic telephone calls with medical personnel at Concord Hospital and with my brother (shoaler and former Pelican) from the East Porch of the Oceanic Hotel and on various island hot spots. Mom’s nurse practitioner at the health center where she was temporarily staying called me on Monday, two days after I arrived on Star. Mom’s ARNP sent mom, alone, in an ambulance to the ER because mom couldn’t swallow. Mom apparently didn’t complain because of her gentle nature and, in fact, she wanted to tip the ambulance driver for his help, but she forgot her purse. That’s my mom.

Mom had emergency abdominal surgery. Her physicians encouraged me to remain on Star Island until the conference was over because they felt mom would be sleeping most of the time. She made it very clear the morning I left for Star Island that she wanted me to be on Star Island with my Star family.  It was a hard decision to stay on Star and yet also an easy one, because I know how much Star Island meant to both of us, it enabled her to picture me there where she could no longer go, and it is our spirit’s home.  My brother, Bill, visited mom daily and I also spoke with her nurses regularly.

Initially panicked because I was far away and, let’s face it, I couldn’t swim to shore to hitch a ride to the hospital, I texted our minister Carlos. I asked him if he had any time to stop by the hospital during the week to check on Mom. Like mom, I don’t like to bother people to ask for favors, but I figured mom’s solo visit to the ER merited a ministerial call.  It was a priceless gift when Carlos texted me a selfie of Mom and Carlos smiling in her ER room. So concerned and focused on Mom’s care, I was surprised to hear from Carlos that Mom, an old Shoaler, wanted to know if I was having a good time on Star.

I left Star Island on Saturday August 10 and drove directly to the hospital to be with Mom. On Friday, August 23, less than 2 weeks later, she was gone.

My dad, Rev. William I. Kerr, died of cancer on August 24 many years earlier, two weeks after our usual family Star vacation. A coincidence or the unseen magic of Star Island?

Mom and Dad first brought my siblings Bill, Laurie and me to the UCC conferences on the old rugged wood boat – the Viking Sun? – in the late 1960’s. I still remember the boat crashing through the waves with our luggage on the bow of the boat. In spite of admonitions to stay away from the edge of the boat as it ploughed through the waves, I delighted in getting drenched with heavy spray from the waves as we headed to Star.  My parents took a huge risk bringing a young family of five to a small bit of land 8 miles out to sea to spend a week with a bunch of religious folks they didn’t know. What if the conference was full of religious fanatics? What if we needed or wanted to leave quickly? What a risk!!! But what a grand reward it was and continues to be.

Dad was slated to be the chaplain his last summer.  Instead, he left Mass General Hospital, where he was dying, to spend a little more time on Star Island to say good-bye to close Star family and friends. With his doctor’s blessing and the help of several Star friends, he made the trip on whichever Viking boat was the least seaworthy one stormy August evening. It seemed like everyone on the island was on the Pier to greet him when he disembarked in his wheelchair. There wasn’t a dry eye to be had. He was in a lot of pain, but he had made it to his rock, his touchstone, to his family and to Star island, his spirit’s home.  He had to leave a few days later but he had, indeed, come back one last time. His wish was fulfilled.

Mom wished to come to Star again last year, but she was unable to do so. She was in rehab working on increasing her strength using her walker when I left her on August 3 and with dreams of seeing Star again. She was determined, fierce and focused.

This year I grieve the loss of my mother and my father, who both created a spiritual home for my extended (four generations) family. I cannot imagine my life without Star Island in it. I also grieve at not being able to get to Star this year to see my Rock, my Star family, my spiritual home, when I feel I need it so badly. The last time I was there I was overseeing mom’s care from afar and this year I wanted and needed time to reflect, relax and breathe.  I am grateful I was surrounded by my Star family during mom’s medical odyssey last year and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your support.

But this is not the end of Star Island or our conference. This is, I must believe, a temporary impasse, an unexpected break, a space that we will reflect upon later.  I plan to return to Star Island, my spiritual home, next year. Like mom, I am fierce and determined.

Are we all grieving?  Yes, but let’s also express our gratitude for this rich Star community, where nothing can destroy our foundation. This Rock, this place, this Star Island. What a gift it has been and will continue to be for me and for you, too, I hope.

So, until we meet again, I ask you to find a small rock, a pebble, a talisman, an icon, any sort of a symbol representative of Star Island. Keep this item with you and reflect on what Star Island means to you during the coming year.  Bring the talisman when you return next summer. We’ll have a basket in the hotel lobby where we will hold these items to share and reflect on in the Oceanic Hotel lobby.

We will come back!

Amen.

 

Carolyn A. Kerr

Star Gathering 2

August 2020

On the Island

Regatta Reflections

Today would have been the 11th Annual Gosport Regatta, our beloved community event in partnership with the Piscataqua Sailing Association. We are reminiscing about sailboats on the horizon, an amazing BBQ feast, kites flying high in the air by the Oceanic Hotel, and lively music on the front porch. ⭐️🎉
We would like to gratefully recognize the dedicated Gosport Regatta sponsors who generously continued their support for Star Island this year even though the Regatta was cancelled. Thank you Ambit Engineering, Cambridge Trust Company, Five Maples Development Communications, McLane Middleton P.A., and Underwood Engineers for your steadfast partnership! ⛵️⚓️⭐️

Shoaler Voices

Art Challenge: Paint from a Picture

We asked and you answered! We’re excited to share the results of our ART CHALLENGE: Paint from a Picture. Special thanks to Chris Volpe and Anna Birch for inspiring this activity with their own art and to all the Shoalers who participated in their own ways. We hope you enjoy this gallery of unique and beautiful Star Island themed artwork.

On the Island

Painting Star Island from a Photo, A Step-by-Step with Chris Volpe

I chose this photo because I like the composition – it has plenty of contrast and perspective, interesting texture and shape variations, and it hints strongly at the characteristic rocky, haphazard terrain of Star and the Shoals. That’s what I love about the Shoals, that elemental disorder. The great American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne described it like this: “It is as if some of the massive materials of the world remained superfluous after the Creator had finished, and were carelessly thrown down here, where the millionth part of them emerge from the sea, and in the course of thousands of years have become partially bestrewn with a little soil.”

From the outset, I decided this would be a fairly straightforward, traditional landscape painted in the prevailing neo-Impressionist style favored by most the of contemporary landscape and plein air painters pushing around paint in America today.

I’ll break the process into five steps:

1. The sketch
2. Painting in the sky
3. Blocking in the darks
4. Adding the lights
5. Putting in the details, adjusting the values, and adding finishing touches

Step 1. Drawing a sketch. I chose to start this painting with a rapid sketch (probably took all of 1-2 minutes). I find it’s helpful for getting the overall composition right at the outset. It’s said every painting lives or dies in the first 15 minutes, and it’s because of the design – nothing can fix a painting with a weak underlying abstract architecture. Here I’ve departed from the photo in lots of ways, but the main things are three: 1. I added diagonal lines from the bottom right foreground to lead the eye in to the design. 2. I connected the islands to the land mass – I have a rule that everything in a painting connects, usually accomplished by connecting “the darks” (shadows, etc.) and 3. I flatted out the picture plane a little so the rocks in the foreground spill out into the left-hand corner of the foreground, again in a leading-in diagonal, to keep the eye moving and to prevent the composition from getting static. I’ll be making similar diagonals in the sky too.

To do the sketch, I used a ragged brush (so I can’t get too fussy) and mixture of burnt umber (brown) and ultramarine blue thinned with Gamsol (odorless turpentine substitute).

Here’s the completed sketch:

Step 2. Painting the sky. Next thing I did was paint in the sky. Note the diagonals, again, on both the right and left hand sides of the picture. I don’t always put in the sky first, but sometimes it does seem to help you know how light or dark to make the adjacent land or ocean masses (this is known as “gauging your values”. It’s also encouraging to get a good sky done – you feel like, with a good sky, you’re off to a good start and maybe this painting will be a success after all.

The sky colors are ultramarine and Prussian blue mixed with Titanium white and a smidge of yellow ochre. I applied the blue layer first, rather thinly, with a brush, and then dragged a thicker quantity of light yellow pigment over top of it with the side of my palette knife.

Note how the sky gets lighter and lighter as it nears the horizon, until it’s almost just yellow-white. Skies do that, and it gives your middle-ground sufficient contrast if you keep the sky from being too dark.

Step 3. Blocking in the shadows. Next I blocked in the shadows with a darker version (more blue this time) of the same blue-brown mixture I used in the initial sketch. This is where I really think about design and creating a clear and interesting / dynamic path for the eye through the painting. I consciously try to connect the darks, so that no part of the composition is stranded, something I learned from studying Japanese prints. This is also the reason I tucked the islands behind the land mass in the upper right, so they would literally connect to the rest of the darks.

Step 4. Adding the lights. In oil painting, one generally starts with the darks and works up to the lights (the opposite of how one approaches a watercolor). I painted the rocks and the grass right over the shadows, adjusting details as I went. The grass I painted mostly with a brush, the rocks I did with the edge of the palette knife. I used an array of greens, mixed to the warm side and broken up in Impressionist fashion with flecks of ochre, violet, brown-green and blue-green. Green is notoriously hard to handle in painting because it can look too hard and bright for its own good.

I felt like the “real” painting was finished at this point – it was “saying” what I had intended the painting to “say,” which was to tell about the massive pieces of creation “carelessly thrown down here” by God, as Hawthorne put it. The outline of the rocks differs considerably from the photo; I deliberately paid more attention to the “jagged” feeling I was getting into the rocks than to the factual topography of that portion of Star – at some point I stopped looking at the photo and just worked those shapes with the palette knife until they expressed the feeling I wanted, Later I would go back and adjust a couple angles and add a very few factual details from the photo just to make sure it was still that spot on Star. Artists have to lie to tell the truth.

I added a sprinkling of sunlight along the rim of the near slope and painted in the sea. I put in a few more details and added highlights here and there with brighter, higher-keyed touches in the grass and the stones. I had to must the brightness of the rocks in a few place so that at no point were they a higher value (brighter) than the sky. I also re-darkened shadows in some spots, most importantly in the bottom right corner, where they’d somehow gotten too light during the grass-painting phase.

This was, I thought, finished, until I noticed that the water in the foreground is brighter (higher value) than some of the clouds, which besides being unnatural makes the painting seem relatively dull. I needed to go back into that area and add darker values of the same colors, and when I did, I realized I wanted to then adjust the value of the ocean in the background too.

Here is the finished painting. Again, the colors are different from those in the photo of course, because it was more important to me to get a particular feeling into the painting than to copy the original exactly, which was a bit too dull, gray, and cold for the mood I wanted. I wanted a warmer, more buoyant, uplifting feeling (without becoming cliché), and I feel that I got enough of that to satisfy me while also conveying that rough-edged primordial beauty which was the original reason and impetus for painting the picture in the first place.

You can see more of my work at www.christophervolpe.com, where you can also enquire about classes and workshops, check out my blog, and sign up to receive an intermittent newsletter with new work and stories from the wild and woolly world of contemporary art.

On the Island

Choose to Bless the World by Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker

This piece is an excerpt from It Is Time Now: Offerings from the Beloved Community Project, an educational resource produced in 2019 as part of Star Island’s Beloved Community Project. The Star Island Beloved Community Project is a journey SIC has begun as an organization to create a more inclusive and intentional community, to help spread more empathy and understanding in the world, and to become a more welcoming place for all people. We recognize and affirm that many have been on this journey for a long time, and we are excited to listen and learn as we continue on this important journey.

Your gifts—whatever you discover them to be—
can be used to bless or curse the world.

The mind’s power,
the strength of the hands,
the reaches of the heart,
the gift of speaking, listening, imagining, seeing, waiting

Any of these can serve to feed the hungry,
bind up wounds,
welcome the stranger,
praise what is sacred,
do the work of justice
or offer love.

Any of these can draw down the prison door,
hoard bread,
abandon the poor,
obscure what is holy,
comply with injustice
or withhold love.

You must answer this question:
What will you do with your gifts?

Choose to bless the world.

The choice to bless the world is more than an act of will,
a moving forward into the world
with the intention to do good.

It is an act of recognition,
a confession of surprise,
a grateful acknowledgment
that in the midst of a broken world
unspeakable beauty, grace and mystery abide.

There is an embrace of kindness
that encompasses all life, even yours.

And while there is injustice, anesthetization, or evil
there moves a holy disturbance,
a benevolent rage,
a revolutionary love,
protesting, urging, insisting
that which is sacred will not be defiled.

Those who bless the world live their life
as a gesture of thanks
for this beauty
and this rage.

The choice to bless the world can take you into solitude
to search for the sources
of power and grace;
native wisdom, healing, and liberation.

More, the choice will draw you into community,
the endeavor shared,
the heritage passed on,
the companionship of struggle,
the importance of keeping faith,

the life of ritual and praise,
the comfort of human friendship,
the company of earth
the chorus of life welcoming you.

None of us alone can save the world.
Together—that is another possibility, waiting.

On the Island

What Makes You Come Alive? By Rev. Chris Jablonski

This piece is an excerpt from It Is Time Now: Offerings from the Beloved Community Project, an educational resource produced in 2019 as part of Star Island’s Beloved Community Project. The Star Island Beloved Community Project is a journey SIC has begun as an organization to create a more inclusive and intentional community, to help spread more empathy and understanding in the world, and to become a more welcoming place for all people. We recognize and affirm that many have been on this journey for a long time, and we are excited to listen and learn as we continue on this important journey.

I love this quote from Howard Thurman,

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go and do that, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.”

This has been a guiding light idea in my ministry. I see part of my purpose as helping people come alive. I see part of my purpose as helping our communities come alive.

I believe that this aliveness is contagious. The more we come alive, the more we abet aliveness in one another and in the communities we create.

And I mention it here because I think that sometimes when we ask how can my church, or my conference, or my community, embrace these ideas and practices of the Beloved Community, sometimes we can think of what our church needs. We can think, oh, my conference could be so Beloved if only… if only…

Whereas, I think, perhaps we could ask, “What would make my conference come alive?” Or “When have I felt my community most alive?” And go and do that. Build on that aliveness and allow that aliveness to pull you into deeper connection, clearer purpose and more authentic joy.

So what makes you come alive?