Wednesday, September 14, 2011

And Everything is Made New Again

"The novelty will wear off." That's what one of my young coworkers said the other afternoon. She had seen my eyes widen at the blue sky and the bluer ocean, punctuated by what the Irish call white horses, and Americans more banally call whitecaps, racing the breeze while we plowed across Penobscot Bay from Rockland to North Haven Island, my home as of about a month ago. 

Since then I've been wondering whether it is the novelty that has filled my heart since my interview and hiring at the North Haven Community School late this summer. I want to imagine she is wrong. I want to believe that the border between my home and the rest of the world will always be tangible, porous, measurable, palpable, and wet. 

Today our principal, Barney, said we have to, "get out of here." Encouraging us to avoid the comforts of complacency, he said that as soon as he began to feel that getting off the island was too much trouble or not worth the effort, it was a sign he needed to leave, and soon. I wonder when I should tell him that ship has sailed. My ultimate goal is to see how long I can stay without leaving, and I have been thwarted in that effort by everything from a hurricane to an island wedding.

Hurricane Irene took me to Harridan Central in Alna to close the cellar windows, and forced my hand regarding my horse Sami's winter arrangements. She now resides at the Taj Mahal of horsey homes, Whitefield's Acorn Hill Farm. There, she can claim blonde bombshell status while mingling with the elite--the tall, black, elegant Friesians farm owner Jennifer Grady raises and shows.

My island landlords had asked me back in August whether I would mind relinquishing my winter rental for one weekend in September as one of the island girls was marrying a summering boy, some 350 people had been invited for the wedding and their house was needed for the invasion.  If I had known it would be the most beautiful weekend of the year, I might have thought twice. I thought wistfully about the bride, though, imagining that she might find a minute or two to notice the good fortune of a warm, dry, sunny wedding day.

As for the expedition, well, it's an actual expedition into Maine's North Woods, replete with actual wilderness. I haven't encountered actual wilderness without lots of actual contact with modernity--so I guess that keeps it from being actual wilderness--since I was about 12, and I don't want to say how long ago that was. And we are canoeing. Canoeing the West Branch of the Penobscot River up near the Canadian border. When I told my dearest dear Stan that the expedition took us into the wilds, he scoffed. "Do you know how many people are on that river every summer? Do you know?" he asked. "250,000," he answered, harrumphing. I told him the itinerary, starting with, "We put in at Old Roll Dam." He consulted his iPad for a moment, then said, "Hmm. That's actual wilderness."

O.k., so it is novel to teach at a school of some 60 children, k-12. It is novel to start the school year with a trip down an ancient, storied river with a boatload of teenagers. It is novel to ride a ferry 12 miles across a bay to get home from a shopping trip or the bank. When and if the novelty does wear off, I would be surprised if some other novelty failed to replace it, though.

The neighbor's giant horse chestnut's leaves should drop in November, and my line of sight from the front porch to the thoroughfare will include the ferry. That will be new. In December, I will likely need coaching about how to manage my car without posted rules about the village's side street parking protocol. That will be new, though arguably not that fun. By February, I will want to know the finer points of the school's Knowledge Fair, and will look to my students and fellow teachers for ways to make it rich, beautiful, and informative. That will be new.

Suddenly, I am reminded of why I love teaching and why I feel grateful every day to the fates that brought me here. Everything is new. Every year. Every day.