Category Archives: Everyday Life

Stepping Out of Westport Winter Hibernation

In search of shadows, food and other humans…

In a winter that seemingly has us in training for olympic snow shoveling, today’s sun was a welcome valentine. And thankfully, some Islanders are not deterred by sleet, nor snow, nor blowing winds and have extended themselves to bring the Island a little post-Groundhog, Valentine’s Day cheer.

A quarter of the way down Westport Island, you’ll see master woodturner Ken Shepherd’s Valentine creation. Shepherd’s creations always greet passersby with eye-catching images of the season or the times.

Paul Bonyun, representing the Westport Volunteer Fire Department, and Angie Calvo of Westport, representing the Portland Fire Department, completed the grueling Climb for Clean Air on February 1. They raced up 789 stairs wearing full turnout gear in a vertical race to the top of One Boston Place to raise money for healthy lungs and healthy air. Paul Bonyun with Portland Firefighters, including Angie Calvo Portland Firefighters were a top fundraising team ($6,766); Paul a top fundraising individual ($1,670). Angie completed the race in 12 minutes 52 seconds, and Paul clocked a 16:32 — impressive. (Angie is pictured with fellow Portland Firefighters under the raised arm; Paul on far right)

Joyce Spicer, Nita Greenleaf, Louise SpeeceNita Greenleaf flanked by her daughter Joyce Spicer and friend Louise Speece organized and cooked up a tasty Valentine’s Day dinner at the Town Hall for friends and neighbors to share time and break bread. It was a pork and gravy feast with all the fixings, topped off by an assortment of desserts.

And, on Saturday, February 15, the Community Association sponsored a “crafting bee” with Artisan Jill Cooney. For two dollars and two hours, participants channeled their creativity, chatted with friends and walked off with a sunflower wall hanging.

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Photo of Paul Bonyun with the Portland Firefighters courtesy of Chris Fabian

A Westport Island Phoenix

Paul Bonyun: Rising Up and Giving Back

Today, February 1, 2014, Paul Bonyun was at One Boston Place representing the Westport Volunteer Fire Department and his own brand of personal strength. For the second year in a row, Paul climbed 758 stairs up a Boston skyscraper in the American Lung Association’s Climb for Clean Air. He is celebrating his life and hoping to inspire others.

Paul raised more money this year than last year for the the American Lung Association (so far, $1,670). He is thankful to his family and his community, as well as fellow fire fighters and first responders for the support they have given him for this climb and for his many victories since 2006. As a tribute to his supporters, Paul has asked to share his youngest son’s diary of a day that changed their lives and the ensuing journey that has made them stronger.

A Diary of My Dad’s Accident
by Caleb Bonyun

Picture of a man holding the tree that fell on PaulIn the early morning hours of January 2, 2006, my dad (not pictured left) was cutting a tree for firewood like he had done many times before.  Part of the tree had a crack up high that he could not see.  This 150-pound part of the tree (pictured) fell as he was cutting and hit him on the head.

He somehow walked half a mile home. I was 17 years old at the time, and had had my EMT license for only a month. My mom screamed for me to wake up; and I ran downstairs wearing only shorts to see my dad sitting on the couch – blood running down his face, his head split open, going in and out of consciousness. I was shocked at first, but then I went to work, trying to stop the bleeding and start oxygen (I kept a med kit in my car for calls).

Paul in the hospital on a respiratorWhile I was working on him I had my brother call 911 and advised him we needed LifeFlight (medical helicopter). The local Fire Department showed up shortly after my dad finally lost all consciousness. I was covered in blood and shirtless, so the Fire Chief told me to go get dressed. After getting dressed, I ran back downstairs to my dad who was now surrounded by two paramedics and an EMT-1. They loaded him into an ambulance and drove only 500 feet to a nearby field where the helicopter would land. My dad had been strong and kept breathing until this point. While in the truck, he stopped breathing, and that is the moment I thought I had lost my father. The paramedics tubed him and started breathing for him. He was loaded into the Paul in intensive carehelicopter and rushed to a trauma hospital. I held my composure right until the helicopter took off. In the ensuing silence, I was brought to my knees with panic, fear, and grief. It was the single worst moment of my entire life.

He was rushed into surgery where doctors did everything they could to save my dad’s life. He came out of surgery in a coma, and the doctors said the next few hours would be “touch and go.”

My dad was in a coma for four weeks. I visited him every day. I talked to him about school, and how things were going at home. I held his hand and told him I loved him every day.

Paul with his sonAfter four weeks, the doctor said he could wake up soon. Everyone at my high school, including the teachers, knew he could wake up; and they allowed me to keep my cell phone on loud and answer in class to get updates. One day, we had a substitute, and my phone rang. The sub stood up and said with anger “no phone…” but was cut off by the entire class standing and yelling, “LET HIM TALK!” On the other line, my mom said, “Would you like to speak with your dad?” I broke into tears when I heard his scratchy, groggy voice say, “Hey buddy.” When I said “Hi dad,” the whole class broke into applause. Much to the sub’s surprise, I rushed out of school and went to see him awake for the first time in over a month. The picture (above) is our first meeting.

Paul in his hospital bed having a cup of coffee with his wifePaul in his hospital bed eating with his wifeA few days later he even had his favorite cup of coffee with my mom.

The doctors said he may need to learn to eat again, but he was eating and drinking in no time.

Paul being discharged from the hospital pictured with two of his nursesHere he is right before discharge with a few of the amazing nurses who helped him get better.

This is me and my dad one year after the accident standing in front of the helicopter that saved his life. He is back to Paul and his son in fron of a Lifeflight helicopteralmost 100 percent. He is on life-long disability but lives at home and does everything a normal person does. He has almost no more short-term memory left and has to write everything down so he can remember it a few hours later. He has issues with seizures but that is now mostly under control with proper meds.

Paul arm in arm with his wife and son at his son's weddingThis is my dad and my mom walking with me down the aisle at my wedding last year. On that worst day of my life I never would have thought he would be by my side on the best day of my life. I am so grateful to all the men and women who worked so hard to save my dad’s life. This is my story of the hardest thing I have ever been through: thank you for hearing it.

Photo credits: Caleb Bonyun and friends

Looking Back on Westport Island 2013

dog running towards the camera under icy branchesAnother year of passages…a year older, and hopefully a year wiser…

On a civic note — we gave thanks to: Bruce Whittemore for crafting a sign marking the Westport Volunteer Fire Department; the Bristol Fire Department and a generous Island donor for giving our fire department a new rescue vehicle — making response to medical calls more efficient; Roni and Mario De Pietro for donating an 1832 Tarbox family bible to the History Committee; Sarah Rhinelander for starting the Good Egg Exchange, a community bulletin board…and to taxpayers and the Wright Landing Committee members for landscaping and maintaining the Landing — giving us a scenic, community access point to Island waterways and fishing grounds.

Thanks also to the History Committee for starting a digital library that will make historical photographs and documents accessible via the Maine Memory Network. The first digitized items were the “Sarah Tarbox Letters.” The letters, written from 1836 to 1855, give a glimpse of a time when Islanders traveled by steamer and horse-drawn coach. Visit to view holdings, which will continue to grow.

On a cosmic note: We got a glimpse of the December 8 Aurora Borealis, or northern lights, from Kehail Point — thanks to Michael Lewinski.

On a caring note: The Maine State Legislature memorialized Islander Richard “Bruce” Stedman who died this year. Bruce served the U.S. Navy in WWII and dedicated an extensive career and his personal passion to the United Nations and making the world a more peaceful place. We were also saddened by the loss of Phyllis Colby Hodgdon Mortimer who served as Westport Island’s Town Clerk for 43 years. …And, we share the grief of others who lost loved ones.

On a commercial note: Half Yard Productions, a National Geographic-contracted crew, filmed the labors of two wormers on Westport Island as part of a new TV show.

On a climatic note: We sat out Winter Storm Nemo on February 9 and 10. The storm left us with snow aplenty and without power. We ended the year with ice and snow that strained Island trees and challenged footing, but thankfully left us with electrical power.

On a contemplative note: Like the seasons, the robins and the osprey came and went — and the grasshoppers came and stayed — seemingly longer than most summer people.

On a congratulatory note: Eight-year old Mara Abbott won the T-Shirt Design Contest for grades K-6 sponsored by Focus on Agriculture in Rural Maine Schools (FARMS).

On a celebratory note: Three of our volunteer fire fighters and one resident Portland fire fighter made the grueling Fight for Air Stair Climb in Boston. They raised a few thousand dollars for the American Lung Association. The Community Association pulled us together for some fun, including humor by cartoonist Jeff Pert; the summer barbeque; and the Island Christmas Program! Moreover, we live where poets and artists from here and away draw inspiration.

Between the Conservation Commission’s Island Cleanup and the Fire Department’s Yard Sale, we cleaned up during 2013. Here’s to starting anew in the year to come.

Photo credits: Rescue Vehicle, Jeri Pendleton; Aurora Borealis from Kehail Point, Michael Lewinski; Robin’s Eggs, Dedee Greenleaf-Hodgdon; and Mara in the Snowbank, Alexa Abbott

Westport Island Weekend Staycation

Summertime, summertime, sum sum summertime…

Cross the bridge onto Westport Island, and…

Some visitors panic at seeing crowds of trees that obscure postcard views. No malls; no fast food… Other visitors, well…are just curious. The happiest – and most fun – Island visitors bring imagination, interest and a splash of initiative.

This Island Stay-cation started with a trip to the Tarbox Farm for fresh veggies, fresh-cut flowers and a look around to find just who may be foraging…

Could it be that nothing says island adventure like water adventure? Whether foggy, rainy or sunny, a close-to-the-shore row or paddle brings close-ups of fish nibbling, birds fishing, and craggy remnants of Early American marine and mill industries. Hikes through the trees open to yet other sorts of shore-side adventure.

A relatively new addition to Island sights: 3 Eagle Farm, home to miniature horses and ponies,…is, well,…cool.

A visit to Westport Island, like many of life’s most memorable adventures, doesn’t come with a ticket stub or a price tag. It’s a pause in an over-commercialized life that refreshes…

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Looking Back on Westport Island 2012

Another year of passages….

On a civic note: We voted to consider withdrawal from our supervisory school union after a contentious debate; and voted to adopt a school funding formula more advantageous to taxpayers. Almost 80% of registered voters turned out to vote in the presidential election – under the halo of new lights in the Old Town Hall. The majority joined the nation in re-electing President Barack Obama and joined fellow Mainers in sending Independent Angus King to Washington.

Thanks to taxpayers, the Wright Landing Committee, and professional facilitators, we have an awesome boat ramp and jetty. …And, we have a bodacious new fire truck — which has been blessed, as we have been with a dedicated cadre of fire department volunteers who do more than most realize.

On a cosmic note: We had a bird’s eye view of the “super moon” on May 6 — just 222,000 miles away; and, we thankfully survived the Mayan Apocalypse on December 21.

On a caring note: Westport Islanders rallied around Jimmy Cromwell to help pay medical bills from a debilitating fall at his worksite. We grieved with our neighbors who lost loved ones this year: each loss rending in some way our Island fabric.

On a commercial note: A bad year for lobstermen with prices hitting new lows. It was a better year for Judy Hughes’ MicroMainea whose microgreens now adorn the dishes of prestigious Midcoast chefs.

On a climatic note: East Shore Road washed out and was then repaired after a “super rain” on June 3. Donna Curry’s property survived a microburst on August 3. And, the Island took a glancing hit from Hurricane Sandy on October 29.

On a contemplative note: The robins and the osprey came and went; and the Main Road beavers left us – hopefully on a jet plane to a better life.

On a congratulatory note: Best birthday wishes went to centenarian Priscilla Caskins, and an Island’s appreciation went to Ruth Nelson for a Spirit of America award recognizing her volunteer contributions to a better Island.

On a celebratory note: The “Paving” brought us a smooth ride back and forth to the mainland. The History Committee received a grant to digitize historical photographs and documents for community access to selected historical holdings. And…We had some fun!

A Westport Island Christmas Greeting

doorsI heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th’unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
‘There is no peace on earth, ‘ I said
‘For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.’

angelThen pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.’

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

     -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Westport Island Moment of zen…

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Raising Mazy

Small Dog

The trouble with a pup is that
he errs much larger than a cat.
As if it weren’t enough to err
he lives in populated fur.
He’s just a stomach on four legs
which, when it’s filled, sits up and begs
for more — then leaves it on the floor,
which is a habit I deplore!
He is most difficult to catch
until he’s sitting down to scratch.
He takes your whole bed, lying flat
to make it where the action’s at.
A puppy’s trouble, if you please —
he takes your heart —

by Jerry Day Mason, Westport Island
as published in “Speaking to Strangers” (1986)

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Westport Islanders turn out for Jimmy C.

Jimmy Cromwell showed obvious emotion when looking around at the crowd that filled the Old Town Hall on Saturday night…family, friends, and neighbors. “I didn’t know I Jimmy Cromwell talking to supportersknew this many people.” Others were as moved, “Makes you feel good to see this many people. This is a good community.” “I’ve lived here half my life. I’m embarrassed because I don’t usually show myself at these events; but Jimmy’s a good guy, and I want to support him.” Common thoughts.

Despite all the people, there was food left over to feed as many because those that couldn’t come brought food, checks, raffle items, and good wishes. The organizers “done good” — unfortunately, at least two had to work and couldn’t be there to see the fruits of their kindness and labor.

When Jimmy was laying in a heap on August 7, he was frightened by his pain and inability to move. He sustained fractures to his neck, spine, sternum, and ribs at a work site accident in which he lost his balance on a ladder, fell onto a railing, and rolled over the railing onto the floor a flight below. The first responders were all friends. It was tough on everybody at the scene; and it seemed forever before the nearest life flight arrived from New Hampshire. The good news: the breaks were clean, no surgery, and family and friends have had his back and been by his side.

No work and not much independence for awhile…just time to reflect on what matters most.

We’re giving thanks that Jimmy C. is back on his feet, and the prospects for a full recovery are good. Take heart Jimmy C. You have friends here on Westport Island and beyond…

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Donations can still be made to:

James Cromwell Benefit Fund
c/o First N.A.
Attn: Mitchell Wellman
P.O. Box 940
Damariscotta, ME 04543

Westport Island Wedding

Views from a big day on a small cove

On August 4 as the day wound down, Samantha Hodgdon and Caleb Bonyun married — uniting families with long histories on the Island. The tides, the sun, and the guests put on their best to bless this beginning.

Westport Island’s own “poet laureate”, Jerry Day Mason, spoke. She shared this poetic prayer that she originally wrote, published, and has now adapted for Samantha and Caleb — who started seriously dating in the month of March some years ago…

Wedding Prayer (for Sam and Caleb)

In March, the apple tree bent toward spring

as you toward one another.

All things are at a being and beginning.

Now, may your love be both a dewed cobweb catching sun

and the sure flight of wings.

May it be a coming of all wondrous things

to bring you solace for your tears and a belief in dreams.

May you always need each other.

May you always touch.

— J. Day Mason
adapted from the original Wedding Prayer published in “Speaking to Strangers”

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