I am all about the feel of a place. The energy. Or whatever I call the spiritual song and dance of souls or faded footsteps of those who came before me. I know there’s a pull to this shore like the breath of the tide in and out. If not quite a sense of homecoming, there’s for certain a feeling of belonging. Of welcome. You can feel Star Island greet you before your boat even docks.
Being on Star Island just plain feels good.
Known collectively as the Isles of Shoals, Star Island and its neighbors form an archipelago of nine islands scattered along the New Hampshire and Maine border in the Atlantic’s Gulf of Maine. While not the largest, 43-acre Star Island is likely the busiest with a full summer schedule of conferences, workshops, and retreats to enjoy for long-term visitors as well as day-trippers like me out to escape life’s present tense for an hour or two in the past.
There’s the beauty of the island, of course, with its simple, white-washed buildings gazing out beyond the rocky shoreline in contrast to the deep blue of the sky and sea. There’s the history. The Oceanic Hotel. Explorer John Smith. The Gosport fishing village. Shoals poet and writer Celia Thaxter. There’s legend. Lore. Mystery. Celebration. And endless inspiration.
There’s even ritual. At each day’s end, a procession of candle-bearing guests walk the path to the Stone Chapel for evening services where no doubt blessings are counted like stars in the deepening darkness of the sky. In a farewell ritual, folks gather at the dock to send off those departing the island and rhythmically remind: “You will come back! You will come back!” In reply, a promise from the boat’s topside: “I will come back! I will come back!”
For all its social activity, there’s solitude too. Waves to contemplate. Rocks to climb. Kites to fly. Flocks of birds to watch. There’s a sense that you’re standing still with time. On solid ground. Breathing easily and deeply.
There’s peace to be found out there on Star Island. And a certain serenity. Only six miles out to sea and an hour-long boat ride away.
My promise: I will come back.