We kicked off our volunteer days on Hurricane Island for 2015 with a particularly early one, on Saturday April 25. The fact that our winter had been so long and snowy made it seem even earlier than it would on any other year. And as we walked the trails, getting reacquainted with the island we know and love, we did find many banks of snow remaining on Hurricane, and not only in the deep woods.
Fourteen volunteers, ages 7 to 85, joined seven staffers on Hurricane on this chilly morning, and we could actually see a few snowflakes in the air before we boarded M/V Equinox in Rockland, along with 18 bales for this year’s straw bale gardens just up from the Dining Hall. We had volunteers that had lived on Hurricane for years, and we had volunteers who had never set foot on Hurricane, but everyone was perfectly prepared for whatever mother nature delivered, and she delivered us a day perfect for the projects we had planned.
We didn’t have our floats in at the dock yet, so it was up the ladder at the dock for this group. The difference between getting to Hurricane so early in the season compared with, say, October, is so palpable, yet hard to define. Sure, the light is a little different in May with the solstice less than two months away, the vegetation is different, but if you kept constant all those little details—took the same number of people, chose a chilly October day with gray skies like this late April day, there is a psychic quality to the island that makes it just feel different. It’s as if the island itself has been hibernating, like the echoes of an entire season of students and visitors that are so fresh in October, so vibrant and ringing, have long faded away to winter’s quiet, contemplative state. There’s a hush to the island, and everyone senses that, so that we find ourselves almost tiptoeing and whispering.
We started our volunteer day out right: with a coffee break! and then mustered in the barn to hear about the day’s projects: oiling stall doors in the new showerhouse, clearing brush and cutting back branches from the perimeter trail, turning over the gardens in the Meadow, hauling straw bales up to the gardens, re-shingling a side of the infirmary, making repairs to the floats before they are put in for the season, clearing brush, and a new one: drilling holes in birch logs and hammering in plugs that contain mushroom spores. We’re going to grow oyster mushrooms!
Our new cook for 2015, Micah Conkling, prepared a wonderful, hearty meal for us. Jobs were swapped after lunch, and the weather continued to cooperate. It warmed up enough to remove parkas and hats. It was truly a wonderful day: we completed many projects, we explored and woke up the island, and new friends were made.