birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


This summer our family journeyed more than 3100 miles to Monhegan, an island off the coast of Maine. My father's cousin Candis and her husband Bruce spend their summers there. They had extended invitations over the years, and we finally had the time and money to accept. The only way to reach the island is via ferry, an hourlong trip from the mainland. As our boat arrived at the dock, Candis and Bruce awaited us with one of the only trucks in town, which would deliver our luggage, up the hill to their home. There are no paved roads on Monhegan, and not many vehicles. Even bike riding here would be challenging. So folks walk. And older folks drive golf carts. The island is surrounded by craggy rocks and there are a few spots to dip your toes into the water, which is so cold that hardly anyone swims, even in the summer. Lobster crates line the roads and fishermen are the VIPs on Monhegan. There is a Community Supported-farm system that consists of residents (fulltime and part-time) donating the use of their gardens. Volunteers come and plant seeds, such as strawberries, onions and cabbage. They return to reap the bounty and sell the items at the local farmer's market. There is one grocery-type store. One post office. One craft ale house. And one library. If there's a heaven, the library is where my soul will live in all eternity. It's housed in a wee cottage, the rooms lined with books. Island residents curate the collection, depending upon their expertise and interest. Candis curates the poetry section. She has an annual budget for acquisitions, but must also purge books that no longer hold interest for the public who use the library. When I was there, the library hosted a Maine-based writer who pens thrillers. He gave a reading, took questions and held a writing workshop over the weekend. The questions he fielded were erudite and I was struck by how many of the island's part-time inhabitants -- most of them retired -- harbored writing ambitions. There is also a lighthouse, which houses the Monhegan museum. The museum contains artifacts from island life, where you can learn the hard scrabble tales maintaining a civil society on a remote island. Edward Hopper and various Wyeths also adopted Monhegan, and once we returned to the mainland and visited the Portland Art museum, I was struck by how many of its paintings were of the island's rough, yet beautiful landscapes. Hiking here is not easy. Narrow trails through forests, up and over boulders, but the rewards are immense. Views of a horizon that seems endless.


Short Night Long Ride