Community at Hog Island

Diana Villanueva Romero, of Madrid, Spain, is a PhD candidate in Modern Languages with a specialty in American Literature from the University of Alcalá, Spain. She has further focused her work on poetry and has done extensive study on American writer Alison H. Deming.

Why in the world would a Spaniard be willing to cross the Atlantic at the end of August and head for the tiny piece of land that is Hog Island for only one week? Was something special going on there that she just couldn’t miss?

Hog Island is a good place to develop the ecological mind, to be one with others and be aware of the immensity of nature’s work.

Yes, there was. It was an opportunity to attend the Nature Literature and Journaling session, which is precisely the subject I have been studying for the past two years in graduate school in Spain.

In 2000, when the American organization Friends of Thoreau established its European program at the Institute of North American Studies of the University of Alcalá (Madrid) where I work, I began collaborating with them due to my interest in American Nature Writing. This year they awarded me a grant to attend the Audubon Camp in Maine so that I could combine the formal training that any program entails with the experience of living in a natural reserve surrounded by people who shared my interest in nature.

I must admit that reality went beyond my expectations in a number of ways. But perhaps the element that contributed the most to my enjoyment of the camp was the sense of camaraderie among the staff at the Audubon Camp. This helped all of us campers to feel that we were part of a community of people interested in making the best out of our time in the woods near the sea, away from urban distractions, and led us to observe ourselves and the beauty of nature around us.

Back home in Spain, I have tried to include that good feeling of community with my surroundings in my work, and it does work to think in communal terms instead of individual. Perhaps one of the elements of the ecological mind, as poet Gary Snyder puts it, is the realization that wherever we go we can be part of a community. Daily tasks acquire a wider meaning if we look at them from this perspective. At the same time, we do not feel isolated but part of a larger being: family, planet Earth. Hog Island is a good place to develop this ecological mind, to be one with others and be aware of the immensity of nature’s work.

That is why I am now working on my own personal island to share with others, even though I am back in Spain and, in fact, live on no island.

Diana adds that for more information on The Friends of Thoreau’s European Program see <www2.uah.es/iuen/friends_of_thoreau/fthoreau.htm>