A personal note and preamble…

At the beginning of this unusual and unexpected year, I was optimistic and positive that the pandemic lockdown would give us all, individually and organizationally, an opportunity to refresh, renew, rethink, revalue, rebuild, and restructure.

For me, it has done all of those things, but it has also become a time of discovery and appreciation that came from two events colliding: a personal medical event and the beta version of FOHI’s digital archive site arriving in my inbox.

Since the nonprofit incarnation of Friends of Hog Island came into being in 2010, beside providing financial and volunteer support, it promised to preserve the legacy of the Hog Island Audubon Camp, meaning its archival history — thousands of photographs, old films and other historical material that had been in closets, boxes, and cellars. Through the generosity of many, this digital archive created by HistoryIT is now weeks away from its public debut and being saved forever.

HistoryIT staff digitizing Hog Island photos for posterity

In exploring this digital archive, a grand pattern in Hog Island’s history emerges — the unwavering generosity of all those who attended its classes. Since the beginning in 1936, the Hog Island Audubon Camp and the island itself have engendered a desire for its continued existence. In 1937, a well was needed; campers rallied and gave the needed funds. In 1938, to escape chilly days and provide a gathering place, campers funded and built the Fish House. (Many of us have warm memories of singing, sharing stories, learning, dancing, and more within its wooden frame, which has changed little from the day it was built.) Then when two hurricanes caused damage to the island in 1954, campers old and new rallied to raise $10,000 to help with repairs.

Generosity further manifested itself in campers forming a group called the Friends of Hog Island at the behest of Virginia (Ginny) Cadbury in 1998. This group of campers, former staff, and friends raised even more money to pay for items to keep the camp going, including a big boat to carry campers on field trips to Egg Rock and other islands. They had no legal standing just a passion to raise needed funds for their beloved island. Because of turbulent economic times, FOHI could not prevent the camp from being transferred in 2000 to Maine Audubon, which likewise ran into continued financial difficulties resulting in the island once more being transferred back to National Audubon in 2009. Despite valiant efforts by everyone, cold reality set in: it appeared that the camp they knew was gone. It was time to go home. National Audubon would be signing over the island to another local camp.

About that time, a former camper fell in love with the moss-covered paths, the drooping lichen in the stately spruces, the Winter Wren filling the forest with its own symphony, the sense that the forest and land had witnessed so much through the centuries, the fresh air filling every cell, and the ever-present silence of nature: dripping dew, rustling leaves, lapping waves, old trees creaking.

Because of that love for the island, I moved up the road from Hog Island in the fall of 2009 from North Carolina, eager to attend camp in 2010 after hearing that Steve Kress was forging ahead with four sessions. Instead, I volunteered for six weeks including all four sessions. During that time, I learned that the camp was in imminent danger of transfer to another local camp (within 11 weeks).

Devastated and incredulous, I thought, “How can this be possible?” My former life and work experience embodied making the impossible possible. I knew little of the history of Hog Island and had no time to learn. I could only see the future of what it could and would be if only funds could be found — despite warnings that all cards and favors had been called in and that no one standing had the strength to continue a losing battle. Added to that, I was an outsider and a stranger.

I had to move fast and with laser precision. While I worked on strategy and filing 501(c)(3) forms, “Seabird” Sue Schubel worked on detailing the historical significance of the camp and Eric Snyder worked on finding the deed to the island. Just before Thanksgiving 2010, I met in New York with David Yarnold, CEO of National Audubon. Surprisingly, we found that we agreed on many things. A few days later, he asked if I would write a three-year business plan for the island and raise a $1 million in time for the May 2011 NAS board meeting. I agreed.

Fast forward to 2020. The new FOHI thrives under its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, taking care to honor its annual financial and volunteer commitments to the camp, and fulfill other needs, including solar panels, refitting the kitchen and Fish House, restoring the Bingham Cottages; the list is legion.

This historic island and camp, through the efforts of so many unsung supporters now thrives. More encouraging is that all concerned parties — National Audubon, Friends of Hog Island (old and new), and Maine Audubon have found a path of mutual respect and collaboration. Collectively, we look forward to many more years of cooperation — embracing new leadership, new audiences, new laws, new outlooks — with the goal of preserving the natural world that we all value and have discovered anew during this year of lockdown.

Such success would not have been possible without everyone who gave generously of their time and funds, without the willingness of leaders to work together, without the staff finding ways to collaborate on programs, and without the passion embodied in Hog Island’s history.

For me, the collision of two events brought time to appreciate all those before me who endured the uphill struggle to see the breathtaking view — especially Ginny Cadbury, with whom I enjoyed a three-hour animated visit and a brief exchange of correspondence. We continue to save the place we love. As David Yarnold said in 2011, Hog Island is Audubon’s “True North.”

Stay tuned for the announcement of FOHI’s archival website and be ready to likewise explore, learn, and appreciate all that has been and see the future.

Juanita Roushdy

And now on to more good news . . .

Despite being closed for 2020, Hog Island staff deftly switched to offering online programs for campers. All five were howling successes: two teen camps; two “family camp in a box”; and one Puffin Islands. Check out the tentative schedule for 2021 and these online sessions.

Heading to the island Covid style!
Heading to the island Covid style!

The closing of the island allows time for work on some of the infrastructure that cannot be done while camp is in session or in the cooler months. It also allows time for nature to renew itself. A few neighborhood FOHI volunteers have been weeding the gardens. The island has seen a lot of traffic from boaters exploring the island trails.

As for all our campers and FOHI volunteers, we miss your songs, your joy, your humor, and your smiling faces! Keep putting one foot in front of the other and look to the sky, birds, and nature.

Where Do We Stand?

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   
so he opens his throat to sing.
. . .
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.
Maya Angelou

Although Friends of Hog Island is a tiny nonprofit with a specialized mission to keep an 84-year-old conservation education camp in Maine — Hog Island Audubon Camp — thriving to teach and broaden the understanding of all who land on its shores about ecology and conservation, we stand firmly with Black Lives Matter.

Even the smallest organization, or one person, or one action, can influence a change.

Hog Island’s 2020 Season and Covid-19

A decade ago FOHI was  fighting to keep Hog Island Camp open; as we begin our second decade, we have found ourselves in recent weeks recommending to National Audubon that the camp be closed for the season. In such an unimaginable time as this Covid-19 pandemic, difficult decisions have to be made with the safety of all in mind.  To that end, Audubon has communicated the following:

– ——

Thank you for your care and commitment to the success of Hog Island Audubon Camp and our summer camp programs.

Audubon takes seriously our responsibility to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19. We have made the difficult decision to cancel Hog Island Audubon Camp programs for the summer of 2020 in order to protect the safety of our campers, volunteers and staff.  

We will miss working with you to share the joy of birds with campers this year and look forward to seeing you in person as soon as we reopen.

We know it’s important to you that our campers continue to learn about the natural world. Audubon is creating resources to help our campers continue to find awe and inspiration in nature together, indoors: 

Audubon for Kids is an online space available in English and Spanish that provides new, fun activities each week, including nature activities, games, quizzes, DIY projects, and more.  For English, visit: “Audubon for Kids”  | For Spanish, visit: “Audubon Para Niños.”

Join the Hog Island instructor team for Raptor Rapture Online to learn all about raptors from migration to nesting.  Our online program features 10 presentations filmed at Hog Island and includes interactive quizzes and additional reading material.  Learn more at Raptor Rapture Online.”

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FOHI volunteers had already filled up all available slots and the opening-week team was ready to go, so we know this news is disappointing. Nonetheless, we know we all want the best for the volunteers, the staff, the campers, and the island. Take this time for renewal, and take comfort in the memories past and the memories we have to make. We will be on the island again.

Keep safe. Until we meet again.

Hog Island under a warm August sunset

 

Like the Seasons, Change is Welcome

We are coming up to the 10th holiday season for Friends of Hog Island as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The time has gone by like a shooting star across the night sky. For those lucky enough to see the night sky at Hog Island, you know exactly how glorious it is. We have a lot to celebrate. Although change is happening, it is all for the good.

A new leader

Scott Weidensaul

At the annual FOHI board meeting in September 2019, Scott Weidensaul was unanimously appointed by the board as the new president of FOHI. As the first FOHI board member and as an instructor at the camp, he is a natural to lead FOHI into its next era. Among his many other responsibilities notable is his co-founding of Project SNOWstorm and serving as co-managing editor of the late Peter Vickery’s forthcoming book Birds of Maine. Juanita Roushdy, founding president of the nonprofit Friends, was delighted to hand over the sails of this able and solid ship that had weathered many a stormy sea under her leadership to land in calm waters. FOHI thrives and grows thanks to the confidence and loyalty of its supporters. Juanita is not jumping ship but will take on the role of Executive Director of FOHI and will continue to be on the island each summer. Change is good.

A Woman of the World Sold Out in New York

A Woman of the World, written by Rebecca Gilman, the first Artist in Residence at Hog Island, played to a sold-out audience for all of its  October 24-November 17, 2019 run at 59E59 Theater in New York. Kathleen Chalfant as Mabel Loomis Todd spoke to an intimate audience at Point Breeze Inn on the island. She recounted little-known details of her life and her editing of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. Many of you got to see the play and enjoyed its revelations and food for thought. Heartfelt thanks go to Margot Harley (The Acting Company), producer, and Valentina Fratti (Miranda Theater Company) director, and, to the mesmerizing Kathleen Chalfant—all have visited Hog Island and have felt its magic. This will not be the last performance!

FOHI Volunteers Continue to Rock

FOHI volunteers are getting so good at knowing the camp and what needs to be done that they achieve the impossible in shorter and shorter time, whether it be working at camp sessions or at opening and closing weeks.  During closing week, FOHIs painted the exterior of The Bridge, partially installed a new solar hot water heating system donated by a FOHI, repaired doors, restored chairs, built decking, winterized the gardens, washed and ironed curtains, packed, cleaned, lugged, laughed, washed dishes and so much more, all the while leaving a part of themselves on the island with each task completed.

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This closing week was a bit special because documentary film maker, Annika Iltis, and cinematographer, Taylor Scott Mason, were on the island to “capture the true beauty of Hog Island and Juanita’s unique relationship to it.” Volunteers enjoyed getting to know the film crew,  watching them set up, and being interviewed and filmed. By midweek, laugher and camaraderie was the order of the day— cameras forgotten!

The Archive Project

Instead of opening a closet door and searching through dusty boxes, we’ll soon be able to click on a FOHI website and search for old friends, names, stories, photos, and more. FOHI’s last “promise to keep” is to preserve the legacy of Hog Island. By the end of 2019 or early 2020, we will announce a new archival website. Progress has been rapid on digital imaging and tagging of all the archival materials that FOHI had gathered. Additional materials donated by Tom Schaefer that he used for his upcoming book about Hog Island, Nature’s People, included Bart Cadbury’s teaching materials and will now be on the new site. HistoryIT is doing an amazing job and we cannot wait for the site to be up and running. Watch for the announcement!

Into the Future

If the numbers for 2020 camp registrations and FOHI volunteer sign- ups are any indication, then 2020 promises to be a meteor of a year. Four sessions are already sold out; two new sessions, Building Better Birding Skills and Raptor Migration & Monhegan are filling up quickly; and old favorites, Family Camps I and II, Sharing Nature: An Educators Week, Spring Migration on Monhegan,  Fall Migration on Monhegan,  and Costa Rica Teen Camp, have openings. Don’t wait, register.

A similar rush is occurring with FOHI volunteers wanting to save their spot on the 8-person teams at each session. Sign-up now for your spot. Bring a friend or family member and share the experience.

Whether you’re a camper or a volunteer, if your session is full, put yourself on the wait list. Who knows, life happens, and you may be available to fill a cancellation! Wait lists are good and can get you where you want to be!

Remember, Spring will soon be here and we’ll be back on Hog Island again. In the meantime, Happy Holidays to our FOHI family. You’ve made us what we are today. Thank you.