Thursday, June 9, 2016

Of Time and Place on Samsø

Post by Andrea Russell
Graduate Student at College of the Atlantic

Samsø is a place that grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go. From your first footsteps on the island to your last ferry boat ride away from its low-lying shore, there is a magical intensity that captivates your soul and inspires your being. The rhythm of pedaling a bicycle drives the pace of life here, and when you leave this coast for the mainland on the distant horizon, your internal metronome still sways to the Samsø tempo.
Photo by: Gabrielle Clary
I feel tremendous gratitude to have visited Samsø twice in my life. I hope to come here many more times. This trip is different from my first experience. My first trip to Samsø was also my first experience with College of the Atlantic, when I met many of the students who I would share the next few years with, and also my first introduction to the collaborative efforts that COA is known for. On that trip we traveled with six local Mainers, leaders in their un-bridged communities, who were looking to facilitate change in energy usage on their islands. On this trip, we have traveled with two wonderful Washington, DC students looking to make similar systemic changes in their communities.
This time our group is smaller, I have more responsibilities, and I know more people. It makes for a more tight-knit group, and heightens my awareness of the dynamics contained herein.
Photo by: Anna Demeo
The first trip was in September 2014. The weather was cooler, and I remember dreading the coin-op 3-minute shower. Still, I milked those showers into warm moments of solitude. This time I enjoy my showers more. I am blessed to be here.
I do not remember so many birds. They waken me every morning, joyfully pouring their
hearts out to the arriving day. Then they proceed to sing all day long. The wind has blown stronger than I remembered, and daylight extends well beyond reasonable waking hours. Evening bicycle rides are a new experience for me, a joyful memory.
Strawberries and new potatoes overspill the edges of road-side farm-stands, in place of the cabbages and pumpkins of the fall.
photo by: Sig Eschholz
People are here. Tourists. I am not alone. During the first trip, I felt as though I had stumbled onto a little-known secret island. Now, during the high season, it feels more like my home-base Bar Harbor in the summer: busy. In fact, there are quite a few cars on these roads, and traffic to be cautious of. Nesting birds have arrived along with the tourists, and I have to be mindful of their locations as well. Limitations on place and space serve to heighten my memory of the last trip. There are precious memories that I will always hold from 2014, such as campfires and hikes to the end of a (now temporarily prohibited) reef.
I have new experiences to remember, such as the security of traveling the island without a map, navigating with an internal compass. The roads and villages come back to me from memory, the town names seem easier to pronounce, and the faces of old friends and acquaintances fill my heart with a joy that brings tears to my eyes.
I have memories with new friends now. My first Samsø experience included an international exchange with Maine islanders, and my second experience included students from Trinity College in Washington, DC along with their professor, joining us in examining the transformation of Samsø to a carbon-negative municipality. All of us have come here to learn the community-building, organizing, and energy activism skills that could potentially make our hometowns more like Samsø. The Trinity students are incredibly eager to learn from this island, as are the COA students. We all will forever remember the sense of joy and excitement as the ferry docked at the pier on the Eastern side of this small, windswept island in the middle of the Kattegat Sea in the center of Denmark.
Thank you