Heading out to sea en route to the Island Campus, I looked back at the mainland, which seemed small. The College was far away, and my writing class was on a field trip to Allen Island, an academic resource, historic location, and a simply stunning place to be.
We appreciated the carefully curated architecture of the Wyeth summer residence, their own but now equally intended for everyone who visits. Originally, it was set up as a perfect painting subject. Now that the islands are under the stewardship of the College, anyone can engage with the materials in educational ways but also make their own meaningful connections.
Briefly and in a good way, being on the island all day made me think of the isolation of the pandemic that shaped my four years at Colby. On this day trip, we were together in a group, but removed from everyone else by distance and travel time. The actual island and the sense of reflection I feel as a spring senior remind me of getting to college, building my identity, gradually feeling a little bit at home, and leaning into that feeling.
Since Allen Island is now considered a campus, I clearly see the parallels to finding yourself in a shared setting to learn and live. At Colby and in the surrounding area, lots of us learn how to feel at home when we’re uncomfortable, and to get comfortable and make the most of all the opportunities and challenges. I’ve learned how to climb mountains and appreciate the process for the beauty all the way through; and, the sense of accomplishment at the end of the journey is like the soaring views at the top of an Appalachian Trail peak after climbing through the trying Mahoosuc Notch. Some experiences seem hard just for the sake of a challenge, but I have always found a silver lining or a massive lesson, often transcending academics.
In my experience, any writer, and therefore any liberal arts student, is blessed with the task of reflection — I’m constantly and compassionately thinking about my experience and where to go next. There is a sense of achievement and accumulation that comes from climbing, struggling, and then getting to look back and know you’ve learned or created something. In the day to day, most of us students just keep up with our work, but the work we care about becomes a way to analyze our lives.
In these pages of The Colby Echo we write a first draft of history, and in history classrooms students evaluate world events, and at every end-of-the-year event I will think of something revelatory that I should have said in this column. There is no right way to do all of this work, just a formula that, as we learn, we are allowed to stray from and reform creatively. Figuring out life through college and a coming of age, along with a pandemic, is such an individual experience. The liberal arts view involves finding something you can get behind, discovering what you have to offer, and figuring out what you want to say.
Our campus is a place many wonderful and successful people call home. I’ve studied art history, among other things, so I like to look at life the way I look at art. One contemporary artist, Sarah Faragher `90, wrote a memoir called Autobiography of an Island about painting the smooth and striking views of the coast. She lets the environment take over and guide her artistic process.
“I feel like when I am painting, I am reaching toward whatever it is that I am working with, and the subject is reaching toward me as well. We meet in the middle and make a painting together.”
This alumnus artist has a perspective true to my Colby experience, one of collaboration and togetherness, tied to nature while finding out what is important on my own courageous path in Maine.
~ Molly George `23