I'm super psyched that I get to contribute to The American Guide blog on a regular basis; look for my posts every month or so. Editor Brett Klein (who just moved to Maine himself) invited me to be a "Maine Guide" for AG and my first submission of ten paintings, an excerpt from the original Depression-era guidebooks, and a short reflection was published last week. I was inspired by my regular trips to Monhegan and a deepening interest in Maine's pre-Colonial history.
More about AG:
THE AMERICAN GUIDE is a revival of the Depression-era guidebook series by the same name. It’s part archive curation from back in the day, part documentary travel in the here and now. It’s here to keep a state by state record of an America coming out of the Great Recession and beyond: to document people and places both pretty and hard because, all things being equal, that’s what makes America, America.
The original guide series was produced by a community of regional writers, photographers, and artists — locals documenting their home states. THE AMERICAN GUIDE is where today’s mediamakers for all things American will be found, cultivated, and promoted. A/G has a crack team of 60 city, state and regional guides from all points North, South, East and West. And, like the guides before them, they are folks telling stories they know. A/G contributing organizations include: American Student Radio, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Bureau of Land Management, Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming, LBJ Presidential Library, Lucid Inc., The Moth, and The Paris Review. A/G is featured in both the History and Travel categories on Tumblr with a following of over 160,000 folks and climbing. Click here for more on The American Guide team; click here to become an American Guide; or click here to submit a dispatch from your state.
LOOKING FOR SAMOSET — Monhegan Island, Maine
New Harbor was the home of Samoset, the Indian who, in March 1621, startled the Pilgrims of Plymouth by appearing among them with the words, “Much welcome, Englishmen.” He explained that he was a sachem and had learned the language from Englishmen engaged in fishing off Monhegan…. On his next visit he brought with him Squando, who became a friend of the settlers. Chief Samoset was a magnificent figure, tall and straight, his body naked save for a loin cloth. The advice of these Indians enabled the Pilgrims to replenish their dwindling stores, a friendly act that was later repaid with treachery. -Maine: A Guide ‘Down East’ (WPA, 1937)
I ride the ferry from New Harbor to Monhegan Island, tracing a well-worn journey over waters once so plentiful that early explorers kept knowledge of them shrouded in mystery. When no hope of protecting the secret of these fishing grounds was left, a lighthouse was built on Monhegan to show everyone their way. Today I land on the island and hike up to and past this lighthouse, marching through rugged woods to the tallest cliffs on the coast of Maine. The wind here whips up a wildness and a searching in anyone who stands looking… looking… for the secret that was lost with Samoset.
Editor’s note: Jessica’s artistic submission is the first since we’ve put the call out for more artistic contributions to The American Guide, as alternatives to the photos we so often feature. You can read more about the WPA’s Federal Art Project and our recent invitation to submit work here.