Getting Outside Saturday: Hog Island

categories: Cocktail Hour / Getting Outside


A Hog Island lagoon

I had the good fortune this past week to be part of the first ever Damariscotta Lake Writers Conference, which is a conference for educators who write.  I had the august title of Hog Island Lecturer.  The conference took place at the Kennedy Learning Center at Camp Kieve, which is a gorgeous boys’ camp and adventure center (my words–they take those kids on amazing trips all around the state and out to sea).  Hog Island is off of Damariscotta, and was once owned by Mabel Loomis Todd, the executor and editor of Emily Dickinson’s poems, also the illicit (as they would have said in those days) lover of Emily’s brother.  The cabin that Mabel worked in is still there.  Her daughter, Millicent Todd, continued the tradition.  Later, the Audubon Society took over the property, 300 pristine acres of spruce-fir forest and rocky coast.  They run programs there to this day, and have an osprey nest cam set up.  We watched two new birds as they made tentative approaches to the edge of the nest and squawked when their mother flew in with snacks.  A third had already fledged.  See them live and in person here.  Then we enjoyed a talk by Steve Kress, founder of Project Puffin, which has been working to restore puffin and other alcid populations on islands all along the Maine coast, including Hog.

The group of us took a walk (some members opted to sit in Adirondack chairs and hammocks to read and write), visited the various buildings, took in views of island and ocean.

Then it was time for my talk, which was about finding time to write as a teacher, the most all-consuming job there is.  My main advice is to consider writing as important as class time, to call it work, to schedule as firmly as classes.  I tried a discursive approach, lots of storytelling.

Later, Captain Bill (no relation) gave us a foggy tour of the inter-island coastline in Camp Kieve’s lobster boat, including views of  a huge shipwreck and several dozen harbor seals lounging.  Also wine.

Then it was time for my reading.

Then back to camp for lobsters.

If you teach primary or secondary school, this is an amazing opportunity, and a great choice for faculty development.  Participants came from all over the US and Canada, and the small group bonded quickly into a tight and supportive community.  Then I arrived.  Ralph Sneeden, the director (and a fine poet), along with John Castine, founding faculty member, plans to keep it going next year, all with the blessing and support of Camp Kieve.

To the lake dock for a swim!


On the deck


Captain Bill (no relation)


Director Ralph Sneeden, with Participants Kim and Amber, in the fog aboard Snow Goose II


The spiral, symbol of Hog Island


How about this for a writing shack? Ocean view.


John Casteen, poet and faculty member, met his wife at Kieve, back in the day


Come on, you can do it! Fledge!


The Hog Island Lecture is about to begin, if lecturer will stop taking photos.


The Hog Island Lecturer on his throne




  1. Ralph Sneeden writes:

    I noticed that the last osprey walked the plank yesterday. The nest was empty. This is not a metaphor for anything. Thanks for the kind first review/testimonial of the “first ever” DLWC. Long live Cruickshank, that sea dog!

    • Bill writes:

      It’s good to know when an empty nest is just an empty nest… That nestling standing at the very edge of the very end of the very last stick of the nest was really fun to watch…

  2. Tena Laing writes:

    Thanks again for all the encouraging words and the fun. It was a great experience, and your blog post does it justice. I’m looking forward to all the new reading I have now! Thanks too for the judicious photo selection, although I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the one in the Fish House! Take care,

  3. Tommy writes:

    Some characters appear everywhere. I’m sure I’ve seen Captain Bill – loud, likeable, slanderous, sovereign, and gregarious – in half a dozen towns.

  4. Teresa writes:

    Your advice to call writing work stuck with me when I heard it a few years ago at the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference. It’s made a difference in my writing. I’ve even heard my kids say, “leave Mom alone, she’s working.”
    Oh, and that first photo looks like it could have been taken in Alaska.

    • Bill writes:

      Leave Mom alone! That’s great. It’s spruce-fir ocean forest, a lot like Alaska, yes, cold water and all…