Marking the Hours: Chapter 2

The Liturgy of the Hours is the official set of prayers “marking the hours of each day and sanctifying the day with prayer”.

Lessons learned on an island

When the fog lifts, it is a slow process.

At first, a gray curtain cascades from the sky and intersects with the water so completely that there is no horizon. It is eerily quiet – except for the incessant drone of the fog horn.

When you are paddling a kayak, you have no sense of direction. Your eyes struggle to focus on something –  anything.

Suddenly, the shroud begins to dissipate. It withdraws, slowly revealing the outlines of the masts of moored boats then their hulls and finally the water.

You catch a glimpse of the Casco Bay ferry emerging from nothingness. And all that is known and familiar becomes visible.

You regain a sense of direction.


 I am in my kayak again.  I am seeing the world from the water.

I go out early in the morning before the sun heats the air and waves begin to form. I glide across the smooth surface of the water. Kayaking is practice in living in the moment.

Jo kayak

Photo credit: Liz Johnson

When you are worried about capsizing into 60 degree water, you pay attention. You need to be aware of change. It can be a change in the tide, the current, the wind, or sound. Sometimes a change is felt without knowing where it originated – the movement of tankers and cruise ships can be felt across the channel as a subtle ripple under your boat.

It appears that the water is moving forward, but it is the wave’s energy that is moving. The scientific description is that ”waves are the forward movement of the ocean’s water due to the oscillation of water particles by the frictional drag of wind over the water’s surface. “

If you have forgotten your 4th grade science, here is a video that explains it.

The highest part of the wave is called the crest: the lowest is the trough. From the crest, it is easier to see where you are and where you are going.

It is more difficult to find direction in the trough.  It can be terrifying .

I am living in the in-between:

In between what was and what might be

In between what was done and what there is to be done

In between what was created and what to create next.

In a kayak, to  prepare for what might happen next, you sit quietly and listen.

To create, the Sisters of St. Gertrude’s believe you “listen with the ear of the heart.”


When you enter the water in a kayak, you should know where you are starting and where you want to end. You should be prepared for landing at other places if there is a storm or you are tired or you just want to stop to look for eagles or watch the baby osprey fledge.

Maps are for use on land. Entering coordinates into my phone and being guided by a disembodied voice – is convenient , as long as the battery is charged.

Charts are for use on water. Aids to Navigation – landmarks, lighthouses, buoys, beacons – are overlaid on a detailed background with depth markings. And a chart is waterproof.


I always have a chart and a compass with me in my kayak even though I mostly ‘handrail’ between and around the islands .

A handrail is a feature or landmark that leads towards your destination and one that you can follow or keep within sight. It can be manmade or natural. The most common in kayaking and canoeing is the shoreline.

flat water

Peter Turchi in his book Maps of the Imagination: the writer as cartographer

 (Using the map as a metaphor),…considers writing as a combination of exploration and presentation,…. He compares the way a writer leads a reader though the imaginary world of a story, novel, or poem to the way a mapmaker charts the physical world.. .Goodreads

“To ask for a map,” says Turchi, “is to say, ‘Tell me a story.’ “

In school – maybe even in 4th Grade – along with memorizing Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride,” I learned a poem by Carl Sandburg

The fog comes on little cat feet.

It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches

and then moves on..

In the fog, it is more difficult to discern direction.

To see where to go next, you have to wait for the fog to lift.

Sometimes you just need to stay in place.


No bigger than a shoe box. That is the directive.  It had taken 2 years to recover – physically, financially, emotionally – from my last community based artwork – Welcoming the Stranger. My commitment to myself (and friends) was to work small.  And alone. And with compassion – for myself and for others.

(Although there are 50 gallons of paper pulp in my studio currently – 50 gallons and the word small in the same sentence might be an oxymoron)

No bigger than a shoe box.                         IMG_1112

While at St Gertrude’s,  I made handmade paper and a one-of-a-kind book entitled Religare. I mined the monastery for materials and meaning. After my 3 week residency, I had the  inkling of an idea – triggered by an image – but it is not fully developed – it dances around the edges of my consciousness – elusive – It is that lack of direction that is unsettling to an artist.

I realize I need a way to express myself until the path unfolds.

Two summers ago I was a tour guide on Peaks Island, Maine. In preparing my spiel about the early settlers, I researched Greenwood Gardens, the Gem fire, and other local lore. I cobbled together a history of the Trefethen Evergreen Improvement Association – the TEIA.

From clippings, obituaries, newspaper articles, and TEIA meeting agendas, I noticed parallels with current island issues of development, tourist crowds, trash removal, water shortages, traffic noise, etc.

I became fascinated with the Daveis sisters – Mary and Mabel – and their contributions to 1920’s island life. Mary served as the first woman president of TEIA. They wintered in Portland and summered on Peaks Island living in ‘Magpie Cottage.’ They were Christian Scientists. They were conservationists and suffragists. They lobbied for water to be piped to the island when the aquifer was threatened. And succeeded.


I combined as much of the history as I could verify with a great deal of poetic license and created a one act play – Hats Off –  based on the lives of Mary and Mabel.

stage-scene.jpgExcerpt: Act 1 – Scene 1


(Takes newspaper out of purse. Flashes it in front of Mary’s face. Then proceeds to read aloud from newspaper.)

Today’s headline: Peaks Island – the “The Coney Island of Maine.”

(Mary turns from mirror to listen.)


‘The idyllic island off the coast of Portland invites you to spend a day or week  (OH PLEASE, NO) in one of our sixteen hotels or 600 cottages. Experience the many amusements we have for visitors to Peaks Island. Take a leisurely ride on the ferry (MORE LIKE AT CATTLE BOAT.) Enjoy a play at the Gem Theatre, visit the prairie dog zoo, try your hand at bowling. And when tired, rest at the beer garden.  (CAROUSE).

The smell of steamed lobster will entice you to stay for a shore dinner. Take a walk along the boardwalk to Trefethen pier to enjoy the sunset (AND HOPE YOU DON’T FALL THROUGH).

Boats leave daily from Boston. Make your reservations now to visit the Coney Island of Maine -.’

(Infuriated rants.) Just what we need – more tourists with their cars and their noise; and their garbage; their unseemly behavior. They destroy the natural beauty … They take advantage of our gentile hospitality.

(Yells out the window using a megaphone)

Slow down; Some of us live here!!

Island Shorts - Poster (1)



I submitted Hats Off to the Island Shorts festival. It was accepted. Auditions held. The cast selected. Elizabeth Davis as Mabel; Heather Murdoch Curry as Mary; Molly Johnson as Tour Guide and Liz Rollins, Director. All generously and tirelessly worked learning lines, creating costumes, commandeering props for sets. Everyone was a volunteer.



Excerpt – Act 1: Scene 2                             TOUR GUIDE/OPERATOR

This is the Trefethen Evergreen Improvement Association – the ‘Club’ – that’s what us islanders call it. Originally the Dayburn Casino – known throughout New England for its dance floor – it went belly up. The lack of dance partners due to WW1 may have contributed to its demise.

 (Guide attempts to continue – reading from a paper so looking down)

In 1922, the Casino became the permanent home of TEIA. Two of the founding members were the Daveis sisters – – Mary and Mabel—who invested time and money to support the mission:

(Looks up as if asked a question. Holds up her hand to stop. Continues reading.)

 The mission of the TEIA is to improve Peaks Island, to preserve its natural beauties, to develop its resources, to promote its health, cleanliness and attractiveness, and advance its religious, intellectual and social life.

The Daveis Sisters were instrumental in the establishment of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Portland. They played an important role as early members of the Audubon Society in establishment of the Migratory Bird Protection Act of 1918.

Excerpt – Act 1: Scene 3

 (Mabel: Hears the eiders. Takes out binoculars and peers first to the sky and slowly lowering them down. Makes sounds of eiders –Addresses eider ducks.)

Ladies – I’m so happy to see you back here. I guess , like Mark Twain, news of your demise has been greatly exaggerated.(chuckles to self.)  I have recently been invited to speak on your behalf about the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act – protecting all nongame birds, nests, and their eggs.

(Continues to talk to eiders while looking through binoculars. Kneels and leans forward addressing birds.)

I wish you could have been with me at Harriet’s tea party in Boston. At the end of the party, 900 of Boston’s most influential and fashionable women pledged to stop wearing hats with feathers.

(Tilts head as if listening to ducks respond.)

Yes, the very same women responsible for the near extinction of your ancestors. – (Incredulous) Imagine – almost eliminated by hats. Imagine – saved by hats!!


Following the death of Mabel Daveis at the age of 87, per her wishes, the Magpie Cottage was dismantled and the land upon which it stood donated in perpetuity to the songbirds of Peaks Island and those who wish to listen to them.

(Hear the birds singing.)



This is 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Protection Act. Be thankful for the Daveis sister’s foresight and generosity and advocacy.


Island Shorts: 6 plays, 6 casts, 6 sets, and back-to-back rehearsals for 4 weeks. The 3 night run was a big success. To celebrate, the cast of Hats Off made a commitment to jump from the ferry dock.  With the Rollins boys in tow – Winter and Wyeth – we jumped!!!





4 comments on “Marking the Hours: Chapter 2

  1. donjewler says:

    Jo, Congratulations on the success of your play and your beautifully written blog, which I always enjoy. Warm regards, Don

  2. Lisa Kovatch says:

    Congrats on the play’s acceptance! I absolutely love the (true) ending.

  3. Laura Wailes says:

    you have a very engaging way of writing! the cadence is never boring, you weave a thread of continuity that makes the reader want to continue to the end. you are an extremely gifted artist.

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