The Landscapes of My Life

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Kelli Park

School of Education and Human Development, University of Southern Maine

EDU 559: Aspects of Reading for Multlingual Learners

Professor Heather Alden

September 19, 2020

The Landscapes of My Life: An Autoethnography of Creativity through Sense of Place

There are undercurrents in my life that have led me near and far over the course of the past three decades, even if those undercurrents were a mystery to me at the time. When I think of my life, I think mostly of connections: to individuals, to places, to fleeting moments in time that are too beautiful for words, and to the synergy that exists among these evolving elements. 

The elements that define me have long been converging and diverging in a natural rhythm, much like the ebb and flow of the tides: always changing, but forever consistent in their change. The course of my life has been shaped by flowing parallels: as an artist, a writer, a photographer, a traveler, an entrepreneur, an educator, a mother, and an individual with an insatiable desire to explore the nature of connection, near and far. I know now that the threads that weave together these parallels are, and always have been, defined by a sense of place – the “sights, stories, feelings, and concepts” of my surroundings (Ryfield et al., 2019).

From the deserts of Texas to the last frontier of Alaska to the nostalgia of Appalachia to the birch and balsam groves of Maine, and everywhere in between, my childhood was carved by my ever-changing surroundings. As a child, I navigated this immersive lifestyle with an introverted openness that allowed me to become naturally observant, as my fifth-grade teacher once told me. This has since become the element that defines me as an artist, a writer, and a photographer, having “gained a tangible creative benefit from multicultural experience. . .with an open mindset to welcome new experiences,” (Leung et al,. 2008). 

My lifelong immersion in exploration has always felt like the most natural way to live, especially after I (unknowingly, at the time) began to dig deeper into the dynamic “relationship between multicultural experience and creativity. . .as a result of adapting and being open to new experiences,” (Leung et al,. 2008). This fluidity for being receptive to new experiences and surroundings has become a driving force in my life, fueling my endeavors back and forth across the country and beyond, while “seeking out ideas from diverse sources to use in the creative process,” (Leung et al,. 2008).  

The steady flow of change and movement in my life became ingrained in my creativity over time so that the two elements have become inextricably intertwined. My personal explorations and immersions in a changing sense of place have defined my experiences, decisions, and connections, and have shaped the essence of my creativity to “bring [sense of place] into being. . .with a complex intersection of cartography and literature, a charting of interior and exterior landscapes,”(Ryfield et al., 2019). The lens through which I view the world is how I navigate the changing landscapes of my life. My creativity is diversified by the living study of the interconnectedness that exists among individuals, communities, cultures, and their natural surroundings and is something that lives within my mind, my heart, my soul – always. 

From the Rocky Mountains to Big Sky Country to the stark vistas of the Southwest to the granite coves of Maine, and everywhere in between, my adulthood has been defined by something that, up until recently, was not satisfied with stillness. Movement was the only rhythm that felt natural to me for a long time and now that need for constant change has evolved into something more steady with the duality of the changing tides. My deepest connection, in my day to day life, lives within the natural flow of the water that surrounds me. This is another layer of sense of place to be explored, pursued, and depicted over the course of time, and my relationship with the sea, as “a way to identify and respond to the emotional and spiritual bonds people form with certain spaces” (Ryfield et al., 2019). The sea has cast its spell with the mystery of its depths and the eternity of its horizon, so that my connection with it has evolved from “aesthetic experience to part of place” (Ryfield et al., 2019).

The fluidity of movement has become interwoven with every element and parallel in the synergy of my life. It is a force to be reckoned with in my mind, my heart, my soul – always. I navigate the natural flow of my life to depict the sense of place for places that I’ve been and places that I’ll go, and to tell the stories of the individuals who are connected to these places. The spirit of my experiences with these wild places is something that I never forget. I carry it with me always and I think of it often, the feeling of standing on the edge of something faraway. 

References

Leung, A., Maddux, W., Galinsky, A., & Chiu, C. (2008). Multicultural experience enhances creativity: The when and how. American Psychologist, Volume 63(3), 169-181. https://web-b-ebscohost-com.wv-o-ursus-proxy01.ursus.maine.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=ff14e80b-584c-402b-bd98-cf40d40df7a1%40pdc-v-sessmgr04&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=pdh&AN=2008-03389-003

Ryfield, F., Cabana, D., Brannigan, J., & Crowe, T. (2019). Conceptualizing ‘sense of place’ in cultural ecosystem services: A framework for interdisciplinary research. Ecosystem Services, Volume 36, 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2019.100907

Portland Shipper Offers ‘First Pallet Free’

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This story first appeared in the Island Institute’s The Working Waterfront newspaper, and is reproduced here with permission. Click here

January 21, 2020

Story/Photos by Kelli Park

The Maine Port Authority and Icelandic shipping company Eimskip are collaborating on a new initiative to put Maine on the international map, one pallet-load at a time.

The initiative, launched in April, aims to remove obstacles for Maine businesses exploring international trade opportunities using Eimskip’s vast network. First Pallet Free offers free first-time shipping anywhere on the Eimskip network for local businesses to transport a 4-foot by 4-foot pallet, which can hold as much as 2,000 pounds of goods. Three Maine businesses have taken advantage of the opportunity since the program’s launch, one of which has grown significantly and is now paying to ship products internationally.

Port authority CEO Jon Nass acknowledges that taking shipping to an international market is a big step for many businesses.

“There are a lot of barriers. It’s hard to export things,” he concedes. “There are regulations, there’s cost, there’s risk. We’re taking one of those things off the table—the cost of shipping that product.”

The initiative, Nass believes, will help Maine businesses become competitive globally and have more options. The presence of Eimkip (pronounced AIM-skip) in Portland is key to those options. The Icelandic-based firm has 63 offices in 20 countries on four continents, from Vietnam, Japan, and Thailand to Lithuania, Poland, and Russia, and operates 22 vessels. Most of its shipping is in the North Atlantic, but the firm offers freight “forwarding” service elsewhere.

In Portland, Eimskip took over as the operator of the port in 2013. Monthly ship visits quickly evolved into weekly ships, sailing from Reykjavik, Iceland; to Argentia, Newfoundland; to Halifax, Nova Scotia; and to Portland, and back again—a ten-day journey one way.

“We got to weekly service several years ahead of schedule,” Nass said. “The fact that there’s a ship coming every week attracts bigger customers. It builds on itself. If you’re a company that ships every week or every month, you want to know that the option is going to be there.”

With a little help from Eimskip, the port of Portland has become a key player on the North Atlantic stage. In 2018, $460 million worth of products from 11 of Maine’s 16 counties moved through the port, including frozen blueberries from Washington County.

Portland is the first container stop for Eimskip to enter the U.S. market, with access to 60 million people within 375 miles—roughly a one-day truck drive, a standard industry measurement. This geographic area includes the cities of Quebec and Montreal, and the states of Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

Before Eimskip began operating in Portland, Maine businesses relied heavily on Boston and New Jersey for container shipping.

“Eimskip is the right size for the port we have,” Nass said. “They have a successful niche market that works well with the products we move in and out of here. It’s a great relationship. We would probably not be where we are without a company like Eimskip to prove that this can be done, and that a small port can be successful.”

In fact, Nass believes small ports are playing an increasing role in the shipping world.

“We’re proving the economics of smaller vessels, particularly between Portland and Halifax,” he said.

The First Pallet Free deal requires extensive legwork—food and alcohol regulations, shipping logistics, marketing, international trade law, product legality, tax implications, and tariffs, to name a few.

The Maine Port Authority collaborates with other organizations, such as the Maine International Trade Center and the Maine Regulatory Training and Ethics Center at the University of Southern Maine, to offer professional consulting services for start-up shipping endeavors.

“It’s altruistic to help small Maine businesses, but it’s also a business builder,” said Nass. “We’ll take the risk, and then if you’re wildly successful, we get to ship all sorts of your product and we’ll charge for that.”

The program shows the potential among North Atlantic markets.

“You can spend $1,000 to truck Maine blueberry jelly from Portland to New Jersey, where you can sell it for $2 a jar, or you can ship that same container from Portland to Tromsø, Norway for $1,000, where you can sell it for $7 a jar.”

First Pallet Free is not the first collaborative entrepreneurial endeavor for Eimskip.

“At one of our networking events, there was a brewer and there was a gentleman from Eimskip,” Nass said. “It was what I like to call the chocolate and peanut butter moment, where he said, ‘I have beer,’ and he said, ‘I have refrigerated containers.’ And they came up with this idea for marketing Maine beer overseas.”

Sean Sullivan, director of the Maine Brewers Guild, recalls the “crazy idea of retrofitting a shipping container with 78 beer taps on the side so we could ship and serve Maine beers around the world.” The moment of persuasion came, he remembers, “When Maine brewers found out it was cheaper to ship a container from Portland to Europe than it was to truck it from Portland to New York City.”

Since then, the guild has shipped and served Maine beers to Iceland, England, and Canada, and those countries have sent their products to Maine, helping cultivate a global exchange of beer.

“As an industry, Eimskip has helped Maine brewers realize that by working together and pushing geographic boundaries, business growth can be created for not only those who are exporting, but also for those who make their money by attracting people to Maine for experiences,” said Sullivan.

For more information about the First Pallet Free initiative, see: maineports.com

Brunswick Boosts Next Generation of Marine Entrepreneurs

Due North Project, Maine Documentary Photography
STUDENT SHELLFISH INITIATIVE IS UNLEASHING SHELLFISH POTENTIAL

October 31, 2018

BY KELLI PARK

This story first appeared in the Island Institute’s The Working Waterfront newspaper, and is reproduced here with permission. Click here

Young marine entrepreneurs in Maine are seeing new opportunities evolve almost as quickly as the changing tides. In Brunswick, the Student Shellfish Initiative is helping some of those young entrepreneurs tap into the potential that lies just beneath the surface of the water—and the mud.

With 66 miles of coastline and eight miles of deep water frontage, the mudflats in Brunswick are arguably the “most valuable real estate in town,” according to the town’s Marine Resource Officer Dan Devereaux. The shellfish industry in Brunswick alone is valued at $4 million, although the ecological value is priceless.

“Trying to relay that importance to the younger generation is really a critical part of keeping our coastline the least gentrified that we can to keep areas working,” explains Devereaux.

The Student Shellfish Initiative is a collaboration among Brunswick High School, the town of Brunswick, and The Tidelands Coalition, a nonprofit organization that promotes marine conservation. Brunswick High School students learn the value of hands-on marine research in the outdoor classroom on the mud flats at Wharton Point on Maquoit Bay, collecting data on shellfish species and seeding the flats with soft-shell clams from the Down East Institute.

The growing popularity of the Brunswick Student Shellfish License Program is attributed to the interactive experience provided by the outdoor classroom within the past two years. Fifteen student licenses were issued this year, with most students actively digging daily during the summer; a few years ago, only ten licenses were issued with two students actively digging.

Devereaux is currently exploring the idea of developing a mentoring program to promote sustainable practices within the industry. He hopes the Student Shellfish Initiative can be used as a model for other coastal towns.

“If we can get a base of educated diggers, we’re going to be able to manage the resource more intricately and more surgically,” he says. “As we start to educate newer groups of harvesters coming in, getting these students involved and interested at a young age is critically important to keeping this industry alive and thriving.”

Devereaux believes that change is necessary. The industry cannot sustain itself with the same boom-and-bust approach that has been in place over the past century. Many students involved in the program are now exploring the possibilities in aquaculture in response to the changing industry.

Max Burtis, Max Friedman, and Samuel Dorval, all graduates of Brunswick High School and current college freshmen, have taken their entrepreneurial spirit to the next level with the creation of Ferda Farms on the New Meadows River. They started by harvesting clams at low tide, and then began to explore ideas for generating supplemental income during high tide. The business partners chose their name as an ode to their love for hockey; players use the slang term “ferda” as a shortened version of “for the boys.”

In July, Ferda Farms started with 50,000 oyster seeds from Muscongus Bay Aquaculture and has since expanded to 100,000 oysters. According to Burtis, everyone in the aquaculture industry has been more than willing to share their knowledge and experience, because, he says, “There’s still so much to be learned.”

Burtis has an entrepreneurial mind and believes the job market is a trap for many people. The young men talk about how most people their age are washing dishes, serving ice cream, or working retail.

“It gets the best of a lot of people. They get caught in a place where they don’t want to be,” says Burtis.

“It’s really cool to feel like you’re actually starting something,” says Friedman. “It says something to have a vision.”

Sisters in Recovery: Colleen Francke

Due North Project, Maine Documentary Photography
Aquaculture For Women Recovering from Addiction is Colleen Francke’s Dream 

This story first appeared in the Island Institute’s The Working Waterfront newspaper, and is reproduced here with permission. Click here

May 21, 2018

By Kelli Park

Planting and maintaining a garden can help those recovering from addiction. The recovering person learns responsibility while cultivating, nurturing, and investing time and effort, during which the individual grows along with the garden.

Colleen Francke has taken this concept and adapted it to the ocean, planning an aquaculture farm in which women recovering from addiction can heal and grow while cultivating kelp, oysters, and mussels. Francke recently put her plan into motion with the creation of Summit Point Seafood, an aquaculture farm that would operate off Sturdivant Island in Cumberland for women who are in recovery and learning to live without substances. Salt Sisters is the fundraising campaign that supports the project.

Francke is committed to providing women with a safe work environment as they navigate the recovery process and learn about aquaculture.

“I decided in early 2016 to stop using substances to cope with life. During that process, I met a lot of women who helped me through that really difficult transition,” she remembers.

“When I started this process, someone said to me, ‘There are things in your life that alcohol took away from you. What are those things?’ My dream to finish college was one of them, my art was another thing, and going further with aquaculture was another one. So I looked at that and said, ‘I’m going to go for it. I’m going to start taking the steps to do this project and build a farm,’” she says.

Francke, 32, has spent most of her life around the water. Growing up in Eastham on Cape Cod, her first job was cutting fish and cooking lobster at a local fish market. After she moved to Maine, she learned about aquaculture while working on a mussel farm in Casco Bay. These days, she lobsters offshore aboard the Linda Kate out of Portland, while planning the future of Summit Point Seafood and Salt Sisters.

On board the Linda Kate, Francke moves with a quiet confidence, tacking tasks swiftly and gracefully, revealing her comfort on the water. She’s in her element.

When she talks about her vision for the aquaculture operation, there’s an energy and joy that show in her smile.

Inspiration from her surroundings came at an early age, she explains, and her connection to the sea informs her goals.

“There was a landing in the town that I grew up in and there was a woman who used to dig clams there. I remember her coming in every day, carrying her catch in bright orange baskets,” Francke says.

“I’d never really seen a woman like that. She was independent and she was stunningly beautiful. She was strong and she was free. I remember watching her and wanting to be exactly like her someday. She had her little skiff and she was happy.”

Those traits can help in recovery.

“Recovery is self-reflective, basically,” she says. “You’re looking at what you’re doing in the world and how you’re feeling, and affecting relationships.”

But as noble as her goals are, Francke has learned that achieving them means relying on others.

“It felt really selfish and ego-driven to say this project is something that I’ve always wanted, and I’m just going to go for it by myself. It just felt like a really shallow endeavor. I wouldn’t have this opportunity without having these other women guide me into this new life that I’m living now,” she says.

“Once I decided to make it a recovery-based program, that’s when the whole thing opened up and got some life to it,” she continues. “Women who are new to recovery can have this place as an outlet, even if they don’t want to work on the farm. They can come hang out and realize that, if I can do this, even if your dream isn’t aquaculture or fishing, there are means in which you can make it happen. If I can do it, you can do it.”

A friend and fellow “salt sister” gives Francke a hearty endorsement.

“Colleen is a frigging powerhouse,” says Mary Taylor of Chebeague Island. “She’s a hard worker, she knows her sh–, she’s good on deck and she’s got a good vision. She wants to be on the water. I’m proud of her with her sobriety. Her vision is true and pure, and she has good intentions. I’d go anywhere on a boat anytime with her,” Taylor, who also lobsters, said.

Francke is already looking beyond the farm.

“Down the road, the idea is to have this fundraising campaign, Salt Sisters, turn into its own nonprofit. At that point, Summit Point would be running like a flagship farm, and then Salt Sisters, as a nonprofit, can go to Cape Cod and get farms started there for women in recovery, or go to California, where ever there’s a need. That nonprofit will be able to say, we’re going to help these women if they want help with doing the paperwork, lease applications, funding, etc. If these women are in the same position that I’m in now, they’ll keep paying back. It starts a cycle bigger than itself,” she explains.

Francke has submitted an aquaculture lease application to the Department of Marine Resources and has raised $2,000 toward her initial $50,000 goal. For more information , see www.summitpointseafood.com or Summit Point Seafood on Facebook.