Travel & travel writing

The Threads that Bind Us: Peaks Island in a Pandemic

Americans are hearing a lot about “the common good” these days and the need to govern our individual actions with the health of our overall community in mind. And rightly so. If you haven’t yet read Maine author Colin Woodard’s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America yet, I’ll plug it here. He makes a fascinating argument–and I simplify here–about why New Englanders are more predisposed to favor communalism over individualism. Although his argument does not credit firewood sharing and snowbank rescues, those Mainers who have witnessed firsthand the commitment to community will find that his argument about regional culture rings true. 

A Maine island riding out a global pandemic takes the need to act as a whole community to a whole other level. Peaks Islanders are tethered to the mainland through ferry service. Nothing paints the picture of interdependency any sharper than the mere thought of the crew getting sick and how a shuttered ferry service would sever the lifeline of food and other supplies. While normal Peaks Island ferry travel could best be described as hourly, the schedule these days of six round trips daily looks more like service to Cliff Island. In the dead of winter. 

But while islanders are hunkering down, they are also looking out for each other and finding a way to make a difference.

Tanya Seredin sews cotton masks for health-care workers on the frontline from her Peaks Island, Maine home. (Photo: Stephen Mohr).

Tanya Seredin issued a call-to-action on the island email list for others to join her in sewing masks that health-care workers at Central Maine Medical Center can use as their essential personal protective equipment runs out.

Tanya said, “It feels good to be doing something that just might make a tiny bit of difference to someone.  Can you believe how crazy this is?  Homemade cloth masks in hospitals!

“I’ve seen all kinds of articles and photos about people making masks, but I didn’t get drawn into it until I heard someone on Maine Calling on Saturday talking about the need for cloth masks.  They are used for non-Covid patient care and over the N95 masks to prolong the life of those masks.  

“So – I joined the facebook group Sewing Masks for Maine, and saw the emergency call for Central Maine Medical Center.  That was all I needed to get started.  I’ve been working with few breaks the last two days, and thought other Peaks sewers  might be interested, and they are!  It feels good to have something to do.  Every mask is an accomplishment that means something. The pattern is fairly straightforward,” Tanya said. “It asks for 100 percent cotton, and every single mask is needed. I have someone picking them up from Casco Bay Lines tomorrow.”

Manufacturing at Flowfold in Gorham, Maine is shifting from wallets and bags to protective face shields for healthcare workers at MaineHealth. (Courtesy: Flowfold)

Another (former) Peaks Islander–Charley Friedman, founder of Gorham-based Flowfold–is pivoting his company from manufacturing wallets and bags to manufacturing protective face shields. If you haven’t heard about this yet, you can read about it here.

Responding to how Flowfold is stepping up in this time of crisis, MaineHealth CEO Bill Caron said, “It is times like these when coming together as a community to support one another…reflects the very best of humanity.”

Go Tanya. Go Charley. Go ferry crew. The threads that bind us are fragile. Take good care of them and each other.


Patricia Erikson blogs about Maine writers, travel, and science from the award-winning city of Portland, Maine. If you haven’t already, follow her on Instagram at @seashorewrite or subscribe to Peaks Island Press in the upper right corner at http://www.peaksislandpress.com

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