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  • One spring, in the last month of school, we took the fifth grade out to the island for a three day trip. Searsmont Maine is less than 20 miles from the ocean but a number of the kids had never been to the shore. None of them had been to an island. We were only going 60 miles up the coast but for plenty of them this qualified as a journey to foreign territory.

    There were a quantity of parent meetings. I stressed the qualifications (U. S. Coast Guard licenced captain) of the boat that would haul us out and back. The lack of large predators, poisonous snakes and poison ivy was helpful. The access to a marine VHF radio this being BCP (Before Cell Phones) was also a plus. Parents didn’t expect to be in constant communication as strange as that may seem today.

    What made the deal was the fact that Mrs Seymour was a veteran. She was working on her second generation of students. Parents knew she’d keep a young fella like me in line.

    So, on a grey and fog shrouded mid-morning, there we were, huddled on the Tremont Town float waiting for our ride.

    The captain ran us out by way of the ledges around Black island. Seals sprawled in blissful abandon on the seaweeded rocks.

    Oh my god, said Joel.

    Will they bite, asked Crystal.

    Don’t be such a friggin’ baby, said Amber.

    In Maine frig does not count as a swear.

    On the island Mrs Seymour took charge. She was a ‘follow the directions the first time’, no nonsense, “did you hear what I said” kind of elementary teacher. The tents went up. Stone was hauled for the firepit. The packed coolers were inventoried and ordered.

    Days are long in late May this far north.

    We can walk out to the Head, I suggested.

    The mosquitos were thick on the woods road through the island. No one dawdled.

    The road comes out on the massive, fla,t orange pink granite headland. The sea stretches out 5000 miles and more to Africa and Europe to the south and east. It is empty and wild with promise.

    The kids exploded out of the woods and scattered across the ledges.

    Mrs. Seymour freaked. She pulled out a whistle and blew a tremendous blast.

    That’s it, she announced, we’re going back.

    Elijah groaned.

    He got a timeout.

    The rest toed the line.

    The next morning I had organized a tide pool exploration. Great tie-in to their curriculum study of invertebrates, habitats, observation, and classification.

    I lead the way down to the stretch of ledges and pools and shallows exposed at low tide between the islands. I started them out with a guided tour of a tide pool. Turned over rocks, showed them crab and eels, starfish and sea urchins.

    The crowd around me dwindled as they set out on their own. Soon the group was heads down and butts up in pools and rocky spots. I took the high ground and kept an eye on things.

    Hunger brought them back before the tide had come in too much.

    Did you see the claws on that crab?

    Jeezum Crow, I thought he was going to take my finger right off.

    I flipped that rock and that fish, he went right over my feet.

    Did you see where we were Mr Ben.

    Yeah. Yeah we were there too.

    After lunch Mrs Seymour looked for her whistle to gather the group for the next activity.

    They saw her patting her pockets and being well conditioned gathered round.

    Mrs Seymour looked confused. She nodded, stopped, took a step, nodded, stopped. Then she had it.

    Oh shit, she said.

    The silence was profound.

    She went on, I was up on the other island. I had to take a pee.

    Joel giggled.

    I set the whistle down and, and...

    And just like that Mary Seymour was laughing. Out of control whole body, belly laughing.

    And we laughed with her.

    It was the best trip ever, Amber told me on the bus ride home.
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