My View From the Doctor’s Cabin Porch

by Sumner Ford

Every night, part of my routine involves setting down my book, blowing out my lantern (or shutting off the light), closing my eyes and thinking about all the people I’m grateful for. I think about the people who have added to my day—those who were friendly and went out of their way to help. I think about the people I can lean on and express my gratitude to.

I try to remember when this habit formed. I know it started sometime during my adolescence, and I’m pretty sure it was at Pine Island that it first became part of my routine. When I look back at my early years at PIC, I immediately think of the people who defined that time. I think about Matt Clarke, Woody Hoyt, and Jason Fischer. who seemed to lead most of my camping trips. I think about Abe Stimpson, Jesslyn Mullet, Lindsay Clarke, and Winthrop Roosevelt, who taught my favorite activities. I can easily list off my tent counselors: Brian Nicholson, Connor Beliveau, Sam Winans and Ian Malloy, Sloan Critchfield and Marc Lombardo, Woody Hoyt, Niel Kasper and Matt Clarke. (On more than one occasion I had two tent counselors, and my mom used to joke that I needed extra supervision. I’m not sure she was kidding.) I remember tentmates, friends from trips, activities, and skits—far too many to list.

Moving forward in my PIC career, I think about my fellow counselors. I leaned on them to help me teach activities, lead trips, look after my tent, and entertain the community. Those relationships are the most tangible, as many of those folks are my closest friends these days.

Nowadays, I find myself grateful for many more people: Sarah Hunter and her unwavering passion for Pine Island, our Board of Directors and their selfless approach to keeping Pine Island on sure footing, and Ben and Emily Swan, who are so integral to our Island’s past, present, and future.

These people ring loudest in my memory because they’re the ones I’ve found myself appreciating each night before sleep. I believe I’ve relied on Pine Islanders more than anyone else. Living at Pine Island is an exercise in reliance, and it’s had a huge impact on the trajectory of my life. As I consider my years as director and my departure from Pine Island this fall, I try to imagine what my life would look like without these past seven years. It leaves me incredibly grateful for every person who set foot on Pine Island—all the volunteers, campers, staff, parents, and relatives. I’m immensely grateful to every one of you.

Yet even if I hadn’t been the director for these past seven years, Pine Island still would have affected me more than anywhere else. I learned, in nervous moments, to ask questions and trust those with more experience, and before long, I learned the satisfaction of helping others in the same way. When a heavy pack nearly prevented me from summiting Bigelow, I learned to ask others to lighten my load. I learned that the best friendships are built upon a foundation of offering a helping hand. Perhaps most importantly, I learned the value of gratitude and reflection.

My life is defined by values I learned at Pine Island. Many of those values are written into our mission: independence coupled with a concern for others, honesty, generosity, good humor, and the ability to find joy in life. There are many others, tenets I’ve drawn from Pine Island and consider vital to who I am. Resilience, creativity, and a growth mindset. A love of reading, writing letters, and the outdoors.

I know my nightly ritual of gratitude and reflection will take on deeper meaning this coming summer, my last as PIC’s director. I’m already grateful not only that PIC has found a supremely qualified Pine Islander, Alex Toole, to take over the director’s job, but also that Alex and I will have the opportunity to work together this summer to help build another great community steeped in the PIC values that have brought so much joy and meaning to my own life. I’m impatiently counting the days until it all begins in June. Come visit me on the Doctor’s Cabin porch any time!