Archive for April 27th, 2013


Haystack GATEWAY

April 27, 2013

From the Director, Stuart Kestenbaum

imagesI absolutely love getting the Gateway Newsletter from Haystack Mountain School of Crafts located in Deer Isle, Maine. My favorite part is reading the segment on the front page called From the Director. Stuart Kestenbaum is the director and has been at the school for several years now. He is an accomplished writer and when I read his From the Director segment I am “there” at Haystack. Stu’s gift of writing helps me smell, taste, feel, hear and imagine whatever he is describing.

When I arrived home today I found the Gateway in my mailbox and before I even took my coat off I stood in the kitchen reading his message. For those of you who have been to Haystack I am sure you will easily picture his words. For those of you who have not been so fortunate, I am guessing his piece will provide you with the images he describes.

Thank you to Stu for permission to re-print his message below. Many of Stu’s columns, along with some other writing in creativity, have been collected in one book called The View from Here: Craft, Community, and Creative Process, published last year from Brynmorgen Press.

Spring 2013

Once upon a time there were pay phones. You could drop a dime in the slot to make a local call and talk as long as your wanted, or with a pocket full of change you could talk long distance, with the operator coming on from time to time to tell you how much the next few minutes would cost. You could make collect calls, which wouldn’t cost you anything. If you were a savvy phone user, you could call home collect, the operator would announce your name and your parents could refuse the charges, and know for free that you had arrived safely at a distant location.

In those golden days of the landline, the pay phone was everywhere—gas stations, restaurants, movies, hospitals, and on street corners.  Some had glass bi-fold doors—I think there is still one at Moody’s diner in Waldoboro—where you could be in an intimate space of quiet conversation while the world bustled outside.

Pay phones witnessed heartbreaks and celebration, arrivals and departures. They were an essential way to communicate. Haystack used to have two pay phones—one in the dining room and one in a handmade booth on the main deck, built of spruce siding with a cedar shingled roof. The word “Confessional” is carved on the door.  The Confessional is right next to the office and without intending to, you might sometimes hear the caller’s description of the dinner menu, studio work, or life with roommates.

Other than writing letters or cards, those two phones were the only way to communicate with friends and family. We would even ask people to limit their calls so everyone could have a turn, and you could often hear the phones ring—real bells not a ringtone—at meals.

Times change. In Maine, New England Telephone became NYNEX, which became Verizon. The mobile phone arrived. Verizon sold its Northern New England landline business to a company called Fairpoint. A few years ago, Fairpoint informed us that since we weren’t generating enough income for them from the phone in the dining room, we would have to pay a very large monthly fee. So the phone was removed. You can still see its ghostly imprint on the wall.

Last fall Fairpoint jettisoned its no longer paying for itself pay phone business, selling it to another company, which informed us that they wanted us to pay another exorbitant fee for the remaining phone—the Confessional. We refused, and sometime this spring the phone will be removed. The building will remain—I think of it as our own shrine to communication. Perhaps people with the urge to talk on the cell phones can sit in there and talk, or just quietly confess to no one.

Now we can communicate in so many ways—talk, text, email, facebook and tweet.  Even with our slow internet on an island in Maine, information moves pretty quickly and constantly too. Of course quick isn’t always what we’re after, especially when it’s coupled with constantly. At Haystack we have the rare opportunity to disconnect. We can disconnect from the part of our lives that is sometimes swirling around us with more information than we can process, and re-connect with another part of ourselves.  It’s the part that’s not skimming the surface, but diving deeper, it’s the part with the questions and other answers. It’s the part that has been waiting for us to call.

Stuart Kestenbaum


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