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General News · 10th July 2019
Priya Huffman
As I walk down the driveway to meet with Rick Paine and Lynnaea Lumbard in their home at the end of South Point Road, the view over Desolation Sound, usually so arresting, is completely obscured by smoke from summer forest fires miles away. It reminds me of my commitment to step forward on behalf of the things within my sphere of influence. In this case, the Cortes Island Community Housing Initiative. Rick and Lynnaea had contributed generously at the project’s first fundraising event in July 2018 and I am curious.

Rick has come to Cortes every year for the past 32, and I ask him what draws him here.

“Each time I arrive, the beauty seems more wild and wonderful. And being involved with people I’ve known for over 30 years is an amazing and touching experience––real community.”

In 1994 when he brought his bride-to-be, Lynnaea Lumbard, to the tiny cabin where he had camped for many summers, she too fell in love with the island.

“The land feels so intimate,” she says, “It’s like a soul home for me, a magical blend of the Maine ocean, pines and granite where I grew up together with the Northern California forest and dry summers where I later lived.”

As well, Lynnaea and Rick were drawn to the community who gather around Hollyhock in the summer. And after seven seasons of cabin camping, the pair found their dream house next door on the bluff where they now live, grateful to finally be “homed” on Cortes.

“We stayed through the winter for two seasons, and loved being here. We attempted, unsuccessfully, to find a way to Canadian citizenship, and then contented ourselves with being seasonal residents.”

When I asked Lynnaea and Rick why they support the Cortes Community Housing project, they were very articulate about the systemic and disturbing nature of the housing crisis all over the world - homelessness, refugees, population density, and more. They also understand how that will play out over time and what the prospects are for Cortes, where Islanders who contribute to the economy and culture of Cortes, who don’t own homes, may be pushed out due to housing shortages.

Rick says, “Contributing financially here on Cortes at the local level feels like it could make a real difference. It’s not like trying to solve the housing issue in Seattle or Vancouver. Here our contribution may actually result in a positive outcome.”

Lynnaea turns to me and says, what many know but are reticent to name. “Let’s face it, we are part of the problem. We can afford a second home, driving up property prices by our demand. Now, we also have the opportunity to be part of a solution, by contributing to the new housing initiative.”

For some time, the couple rented their home to Islanders in winter, yet that didn’t solve the essential and deeper island housing issue, when tenants became seasonally homeless in the summer. It was a dilemma that created tension for all involved.

I ask why they donated to the project as generously as they have, and Rick says, with tears in his eyes, “In all our years of philanthropic work, we have never made a donation of this size. I love Cortes.” He adds, “It does feel like a risk, but one worth taking.”

Then Lynnaea says quietly, “A lot of us wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Hollyhock, so we give to them, as well, because we want it to carry on and thrive. Our annual pilgrimage to Cortes continues to be the most nurturing part of our lives. It’s where we come to rest, to be refilled and re-vitalized in the water, the sunshine, the walks and the conversations. When one receives so very much from a place and its people, often in very intangible ways, to give at the level that you can, that’s what you do, you give back.

“We do not want to be part of an extractive process. We can’t come here and just extract. We need and want to give back, to participate as fully as we can in island life. There is a dance between the summer people and the full time residents. We so love and appreciate what those who live here full time create and sustain throughout the year. And hopefully we, as summer people, bring important perspectives, presence and resources during the summer that also enrich and sustain the community--economically, culturally, and energetically. We want this community to continue to grow and thrive in perpetuity. So we want to give back and help make that happen.”

And I, Priya, think to myself, “That’s what makes a community.”

When I walk back up the driveway, the air is still heavy with smoke, but my heart feels lighter and more open than when I arrived.

It Takes a Community to Raise a Village

Priya Huffman on Behalf of the Housing Committee