L. Montano

“Westport musings”

You drive by, from one place to the next. As a long-time Westport resident, you know the shortcuts to your destination of the day. Only sporadically you pause to contemplate, to relish the many places in town, at least that’s what happens to me sometimes. Reconnecting with the town, through writing, offers an opportunity to reaffirm our desire to remain anchored.

The WriteHere idea was simple: Open to the community, participants were encouraged to unveil their writing creativity by connecting with our place, Westport.

Writing about life and experience in Westport led sometimes to dig into past memories that brought some nostalgia for the old Westport; other times to reflect on current town life, our hopes and sense of renewal.

The placemaking writing project leader was as bright as a bulb, as bubbly as fine champagne. She convened her cohorts of the day to quintessential community places where even town old-timers either had never been to or had visited those places a long time ago. Open to the whole town, some people joined, some others couldn’t. Regardless, her enthusiasm never diminished, the same caring and cheering for that one day, that one moment, that one place.

Inspiring places and settings were called on: Starting and ending with The Library. The Brick Walk welcomed us on a beautiful mid-day with a chorus of crows inspiring stories of the Saugatuck. The visit to an emblematic coffee-shop at our Saugatuck Train Station, part-taking doughnuts and coffee while some participants composed poetry, kids wrote or drew their story; while others wrote about their experiences as commuters or incorporated historic events after a great history lesson of the Westport railroad station. The visits to the police station and the firehouse showed us what community service looks like, filling us with gratitude, as evidenced by the writings. And the playhouse, ah… It inspired many wonderful stories that linked the playhouse to old times, to famous people in town, to the resilience of that little art-house to remain vibrant and spread appreciation for the arts and culture in town.

The writing sessions at the Dimes Marina, Compo Beach, and Longshore provided settings of bright sun and the summer taste of Westport

Using the Earthspace as our muse brought us in close contact with our environment, with earthly things, and inspired us to write about and connect with nature, recognizing the effort involved in preserving a healthy ecosystem. From our town’s environment and caring for the Earth, we focused our imagination on the space beyond – the Universe, the Cosmos. The Observatory visit reminded us how committed people keep our Town apprised of what lies in Space, the history of the place, and inspired writing about that part of science that makes children’s eyes widen in wonderment and excitement, and make us adults act like children. These and several other places visited define Westport, give it its character and inspired us to write and write.

WriteHere was a great idea that merits repeating. Thanks to the people who graciously invited us to the places visited. They radiated their devotion and enthusiasm to the cause of their place of work, shared their love for what they do, how they got there and showed us that they are people with a mission, worthy missions. …

Thanks, Jan for your indomitable enthusiasm, your ideas, your hard work. From constant reminders about posting our stories to carrying heavy shopping bags to keep us hydrated and munching on our snacks. I am pleased I had the opportunity to hear other voices, other stories, other experiences rooted in this place, Westport.

“Westport Skies” (Astronomical Society)

The Universe, encircling us, tranquil made of galaxies that are thousands, millions, billions of light-years away encapsulating a profusion of stellar events of swirling galaxies like our Milky Way and our neighbor Andromeda.

Galaxies in suspension, the calm after explosions, expansion, and contraction, where nothing is ephemeral, and nothing can be proved eternal. Where calmness is not stillness and faraway galaxies twirl in rhythmic gyrations, some stars dying, others being born.

The parts of the resplendent Cosmos that human intelligence and endeavor uncover illuminate our understanding of what is knowable, and it humbles us with its magnificence.

We are brought closer to the Firmament and we dream explorers’ dreams. Even as we discover ice water in our own satellite, the moon, explorers imagine breaking apart its hydrogen and oxygen molecules to convert them into rocket fuel. We discover gold and other metals and imagine how will we use it and who should claim ownership. And these imaginings are just about our moon.

We are barely grasping exploring our solar system, much less our galaxy.
And through the vast unknown we recognize the fragility of our earthling existence.

As the race for galactic discovery continues, a special kind of committed Cosmos-lovers come together to share their passion, wonderment, and knowledge with their local communities.
People who form astronomical societies like our own in Westport bring to us the marvels of the Firmament. Their service to the community is meaningful and invaluable.


August 21, 2019 – Westport Historical Society

“Place in History”

Looking at the past to understand the present. Yeah of course. Looking at the past to better understand it, as it illuminates the lives of past societies and communities, and how they impact and shape the present, yeah better.

The task of preserving knowledge about past ways of life, customs, how science developed, how technology evolved to meet the needs of emerging societies is fundamental to keep alive and explain the growing human imprint. From tools to spoons, to early ads, to powerful photographs – these products of history, representing a moment in time and place, convey but only a sliver of that one moment among many moments of people’s past. Objects tell us a story, the story we dare imagine of those times. What kind of people were they? Whose objects are the ones preserved? Whose objects were lost, and, along with with them, their stories? Are the stories of the surviving objects similar to those whose objects are gone?

Old photographs bring, for me, compelling stories as they show the people in their clothes of the era, their face and body expressions, the streets and houses of the era, the instruments of the era, the transport of the era, the other characters who complement that scene. All converging at that time, in that place, through that photograph…


August 20, 2019

“Ned Dimes Marina”

I can imagine this place 100 years ago, how it would look like. Bustling with some sailor or fishing activity perhaps? Or a sort of marshland, pristine and far from the activity of an era of growth and expansion.

Somehow, this place has stayed. In its permanence, it has adapted to change without losing that air, that air of “aah”, clean air, blue sky, sparkling water, tall grasses, and varied fowl.

This area of the coastline is, for me, very distinctive of Westport. I use it as my place to come and shoot photographs, particularly during sunsets. It is as welcoming in the summer as it is in winter when birds and snow merge against a horizon in palettes mutating from reds to pinks to blues, then silver and darkening purplish-lavender. The care put into the area attests to the recognition of the importance of open spaces where the community enjoys together, from the 4th of July celebration to regular picnics nearby, on Sherwood Island. Places like this make people sit back and relax. Just forget for a bit the tribulations of life and be grateful for the open space and natural views that remain.


August 16, 2019

“The Little Firefighter”

Like any normal boy, he dreamed of becoming a firefighter. The cartoons presented them as these real-life heroes who saved people from tall buildings, climbing on wiggly extended ladders, and those uniforms! They made the firefighters look super-human, bigger than they actually were.

As he grew up, his dreams and idealization of firefighters grew with him. They saved people’s lives and that’s what he wanted to do. He explored the options, but as time passed, he realized he was not going to be 6 feet tall, ever. One day, a firefighter went to his school to talk about safety and what firefighters did. He could not shake the vision of such an imposing man, with gentle eyes and a friendly smile.

He was supple, he was physical. He climbed rocks and had strength, but he did not feel like the picture-perfect of six foot or above. Nonetheless, he considered his options. He decided to give it a try. He went through grueling training, surprising everybody with his agility and impressive strength to carry heavy loads despite his short height. His strength and willingness were noticed by his trainers and training peers.

Against all odds, he passed all the required tests and exercises. Once he hit the ground, he ran! He was exposed to real-life life-saving deeds and he found his niche among his company. He was the expert crawler, going into tight spaces carrying heavy loads. He furrowed through old buildings with hidden spaces as if going through the underground tunnels of fighting soldiers, with a mission.

In the end, he was a member of the company bringing his own qualities, his capacity to twist his body in tight spaces, to go as high as possible, to almost fly on roofs and still carry heavy loads. All this, regardless of his height. Having conquered this world, he felt super-human!


August 10, 2019

“Down by the River”

Cities, towns, hamlets. What makes them distinctive, and soothing? It’s a river going through them. It gives them personality and a place for the community to gather.

I remember this area, the way it was in the late 80s. It looked majestic to me. It looked “seasoned”. When we first came to town we would walk around the bridge and the combination of river flowing and static buildings constructed by inhabitants of the past brought out the permanence of its scenic beauty and the flow of changes, like the river.

I drive through this part of town almost daily, but never stop to enjoy the area along the river and around the bridge anymore. I remember the old firehouse, the old library building, the several movie theaters we used to have. The area has in many ways remained true to itself while accepting embellishment and keeping pace with the times. I like that too. But the charm of its past was what attracted me to the town and kept me here.

Change and innovation offer the possibility of renewal. Yet keeping the character, the spirit of its past, while absorbing the influence of many generations of newcomers from different parts help make this place special. Here, you want to breathe deep and sigh...


August 6, 2019 Commuting Community – Westport Train Station

Every day, for many years, she would rush to the Westport Train Station to catch the early morning train. Once on the platform, she would walk towards the end of the platform where the train’s front car would stop. It was a well-studied move. She reckoned she would be of the first ones to exit the train once it pulled into Grand Central and rush through the streets. That first car on the 6:30-something train, was in a sense a commuters’ community. Yet throughout those many years, she never spoke with her fellow commuters.

The ride had the same regulars every day. There was, for instance, a group of 4 or 5 people who every single morning would take down the ads/posters hanging by the exit doors and adroitly placed them on their laps to convert them into instant games tables. Their well-established routine was never interrupted. After so many years of such ritual, they did not chat too much among themselves; perhaps a bit more on Mondays, maybe to talk about their weekends. Their conversations revolved mostly around the game at hand. The conductor was the familiar fixture on the morning shift. There was a gentleman who every day, throughout the whole commute, chewed gum. His jaw, like a seesaw, up and down, up and down, incessantly. Then there was the window-looker, who in distracted gaze stared outside, lost in the passing landscape and awakening towns. Others simply closed their eyes or slept. Still others, like her, working or reading.

She occasionally looked up to contemplate the passing trees, houses, life along the tracks. She loved witnessing the change of seasons from the window, but her contemplations generally lasted a second, just like her furtive glimpses that scanned the scenes of her fellow commuters. Her pensive observations led her to wonder about the lives of these accidental riders who shared the constrained environment, who only revealed slivers of their humanness through their commuter personas. They were in a community despite themselves. It was a disjoint community, but a community still. On the evening commute back to town, she frequently saw some of the same people from the morning train.

She wondered how people would react if something were to happen on the train. What kind of community it would turn out to be.

She found out that Doomful September Day. The morning commute dynamic was just like any day of those-so-many years. On that forlorn Day’s return commute, she was among the first wave of outbound trains to depart Grand Central, after the Station’s doors were reopened to allow commuters to return to their families. Packed trains, people as close as they could physically be. She was squeezed by towering bodies; all turned into a compact One. Almost nobody talked, some whispered, nobody read, eyes down. Somber. Some with ashes on their clothes… The train, slowly, returned commuters to their respective towns.

As she/I got off and walked on the platform, into the broader community of the town, the sky seemed hazy, strange. A few days later, routine reclaimed its place. Back to the first car: the card players and their poster-table, the chewing gum man, the gazers, the sleepers, the suits…and me.


August 2, 2019 – The Brick Walk

“Flowing out” The little girl leaned towards the edge of the river. After the rains, the Saugatuck was swollen and gushed, alive, through its set course. From the watershed, the river meandered down through towns, till it reached Westport.

The little girl, standing at the edge of the river tossed a piece of a broken branch, a bit flat but of good size, as far as she could, towards the middle of the river. The branch elegantly floated on the water, like a feather that had just abandoned its egret.

The branch leisurely glided in the direction of the flow. The little girl ran along the edge of the river, through shrub thickets and grasses, following the branch it had gifted the river until she could no further advance.

She bid goodbye to her branch, as it was gently carried away by the current, wondering how far the branch would go. As the bough continued its undulating journey the flow slowed pace, but the wind kept ushering it along the Saugatuck, the “river that flows out”.

Past the bridge in Westport, the branch unwittingly docked by the Brick Walk green area, joining a lively canvass painting-like sunny afternoon scene, where a chorus of crows, in boisterous discussion -perhaps wondering where was the lady who sometimes spreads bread crumbs for the flying marvels that color the skies above the green space. People sitting on benches, enjoying the afternoon.

The bough did not stay caught at the river-edge for long, even though this was a good place to stay, “take root”. Some playful ducklings brushed against it, dislodging it. Well, it had a journey to complete anyway. As the wind picked up the pace, wafting to mid-river, the branch continued its downstream journey towards the end of the bubbling passage, where Sweet and Salt meet.


August 1, 2019 – The Westport Library


Welcoming, inclusive, and free. Warm in winter, cool in summer. Bustling with activity yet offering calm and quiet nooks spread out.

Libraries have been like a second home to me in the past decades. I'd regularly take my two young kids to the Library children’s section. As newcomers to town back in the late 80s, school and library signified an instant connection to the town, anchoring us to place and community.

We would sit on the carpet. They would pick their picture books, change their mind, pick different ones, play with books-cum-toys, until they settled and browsed, reading their first letters.

As they grew up, went to school and left town, the library has been my own refuge, my calm place, my inspiration. It was instrumental in allowing me the concentration provided by this inviting environment to dedicate years within its walls to complete academic pursuits or research endeavors. While no longer with pressing commitments or deadlines, the Westport Library is still my go-to place, my retreat. It is my launch platform to the world of ideas. It keeps me anchored to town life, offering me a harbor from which I can explore or rediscover my own thoughts.