He Calls Us “Family” – An Afternoon with Ashley Bryan

It all started last fall. The iconic illustrator Ashley Bryan visited the Mazza Museum in Ohio. It was the third time I’d met him, and each time I walked away more amazed and inspired than the last. As he signed some books for me, I mentioned that my writing friends and I meet each June not far from his Maine home and studio.

“Well, come visit.” He said it like he meant it. And he did.

Last Friday week, we boarded the mail boat for Little Cranberry Island. Ten writing friends from six states, some locals, a few tourists, a surveyor and his equipment, and of course, the mail.

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I was excited for my friends to meet Ashley. I knew they would adore him. I knew he would wow them with poetry and wisdom and insight that comes only from ninety-plus years of living and breathing and seeing and contemplating. But I could never have anticipated what awaited us on the island.

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First, this charming dock.

Then, this sweet sign on Ashley’s door.

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And, when we stepped inside, hugs from our smiling host…

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And a tour of the most enchanted place I’ve ever seen.  puppet web small


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While we ate lunch, we talked about love, war, peace, art, music, poetry, traveling, children, life, and sandwiches.


And all too soon, it was time to leave the island. We take with us an example of kindness and generosity, a spirit filled with hope and belief in ourselves and our fellow man.

Last November, when Ashley said, “Come visit,” I would have never dreamed I’d be standing with him on his porch step.

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My ears still echo his words…

“We’re all artists, but in different ways. The aesthetic is universal. It doesn’t belong to just the artist as such. Look, you see, I picked up shells and bones and driftwood and I made a hand puppet. The desire to make something other than what you are given is at the heart of everything we do. You’re given a story… it’s nothing until you find the language to transform it. That’s our challenge. That’s our excitement!”

And all the while, he called us his “family.”

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