My colorful watercolor depicts an autumn view of the Isabel Lewando Estuary, a special spot where the Ogunquit River flows along the beach dunes connecting with the open sea. Tranquil and rich with life, it is the southern point of our local Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and after a recent community ceremony in her honor, is now marked by a granite stone in memory of my friend and mentor, Isabel Lewando (1928-2011). It’s no small feat to have conservation land that bears your name adjacent to the legendary environmentalist Rachel Carson. Isabel was an Ogunquit legend in her idiosyncratic way. The artist was a classic beauty and famed artist model who enjoyed a lively creative presence in the Ogunquit arts scene during the 1940’s until her death. A genuine citizen scientist who loved her community and the local beach ecology, she is fondly remembered as an informed conservationist and activist for betterment.
Isabel told stories with an artist’s eye and a poet’s heart. She used her camera to illustrate her gift to observe beauty and natural things, and had an intuitive talent for writing about her simple philosophies related to nature, art, sustainability, and community. Locally, Isabel was a maternal influence to younger artists and knew the importance of mentoring. When she took you under her wing you could always count on her creative nurturing and enthusiasm for you and life. Young in spirit she remained curious to learn and try new things, even through her final years and longterm illness. There are many stories and memories of this remarkable woman that would fill volumes and hearts. Along with her iconic black artist beret, Isabel wore a necklace with beads that spelled, “art loves you”. She would jiggle them and smile as she offered her cure-all blessing and a hug.
For me, Isabel mentored the strong interests we shared in conservation and community arts. During the years I coordinated the piping plover endangered species project on Ogunquit Beach she helped me learn to be an activist and the value of being well-informed on what matters to me and our community. When I first began Art HOPE she was in cancer treatment and would attend our programs at York Hospital. She was an early participant in the project and my grassroots steps to establish the non-profit organization. The youth interns at our programs loved her artful antics and origami folding. Most of all, my mentor Isabel taught me to believe in myself and to stand up for what I believe and speak for out for change in a way that educates and brings people together.
Mentors are the friends, teachers and nurturing relationships that help us be ourselves at our best. They promote learning and the development of our talents, brilliant ideas, and dreams. November 1st is All Saint’s Day, when we remember those loved who have passed. This is a wonderful moment to remember a loved mentor and to do something that makes the world a better place in their honor. Every visit to the Isabel Lewando Estuary at the Footbridge Beach in Ogunquit reminds me of my friend and I am once again inspired.