by Catherine J.S. Lee

The Sunday Afternoon series at the Eastport Arts Center continued on January 22nd when a capacity crowd gathered for a reading by Lubec author Chuck Kniffen, a Marine combat veteran with two published memoirs about his Vietnam experiences, long-undiagnosed PTSD, and the healing he finds in the natural world. Liberally sprinkled into his reading selections were wry asides and humorous anecdotes.
Kniffen is a native of California who later lived in Connecticut and relocated to Maine in 1995. He is a memoirist because it’s a form that allows him to work through his difficulties and to give encouragement to his military comrades and to others who share in what he describes as “a world awash in trauma.” He says that it’s healing to get his thoughts and memories and emotions out of his head and down in writing. 65 years old when he first sought treatment for his PTSD despite working in the social services and mental health fields for years, he observes that “a clear sign of the disturbance is not to notice the disturbance.”

Chuck Kniffen and wife Rhonda Welcome.

“Presence, contentment, and honesty” are three healing gifts that Kniffen has received from spending time with the woods and animals. He defines “contentment” not as “I’ve got what I wanted so I’m satisfied,” but as a feeling of having peace, “like a dog lying in a sunbeam.”
Kniffen has authored two books, Fifty Years in a Foxhole and Rude Awakenings: Making Peace with the Beast Machine, and read short selections from both. From Fifty Years, he followed a reading about a combat experience in Vietnam with one about a flashback whilst camping in Florida, the event that led to his seeking counseling. The third reading from that first book was about the day that he was wounded and the Navy corpsman whose care may have saved his life.
Rude Awakenings, about Kniffen’s healing through interactions with nature, was, the author says, “a fun book to write, and readers say it’s fun to read.” When he arrived in Maine, his first purchase was a kayak, though he had no experience with such a craft. By now an expert waterman, he is an ardent solo kayaker. One of his selections from this second book tells of an enchanting encounter with a whale, about which he notes, “He was a lovely whale” who may or may not have given him some advice. Other selections detailed an encounter with a black bear whilst hiking, and a domestic scene of chasing Goldie, the golden chicken.
Following the reading, Kniffen answered a variety of audience questions and signed
copies of his books.

Sunday Afternoons at the Arts Center programs are held in Eastport Arts Center’s cozy downstairs Washington Street Gallery, amidst rotating exhibitions. Admission is by voluntary donation; proceeds are shared equally between the presenters and EAC constituent group The Concert Series, which offers year-round programming run by volunteers. No one is turned away for lack of funds.

Find the full 2023 schedule and more posts about upcoming and past programs here: https://eastportartscenter.org/constituent-groups/the-concert-series/.