She’s an English professor who, for 28 years, has taught at Harford Community College. More than that, Colleen Webster is a throwback, a “self-described” hippie who, at 55, drives a Jeep, wears flip-flops and disavows modernities like TV, the internet and air conditioning.
A resident of Havre de Grace, Webster is an ardent naturalist, actress, author, minister and paddleboard yoga instructor. Her one-woman living history performances of poet Emily Dickinson, writer Dorothy Parker, artist Georgia O’Keeffe, conservationist Rachel Carson and painter Frida Kahlo have drawn rave reviews.
A graduate of Notre Dame College (now Notre Dame of Maryland University), she shares her residence on the cusp of the Susquehanna River with a bevy of pets and calls herself “the luckiest person on the planet. Growing up, I always wanted to eat in bed and read at the table. Now, I can.”
Here are three things you might like to know about Webster:
Nature is her alarm clock.
“When I wake up, I identify every bird call that I can before I get out of bed. It’s part of my centering principle; I love learning about the world. In 10 to 20 minutes, I’ll hear robins, ospreys, chimney swifts, catbirds, blue jays, mockingbirds and great crested flycatchers. Then I walk my dog, Otis, and identify 15 more birds, always pointing them out to other people — sometimes annoyingly so.”
Her home is a nod to Pee-wee’s Playhouse.
“It’s an old Victorian painted turquoise, mango and hot pink. In my tiny yard, less than 1/4 acre, I have six fruit trees, 13 blueberry bushes and two goldfish ponds. On the front porch, there is sidewalk chalk and bubble solution so kids can draw pictures, blow bubbles, feed the fish and pick fruit. That was important, during the pandemic.”
She wears her heart on her sleeve.
“I cry way too easily. I come across as confident and upbeat, but I’m easily moved to tears by beauty and tragedy. I end every yoga class with a poem, many by [American poet] Mary Oliver, and sometimes I can’t get through it without crying. In my living history performances, when I get to the tragedies that befell those women, those tears are real.”