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Keeper’s Notes & Rambles

Keeper’s Notes & Rambles

Monday, August 27, 2012
Day 355

This entry is a slightly different format: notes, followed by an unfinished entry from last week, accompanied by some random snaps. I hope it works for you…

- I was inspired by, and will miss having Neil Armstrong, on this, or any other planet
- He reminds me of the pioneers of Lighthouse Keepers of old – as quiet in death as in life, but more purposeful than most people
- White with black spotted caterpillars, about an inch long, cover the Island
- I don’t remember them from past years
- Guests, and day visitors have continued, which I love
- They have seen the eagles, porpoises, seals and their babies, squid at night so thick you’d swear you could walk across them, hummingbirds, yellow finch, and of course, members of the RSA (Red Squirrel Army)
- The Island Church Service was notably moving
- This is such a special community
- Troop 23 Boy Scouts were great, with a wonderful day trip, hiking at West Quoddy Light
- The mushrooms at this time of year are striking
- All of my posted snaps are now available for purchase – 5×7 in an 8×10 matte – online gallery to follow
- If there are ones you liked, start thinking about which ones
- And here’s a link to a story that just ran in the Chicago Tribune that included me and The Lighthouse Endeavor (it also ran in the Hartford Courant and other papers)…

I see Autumn in the distance, through the sea smoke, sitting patiently on the horizon
Random posted snaps today for your viewing pleasure…
Most of them get better when you click on them
They all get bigger
And what follows is an unfinished entry from one day last week…

I love days like this
Having to turn the lights on at 1:30 in the afternoon
Because it’s turned oddly, strangely, dark
Untimely, but nonetheless welcome
Arriving back at the island dock, having run into town for provisions, spoke with lots of people who want to know how the Lighthouse Endeavor is going
Driving back out on Norb and Nick’s wharf
Lowering provisions by a line and a hook, 16 feet down to the float
Losing my hat on the boat drive back
Now fully wet
Me I am
Loading the goods on the tractor and across the island
And unpacking them, like a child on Christmas morning
Soaked and dripping
Thankful that the laundry line dried yesterday
Bringing the smell of salt with a hint of bleach into the house, and onto my body
And more windy than all summer
And now a wet, sodden, misshapen shower of hail
Alone for 22 hours
The welcome sound of the rain and the wind, on the roof and unsealed windows, and a 30 second rumble of rolling summer thunder
Hummingbird and seed feeders swinging against the will of the black iron double-shepherd’s hook, as it itself clings to stay rooted to the rocky soil
I love it when it rains. Hard. And sideways.
And runs down the inside of the windows, spilling on the sill, and running either onto the floor, or out back into from where it came.
My hair is wet.
And cold, salty droplets form on my nose and eyebrows, and lids, dropping and pressed backwards across my cheek bones landing almost certainly in my ears, or finding the back of my neck, then settling down the top of my back, to find my small of it, coming to rest against the waistband of my pants
My orange coast guard life-vest is now hanging on the hook in the foyer, and my dark blue windbreaker hangs over the door to the tool room, both letting go of rainwater droplets, which puddle on the floor
I have water, and food, and so very much to do
I am keenly aware that the Keepers of the past, felt all these same things
And I am grateful, and blessed

The Bell clangs, the Horn sounds, and the Light shines. Good Enuf.


6 Responses to “Keeper’s Notes & Rambles”

  1. Arthur says:

    Your comparison of Neil Armstrong to lightkeepers of old is quite appropriate. No doubt Neil and his companions had thoughts that they might not return. Likewise keepers on remote offshore lights and the crews on lightships during violent storms often had thoughts they might not live to see family and friends once again. And there were many who did not survive. But those keepers of old and crews of those lightships were there in those storms to provide a beacon of aid and comfort to others passing by and that there might be fewer new headstones in grave yards marked with the three very profound words, Lost At Sea.

    • Bill Kitchen says:

      thanks arthur. and thanks for expounding on it. so very right. thoughts of not returning, never seeing family, providing comfort (which Neil did – to an entire nation – at a very turbulent time), all for a greater good. And his words would’ve been Lost In Space, a term i suspect will become known, in this coming century. yes, the similarities of Neil and Keepers are striking. as always, love to hear from you.

  2. Arthur says:

    Many keepers of old were former mariners and former captains of sailing vessels who retired from the sea to then serve as light keepers in their later years of life. They knew what is was like on a vessel at night with unfavorable weather and storm seas and to be seeking some harbor of refuge somewhere along a several mile long stretch of dangerous lee shore. This was always on their mind and even more so during periods of foul weather as they did their work to prepare their lamps for evening lighting and to display their light brightly, steadily and uninterrupted until the following morning. This to hopefully be of aid to mariners who might be passing during the night, many unseen and unknown to the keeper. And there were the few occasions and most meaningful to the keeper when a mariner by letter to the keeper, or to the Light Service, and sometimes to the local newspaper would express his gratitude for the making of a good light by the keeper on the night of this mariner’s passage offshore.

  3. Arthur says:

    The “ramblings” you posted do describe and relate to the many things associated with living on an offshore island–influenced by the winds, the tides, the weather and the natural surroundings. And bringing boat loads of “stuff” to the island–loading, then unloading, and hauling from the island landing. I wonder how many tons of stuff over the many years. It is much the same as when keepers and their families lived there. Missing now are the odors of manila rope, kerosene lamp fuel in the tower, and not to forget, brass polish. And also missing–government paint with associated turpentine and linseed oil—and varnish, these thoughtfully supplied by the Service just so the keepers would have something to do to occupy their spare time.

  4. Joan Jellison says:

    It was not an easy life and not for the faint of heart.

  5. Arthur says:

    And there is the fog—silent, wet, cold fog.

    According to LH Service records reported in 1915 there were 29 fog signal stations that each averaged over 1000 hours of fog signal operation each year and 14 of these were in the Mid-Coast to Down East Coast of Maine. The Little River fog bell was one of these averaging 1219 hours over a 10 year period, 1905-1915. For the neighboring lights of Libby Island (1536 hours) and West Quoddy (1372), both over a 31 year period and each with a 10-inch steam whistle.

    The absolute maximum record was that at Seguin, 2,734 hours in 1907. One hundred fourteen days of fog! One hundred and fourteen days not of the mellow sound of a fog bell such as the bell at Little River but one hundred and fourteen days of the Seguin 10-inch steam whistle sounding its loud 8 second blast each minute, a sound so loud you could also feel the vibrations in your bones and even more so when later converted to compressed air horns, each blast rattling the windows and downspouts of the dwelling.

    There was also this statement included in the 1915 fog signal report; “There is sometimes an unfortunate conflict of interest between the need of a loud and distinctive signal to aid the mariner in fog and the quiet and comfort of residents in the vicinity of the signal.” No kidding!!


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