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Day 114 – Monday, January 30, 2012

“Let The Lower Lights Be Burning”

Saturday morning on the island saw the snow systematically reduced to little more than pooling puddles by its more powerful sibling, rain.   Snow possesses no defense for her arrival and certain dominance, yet relentlessly plays out this drama in an ultimately futile, hanging-on process, the length of which is determined only by time, and the sheer volume of each.  Other than some scattered shallow stretches sheltered either by shade or bough, snow has again been summarily defeated.  Much to my inconvenience however, she continues to cling to most of the cross-island catwalk, a goodly amount of her having changed into her evil twin, Ice.  This of course renders the tractor of no use, which is terribly unfortunate given that this is my best means of getting the Hardy Boys boat back into the Boathouse, until I can get a small gas powered winch.

Despite what would knowingly be a daunting return, I nonetheless decided to head into the Village to spend some time visiting with my friend Norb Lemieux, who has recently lost his wife Celia.  It was a special couple of hours and I suspect I am at least as grateful for his companionship as he is for mine.  There were no other trips to the Post Office, which I knew was closed, or the nearby convenience store, or into town.  Just some special time with someone who has become my friend, and lost the best of his.


The ride back out to the island was uneventful as the wind  and sea had subsided and I decided to shoulder the boat against the floats for a rare and unsheltered overnight stay.  I would have to move her on Sunday.

And Sunday morning stung with a steady wind, straight out of the west and across the surface of the harbor, preventing my meeting Tim and Kathy at church in spite of the fact that the tide was in my favor.  With the threat of rain, sleet and snow-showers in the forecast,  I had little choice but to get the “Hardy Boys” up the rails and into the Boathouse.  With the wind and accompanying chop this first step proved difficult at best.  An exhausting hour later she was safely inside, the result of a complicated series of maneuvers employing multiple lines, and a less than desirable hand-winch.  I will think long and hard about going off island for any reason until I can fix this, the final major piece of winter’s logistical puzzle.







No sooner had I finished when I was to be blessed with a truly moving and magical moment.  Kathy radioed me from the Village church service and asked me to “hold on”.  After a brief but curiosity-filled delay, the entire congregation began to sing a very special hymn, to me, while Kathy held down the “talk” button on the VHF.  I was deeply touched by this incredible expression of a caring community, and moved to tears.  I was later told there were tears in the Village church as well.  I am grateful more than they know.

The hymn, “Brightly Beams Our Fathers Mercy” (Let The Lower Lights Be Burning), was the opening hymn sung at Celia Lemieux’s funeral, is the official song of the Cutler United Methodist Church, and has also been sung at every church service held on the island at this lighthouse.  It was inspired by a sermon given by Reverend Dwight L. Moody in the 1800’s, and written by Philip P. Bliss, one of the greatest hymn writers of all time.  Moody concluded his sermon that day, which included a lighthouse as its illustration, saying “The Master will take care of the Great Lighthouse, but it is up to us to keep the Lower Lights burning”.  You can learn more and read the lyrics in this Lighthouse Digest story:

While a number of contemporary artists have covered it, I think my favorite is by Johnny Cash, done in 1962.

You can see it here:


Sunday was also the 25th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, and I said a prayer.


I have finally managed to make some time to read, and just finished “The Lobster Chronicles – Life On A Very Small Island” by Linda Greenlaw, most well known for being a sword boat Captain and key figure in both the book and film, “The Perfect Storm”, and author of the best-seller “The Hungry Ocean”.  I highly recommend it as it provides both informative insights and humorous anecdotes about life in a small Maine lobstering village, neither dissimilar to, or far from here.  To learn more:

(A lobster claw, left in the yard where it was eaten by gulls.  I’m calling it “Shark Lobster”.)




The Harman pellet stove from Evergreen Hearth & Home remains a Godsend.  I am warm and toasty.  I also wish to thank Terry Pepper of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keeper’s Association, Seamond Roberts who grew up at the West Chop Lighthouse on Martha’s Vineyard, “The Lighthouse Ladies” Paula and Lauren Liebrecht, Judy Kearney, and Rolf, Deborah and Grace Altenhofen, just some of the many people who continue to be ardent and incredible supporters of The Lighthouse Endeavor.  Thank you!  Here’s another “snow snap”…

And thanks to you for checking in, reading, “Liking” and sharing.  Pics get bigger when you click on them.  I’ll leave the Light on.  Good Enuf.


10 Responses to “Day 114 – Monday, January 30, 2012”

  1. Seamond says:

    I read it, Bill. You are welcome and when I shake off some of my own winter blah’s, I’ll get a Louisiana care package off to you in a few weeks. Let the Lower Lights Be Burning, was the first hymn I ever learned and it is truly the hymn of lightkeepers everywhere for all times (that now includes you!) Again, another item in your life that has changed – you will see, you will remember this always. I used this at my father’s service along with the Navy Hymn, Eternal Father, Strong to Save. The peril of the sea is written into many, many old time hymns – if you get a hymn book you will find it there many times over – and why not? What could be scarier than to believe you are about to drown, to perish in the cold, lonely sea. I don’t know if Tim told you, but little by little (starting next week or so) I am going to be sending quite a few maritime-related books I’ve collected over the years for the “library” (wherever you keeps books out there) at Little River Lighthouse. I’ve fretted when I (as my husband phrases it) croak off, that my kids won’t want them and I’ve tried to give them to libraries I thought appropriate – Coast Guard libraries, sea-going town libraries, even my old town library on remote island of Cuttyhunk, as well as to Navy libraries – no one wants them. They are old and good books, fiction and non-fiction. So, I asked Tim if I could send them there and he said YES, so I will. Not a whole lot at first, a few at a time, but I hope there may be some you will like to read too. In the “Louisiana care pkg” I plan for you, I have some excellent, excellent (now collector type) maritime magazines. These are sent to you to keep if you wish or leave at the light, but I guarantee you they are great and now out of print also. So, yes, Little River is an appropriate and great place to get some of my books. I’ll try to send the magazines a few at a time, either separate or with the package, but I think separate in a waterproof type mailer would be best. So, Bill, take care and just think that it will be springtime breaking up there in maybe May or so, with I’d bet February being your worst month to weather — which, damn it all, has one more day this year! Big hugs to you, my lighthouse keeper friend.

  2. Seamond says:

    P.S. I think just for the fun of it, out of my hymn book collection, I’ll put in a ragged old hymn book for the lighthouse so maybe some of the peopleout there can sing from it. Darn it all, if you all lived closer I’d give you my little pump organ (which IF played inside the tower is awesome!)

  3. elayne kitchen says:

    johnny cash sure could rock out a serman ……how appropriate that one is now …..
    never heard it before but will never forget it …..thanx

  4. elayne kitchen says:

    Oh BTW your choice of the picture is perfect…..tell Seamond that I love what she is about to do. Books in the Lighthouse … I will look for them when I visit this summer….

  5. Cheryl Crigger says:

    Dear Bill,
    I just read your most recent post and listened to Let the Lower Lights be Burning, it’s great. I thought I had heard it before, but I guess I haven’t.
    Although I live in Ohio and we have our share of cold, snowy winters, I know they’re not like yours. I feel for you and admire you and all past lighthouse keepers for what you are doing and what they did.
    I’m praying for you and wishing you safety and success with the lighthouse endeavor. I really enjoy reading your posts on Facebook.

    • Bill Kitchen says:

      thanks so very much cheryl. so wonderful to be able to share all this. and thank you for your prayers.
      i will keep the post and pics coming!

  6. Marjorie Hartnett says:

    Thank you so much for writing the “Journal”. Your words and lovely pictures are a welcome bright spot in my day. We spend six months in East Machias and the other six months waiting to return. We hope to get out to the island this year. In the meantime I have my tote bag with the lovely picture on it! Keep Safe. Marge

    • Bill Kitchen says:

      hi marge. thanks so much for taking the time to say so.
      it is a privilege for me to be able to share.
      and yes, you must come out to the island this year. please let me know when you might.

  7. Many Thanks and Steve
    Your phrase is magnificent this take the wind out of someone’s sails
    taking back sunday set phaser to stun lyrics

    Kiss you


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