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Day 99 – Saturday, January 14, 2012

“Cutler Is Crying”

After having “suited up” and making my way over the snow covered island catwalk, mightily pushing the Hardy Boys skiff across the worn wooden planks of the 1888 Boathouse floor and out onto the rails that slide into the harbor, and then piloting across the “think-twice” choppy waters to Norb and Nick’s wharf, I walked to my car which now sits parked in front of the Post Office so that the snowplow can maneuver around the town’s only circle, where the old fog bell from this island now sits, in Celia’s Mother’s honor, “Mother Nature”.  I was determined to be there at Celia Lemieux’s burial service and reception.  The tides would not allow me to leave in time for the Chuch Service, and I would have swam if that was my only option to be there for this.  The day hung heavy with the wet pall of a winter mist.  I parked along the winding, two-lane, aging asphalt that is Cutler Road, behind well over a hundred mostly trucks (and far fewer cars), and as I got out, as if on a director’s cue, the rain began to fall steadily.  I remember thinking that in some ways this is how a funeral should be.  Not bright and sunny, even though Celia was by all accounts and to my short acquaintance exactly that, but definitively laden with loss and sorrow, a community of caring, uncertainty, and a wet, weepy grey blanket.

 

The centuried cemetery teeters atop a rock-ridged bluff, spills down to a flat and twice-a-day muddied bay, has a perimeter of truly majestically Maine, pinnacled and prayerful pines, and a stand of twenty-six 1,000-foot radio towers that make up the Cutler VLF Naval Station, standing sentry.  They feel peculiarly protective.  Clustered clutches of what had to be virtually everyone from this special little town stood in the snow and mud, the women mostly under umbrellas and the men mostly not, some of whom wore the attire of fishermen that had only just finished a hard day at sea, and others who wore suits that were most certainly the only suit they own, and this is the only occasion they drag it out and put it on.

 

Celia Marie (Farris) Lemieux was born in 1949, and married Norb some 38 years ago.  Cutler was always her home, and in the course of sixty-two years it is clear she made it a better place.  In fact her obituary says that in addition to the multiple relations that the majority of residents have here due to the generational nature of this town, and lobstering, she is also survived by  “…all of Cutler”.  How fitting.

While I had only known her for a short time, I am proud, honored, and blessed to say that I had.  She and Norb took me under their wing this Autumn, while there was still quite understandably a lot of folk here who doubted what this guy “from away” was doing on their island.  And it’s truly a privilege to be allowed to be a small part of this special snapshot in time and place of Americana, albeit at an overwhelmingly sad and wholly unexpected moment.  I spent a half hour with her, in her kitchen last Thursday, still adorned with Christmas decorations, when she insisted I take a loaf of freshly baked banana bread with me back to the island.  I was supposed to work with Norb on Saturday, in his yard that is truly a compound, a menagerie of traps and trucks, man-high piles of line and lumber, boats that will someday make it back into the water, and sweat.  They are salt of the earth, genuine, honest, caring and special.  Hard-working.  Mainers.

 

I flew the flag in the front yard at half-staff, turned off the foghorn for sixty seconds, and rang the brass bell that is affixed to the Keeper’s House wall just outside the front door three times in her honor.  And said a prayer.  She is the grand-daughter, and great-grand-daughter of Keepers of this Light, Little River Light Station.  She will live on this island, and in this town, forever.

You’re already missed.

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18 Responses to “Day 99 – Saturday, January 14, 2012”

  1. elayne kitchen says:

    AS always my son that was straight from the heart. Your words took me right beside you though the sad day……how well you describe your love for this friendship …so shot lived.

  2. diane dowd says:

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and important story.

  3. Donna says:

    What a wonderful tribute! You bring Maine and it’s culture that much closer to us all. Good luck weathering the winter months.

    Donna
    Massachusetts

  4. This is beautifully written, Bill. Makes me want to visit all the more. Do you have a photo of her? What happened? It seems you were all together just last week……..
    Glad to see you’re doing well, best wishes for you always!

    Vic

  5. What a wonderful tribute to Celia. And a glimpse of what life must have been like in a small shore community — and still is today. RIP Celia. Keep the Flame!

  6. Mary Kennedy says:

    I hope that your journal becomes a book. It is already a real page turner. Sorry about yours and Cutler’s loss.

    • Bill Kitchen says:

      mary, high praise.
      thank you so much. i am blessed to experience it, and be able to share it.
      so nice that you’re enjoying. stay close.

  7. Tim Harrison says:

    Well written post to honor somone loved by everyone who had amazing family ties to the lighthouse.

  8. Bernadette (Lemieux) LaCroix says:

    After looking at your post today (Apr. 10, 2012) I realized you might have written about Cec’s passing. So I looked back and sure enough. She was a very special lady and you captured that with this post. It made me cry, but then again it doesn’t take but a thought of her to do that. I miss our conversations the most. Thank you for what you are doing and keeping us informed along the way. I am sure it meant a lot to Cec.

    • Bill Kitchen says:

      bernadette, it was an honor to have known her, and i am just so pleased you went back and read it, and were touched by it. no higher praise. i hope you will continue to read the posts. and your comments mean so very much to me. i am blessed to share.

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