Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The past, present, and future. A continually moving target. Yesterday we were talking and dreaming of our summer on Seguin Island. Today we’re living the dream and greeting visitors. Tomorrow we’ll be traveling south for the winter. How quickly today becomes yesterday and sometimes it feels like tomorrow will never come. Or it comes too soon! This week has been a constant example.
Early July Cap’n Ethan mentioned he was bringing over a former Coast Guard who had spent time years ago on Seguin Island. We looked forward to his visit, but it was a ways off. And then Tuesday, this week, Henry and Barbara Lipian arrived. What a great visit!
A little background. From 1796 through 1963, Seguin Island Light was cared for by a series of dedicated and hard-working civilian lighthouse keepers appointed by the Federal government. The keepers‘ families were not only permitted to live with them, but encouraged. Lighthouses were usually in remote locations and not easily reached by visitors, nor deliveries of supplies. The more hands available to work the light station, the better. They grew gardens and raised livestock. Often there were as many as 3 keepers and their families, which created a need for small schools. Usually on a cape, head or an island, the weather they experienced could be rough. It was a challenging life, and having family nearby was a benefit.
In 1939 the USCG merged with US Lighthouse Service and assumed responsibility for our nation’s lighthouses. As electricity began reaching our nation’s lighthouses, the workload was eased and upon retirement or transfer, often a 3rd keeper was not replaced. Eventually logistics of maintaining a family station on Seguin Island were deemed unsafe by the USCG administration in 1963 and Seguin became a “stag station”. Men who were un-married or willing to leave their families ashore became the keepers.
It was in February 1976 that Hank Lipian left his family in Ohio and spent a year here. This week in 2021 was the first time he returned to Seguin and brought his wife to see the wild beauty of his station. As we walked, he shared story after story as memories came alive. Obviously time had changed things on Seguin, but so much was just as he remembered. The fog bell stands pretty much where it was in ’76, yet it was missing for nearly 30 years in between then and now (a story for another week). Indeed, the desk he used in his room is still here in what is now our living room! We found a photo in the museum of Henry talking on the marine radio. He had also brought photos with him and it was interesting to compare views. We found it a bit disconcerting to realize the freshly painted walls & floors, and the shine of all things brass in the photos, put present-day cleaning routines in question. A possible motivation to bring back some of that luster to Seguin (but maybe not the sideburns – ha).
When we first arrived at Seguin, we were shown a lamp in the kitchen that is traditionally left on 24/7 by caretakers – fondly called the ghost light for fun. On Hank’s visit we discovered that our bedroom used to be the guest room, tho the guys referred to it as the “ghost room”. Not sure I want to know all the facts on that – something about the hidden panel in our closet ceiling!
While touring the light Hank was amazed to find that the rope “coxcomb” on the railings in the watchroom was his work! At the time, his fellow mates had advised it was “time wasted” since someone would surely take it all off within a year…45 years later still here. Rick learned how to operate the “soundphone” with Hank’s instruction – basically it was a sophisticated version of the “tin can telephone”. It did not rely on power. Now if he forgets his handheld radio, Rick can reach me in the house – lol.
We had the privilege of reading a letter he wrote to his family on July 4, 1976 – the Bicentennial. It is a beautiful testament to his high level of patriotism and love of his family. He recorded the difficulty of being away from them for a year. A feeling shared by many armed forces. He commented on both the isolation and beautiful surroundings of Seguin. It brought tears to our eyes. That letter will always be cherished by the Lipian’s.
The visit was way too short. They want to come back and bring the (now adult) kids next time. Show them why Dad was gone for a year. We texted after they left and he commented on the day. “…I will remember it always. For a while I was 26 again and it was 1976.”
Yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Today was excitement of a different kind. Cyndy, our executive director of FOSILS, contacted me before we had even arrived in Maine. She wanted to make sure we were comfortable with the plans for her daughter’s wedding on the Island at the end of July. We had just celebrated our daughter’s wedding in October at Heceta Head Light House in Oregon! So it sounded like a great event for our summer island home. As these last weeks progressed, there was a certain “mother of the bride” aura growing stronger around Cyndy each time we saw her. Originally volunteering with FOSILS in 1995, she eventually became a caretaker here in 2007. Her daughter Carney fell in love with Seguin alongside her mom. What better place to stand with your partner and commit to a new life and future together!
The day started out with glorious sunshine and blue skies. Cyndy had stayed the previous 2 nights to prepare a working lighthouse/island into a photographer’s backdrop. The wedding party and family made it up the hill today, both on foot and some help with the groomsmen pushing up the tram. (Ah, to be young again. Hmmn. Wonder if they’d come up on Wednesdays to help with our supply run?) Lots of chatter, laughter, music and questions as participants and guests prepared for the ceremony. And it turned out beautiful. Photos, tears, toasts and a tempting charcuterie board for after. Plans for a larger reception tomorrow evening on the mainland. And of course celebrating their dreams coming true.
And then life in Maine happened. The clouds rolled in, the wind kicked up and the scurry began. How quickly can they get everything picked up and make it down to the cove? Will the 3rd dinghy make it onboard before the skies opened up? What did they forget to grab? Bridesmaids in dresses – no time to change. I commented on the quick change of weather. One remarked to me – No problem – “We’re from Maine – we’re used to this!”
And so another past, present, and future.
Signing off as the storm rolls in, from our yesterday, today, and tomorrow on Seguin Island!