Thursday, July 30, 2009

In the Sea

We put the kayaks in after dinner tonight.

A half moon over First Cliff at 7:30. Water blue in the harbor; gone to black as we went around the small jetty and headed up along the right side of the big one. A very slight chop out there. A magnificent sailboat returning to port under a grey blue sky that might be the Detroit Lions colors. Haley clipping along, chatting up a fisherman on the little jetty, telling him not to get pulled into the drink by catching a shark. Oddly quiet otherwise; there was no breeze to bang the halyards into the masts. Sun falling into the trees; soft orange light hitting the Cottage and the Tower. People on the benchs that line the Park watching us paddle; each seeming to smile at the easy pace of the kayaks and the way this kid can handle hers.

Best day of the summer so far? Possibly. A line from ee cummings came to me:

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)

it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Record Day

Ruth warned me.

Today was the day I got a peek at what was forewarned.  Today I was the mean guy who had to boot out the Kodaks and the Nikons and the wedding guest with the urge to go.

In the six months we have been here I would say there has been a total of 6 people who I have asked, with tact, to move on.  Today there has been an even dozen.  Four took the news badly.

We have a target now though - a benchmark - a standard against which we can measure the inablility of people to not note the different occasions where the drive and the property is marked private.  We have a day when the bold and brash and bumbling were turned back in the number of the donut maker.  

I wonder what the number will have to be for me to want the rain back.

An update - I also had to put my first call in to the Scituate Police Department when awakened by a couple hollering at each other the very next night. It was 1:15 am and it was anything but Valentine's Day out there. I began dialing as she began throwing rocks at his truck.  By the time the officer arrived, things had cooled down and I never did get the resolution.  

Surprise Inside

Being organized has its blessings

As I sorted through the images Haley brought back from the other coast I found these pictures taken several weeks ago.  I don't know who built them or why (most of the time we see kids throwing rocks; I have seen more arms in these six months than a chair maker sees in his whole life)  but without a doubt these sculptures were very cool and Julie got these great shots to share.

There is also a new one of the garden in full bloom.  If you check back through the images in the slideshow you will see we have gone from nothing to something.  All of the rain we have had has brought some blessings too I guess.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Oregon Promised Kept

Haley has returned safe and sound.

Haley has spent the last 10 days in motion, by air, by boat, and by various forms of car. She has been traveling with my sister Lee to visit my sister Christine on the Oregon Coast. While visiting, she toured two different lighthouses, Yaquina Bay and Heceta Head. We are sharing a photograph of the Yaquina Light and one of Haley alongside a volunteer from the Oregon Park Service. Hales promised Ranger Lee that she would have me post this picture when she got home. Consider the promise kept.

We will report more on this trip in the next week as we sort through all the pictures and videos.

Monday, July 20, 2009


If all the other bloggers jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?

Each website you might visit has the FAQ section and after consideration I decided to join the crowd. A common set of questions has emerged after six months and today's blog holds my answers to those regular queries.

Question 1: How did you get this position?

In the summer of 2008 Ruth Downton decided that she would step down as Lighthouse Keeper. The Scituate Historical Society created an application describing the duties and obligations of the Keeper. Those who were not scared off by the list of 39 dos and don'ts  were asked to write a cover letter explaining what they could bring to the table.  26 couples or individuals were then interviewed. I would like to think it was a combination of my having helped the Society with a number of projects in the past, having a track record as a reliable tenant at the Maritime and Mossing Museum, and having been trained as a history teacher, that vaulted my wife and I toward the job. We were not spooked by what would be asked of us; we looked forward to it.

Question 2: How long do you get to stay?

The Lighthouse Keeper is a tenant at will. Simeon Bates served from 1811 to 1834. George and Ruth Downton from 1986 to 2009. We are hoping we can beat the record.

Question 3: Have there been any big storms yet?

There have been several nights when stones from the ocean side have been thrown into the road, but even with the rainiest June in memory there hasn't been one storm in which the grounds or the cars were buffeted.  The house whistles a great deal - it is one big tea kettle when the wind is up - but so far it there has not been a "Get your attention yet" kind of storm.

Question 4: Do you mind living here with all the people around at all hours?

The traffic here is considerable.  Yesterday afternoon at 1:00 there were nearly 200 people either on the beach or on the jetty or just walking around the building.  That said we have found ourselves in dozens of very pleasant conversations and in only a few instances that could be described as clumsy.  People just don't know what is public and what is private here.  We educate those that don't with a simple question, "How can I help you?"  As soon as we ask, people start to recognize that they could potentially overstep from the public to the private.  

Question 5: How does Haley like being the LightKeeper's Daughter?

Haley is a natural born story teller and shares what she knows with our guests and the travellers milling around the site.  There is a long roll of names in the kitchen of all the visitors she has had since we moved in and there was a stretch when it seemed the Keeper's Cottage had turned into her own private inn.  We have had a number of Stay Awakes here. (I never have called them sleepovers.) She is eager to pick up the history, asks terrific questions when she meets someone who has traveled a distance to get here, takes some keen eyed photos for us.  I would say it is working out for her just fine.

Question 6: What has been the most surprising thing?

The most surprising thing has been the enthusiasm I have been met with by people parked in cars or passing by on foot.  Their affection for the Light is even greater than I guessed and I felt it was quite high at the start.  People light up; ask questions like these; offer to help.  I hoped we would be well received here but it has been remarkable.  If I had to narrow it to particulars I would point out the young man saluting the flag on the first day and the couple that sang the Eddystone Light Keepers song.  I never saw either one of those things coming.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Way Back Machines

Lights and Music across the harbor tonight.

If you are as old as I am (give or take a few) and you grew up in Scituate then you know that the third week in July is the week of the Knights of Columbus Carnival. Haley and I took a friend and went over tonight. The girls played a few games and rode on a few rides and I kept looking around for my youth.

The Carnival has seemed different to me in the last few years. I remember vividly all the parents of many of my friends had roles in what is recalled as a much bigger midway with more life, more vibrancy. I can see Mr. and Mrs. Lee running the concessions - cooking up corn on the cob and burgers while you waited. Mr. Brady ran the whole thing and would take us around in the weeks prior and have us put up signs all over the South Shore. I reminded Mark Brady just tonight that there was one year when I think I poured every soft drink anyone who came to the Carnival bought. Mr. Brady plunked me down in the booth with a zillion barrels of soda and a gun with all the buttons on it. There was a Carnival store back then - all of the prizes were in there and you could get sent running for something at any moment. I can see and hear Mr. Charrier calling out to the crowd to buy one of the raffle tickets. On the Sunday after there would be a big party at the K of C pool for anyone who had helped out.

I wondered as I watched them ride and play if Haley and her friend would recall the carnival as I do. Would they have that same sense of the community pitching in and having a blast or would it be another set of rides and a chance to see some of the kids from school that they have missed since getting out? The latter is my instinct but I could be wrong. There are neighbors and friends down there working hard at it. There are people down there with the same instincts to help out, to have a laugh doing it, to bring a crowd together innocently.

That said, something was missing for me amidst the smell of fried dough and the call of the barkers; some edge, some unique sense of place. I wondered if kids felt differently because there are trips to Disney World now and in those years I described there was no Disney World at all. No one flew; everyone drove on vacation. The Charriers had a converted van. The Bradys had their amazing bus. Maybe it was easier to be amazed in a world with only three channels and rabbit ears for UHF.

There will be four more nights over there and we will watch the fireworks on Friday and Saturday from our new perch. It may be that nostalgia isn't kid stuff but I would have liked my kid to have that same feeling that I had once upon a time, those days when the way back machines pulled into Scituate Harbor for the third week of July.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Go weed your garden.

I was out on Friday night weeding around the flagpole.  The couple pictured approached the message board on bicycles and we began a conversation about the upcoming open house and the different sites around town.  Discovering I was the Keeper, they got off of their bicycles and offered this gift.  Haley caught some of it on her new camera.  I share it here.

Lightkeeper's Song   

You just never know what is going to happen out here on the night of a full moon. The song was unlikely, unexpected, sorta cool, very well done, and helped get the weeding complete all at the same time. Haley went right into the house and found the lyrics. "Oh for the life on the rolling seas"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Company Coming

Our first Open House is this coming Sunday July 12, 2009.  We are looking forward to having a great number of visitors come through and have looked forward to this opportunity from the first. I am hoping for a lot of questions and the kind of questions that help out the other guests.  The yard looks good; the house even better.  Bring Em On.

Updating an earlier post: Chronicle will broadcast the episode recently filmed here in Scituate on Tuesday July 14, 2009.  I hope I have a face for High Definition TV.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Finally Sunny and Sharing

We threw our first shindig yesterday.

Julie and Haley wanted to have a party and they got one. Relatives and friends came here to the point and gathered around a mountain of food. The sun came out after three weeks of gloom and the water was warm as the kids kayaked and floated  and swam.  The time flew by - when I looked up and found that it was 6:00 (we started at 1) I couldn't believe it.

I have always found Independence Day to be a day for reflection on the good stuff.  Watching our guests and the visitors on the beach you could not help but to believe there is a lot of good stuff out there, especially for children in America.  I think in the whole day I heard one little one cry for real but otherwise there was the digging and the splashing and the tossing and the inventing of fun that shapes growing up.  It is in striking contrast to the rigid order of those cultures with which the country finds itself at war.  It is in striking contrast to the historical fact of children conscripted in the last century to serve the Kaiser or the Tsar or the Fuhrer or the Jihad today. Independence Day remains an authentic American celebration of the freedom, of the options young people have in front of them because of historic sacrifice of all sorts.

There was one irreverant moment to share.  There was a gentleman on the beach yesterday with a mustache that was amazing in scale.  It was a bonafide street sweeper. This was a mustache with vitality, with density, with its own zip code. I told my sister in law that guy had to be in the Witness Protection program because it seemed impossible that anyone could grow such a thing. The cartoon villains of the Saturday mornings of the past did not have such a mustache. It may have made it impossible for him to breathe were it any bigger.  It might have come with batteries.  I worried that he might try to swim and would have to be rescued when it pulled him down.  It was Sonny Bono's mustache on steroids. Other men with mustaches left the beach embarrassed for their puniness. It was the gigantic, hairy, example of American freedom of expression on Independence Day 2009.


For the last two weeks the runway and the cottage have undergone a facelift courtesy of contractor Warren Cowing. Time and tide had battered...