just ponderin'

… on the acting locally thing

Fisherman’s Memorial, Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Okay… I’ve given up.

Maybe one day every single thing will be unpacked and put away… but strategy right now for the wedding is a good one I think…

Hide it.

This decision to take a break from the ‘moving’ has allowed me to live closer to the idea of ‘moved’, which has been kind of awesome.

Each year that we’ve owned The Inn*, we’ve waited for the kids to get out of school, spent a couple of days packing and cleaning out the refrigerator and all that ‘we are headed to Maine’ activity that needed to get done. Then we’d head up with kids and dogs and toss our duffles and overnight bags into our rooms and breathe in the fact that we were ‘away’… until we had to shuttle back and forth for summer family events or   random music/sports/social commitments. Which kind of got in the way of being ‘here’.

But now the only thing calling me back – and somewhat urgently – is a hair appointment on July 7th (because I cannot, cannot, risk my hair… not yet. I’m just not ready).

Anyway, I’m kind of really here this time.

I live in Maine.

And yesterday my soul kicked my brain out of the bus driver’s seat and urged me to reach deeper – beneath the ‘seasonal, and into the ‘local’.

It’s ‘Windjammer’ time in Boothbay Harbor, which is the town we arrive at when we cross the bridge from the island and onto the mainland (that sounds like a long way – it isn’t. It takes us about 3 minutes to get there). Rarely, if ever, have we all been here for this week, always arriving closer to the 4th of July. Windjammer brings with it a week-long festival of sorts – tall ships sailing in, tug of wars (tugs of war?) across the harbor, pirate stuff, puppet shows, food tastings, artist walks, craft shows, and parades (I love me a great parade).

All these events will be attended by locals and those ‘From Away’ as well (which I think I will always be even though I am local now. Because this is New England and those are the rules.) But I’d heard about an event that is a part of this week each year – one advertised and open to the public, but attended by only a small crowd each year.

The Blessing of the Fleet.

I was going.

Because fleets fish, that’s why. And fishing – including lobstering and scalloping and other sea-creature ‘ings’ are kind of big deals around here.

And also, these ings are dangerous.

These ings have taken, and take, lives.

And have changed, and change, the lives of those still here.

So.

This fishing tradition goes way back in these parts. Back to when a fellow – Henry Curtis – from England purchased some land at the tip of Southport Island from Chief Robinhood (whose real name was ‘Chief Mowhotiwormet’ but that was too hard to spell).

Back then – and before a couple of kings (first Phil, then Bill) made wars that kind of decimated the area – the land was used as an early fishing center.

And that was in 1666.

In the late 1700s, records began being kept – records of humans lost at sea while fishing, or lost in fishing boat-related accidents. And this is where the blessing of the fleet, each year, begins.

Yesterday, a mix of local clergy and the Coast Guard’s Honor Guard gathered at Fisherman’s Memorial Park. We were welcomed, and opening remarks were made.

And then names were read, as a bell kept count.

Some were read individually and others in large groups, reflective of a large boat lost at sea with all souls aboard. The first name read belonged to a man lost in 1789. The last, 2014.

This part of the ceremony is somber. Sobering. Real.

It was a reminder to me that I now live full-time in an area that depends – for so many reasons – on a beautiful, if unpredictable, sea. People come here, in the tens of thousands, each summer to experience this beauty, and bounty. And many locals take their lives in their hands to accommodate them (and us). Just a part of making a living.

It felt good to acknowledge this yesterday.

After the reading of the names, a Catholic priest welcomed us to join him in reciting the ‘Our Father’ (this lapsed Catholic joined right in), and a singer stepped in with a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace.

After a wreath was laid by the Honor Guard, we all walked a short distance to the pier, where the blessing of this year’s fleet would commence.

As we arrived, a minister stepped to the edge of the pier with a bucket and a ladle in her hands. And, from the right, we could hear them coming…

Dozens of fishing boats made their way toward us from the inner harbor (hah-buh).

Families and friends were smiling and waving at us from many of them.

Blessing one and all

As each came by, the minister would … well… pretty much throw blessed water onto the boat. The people aboard would shout their ‘thank yous’ and, one by one, engines revved and each joined the other, heading out to deep water.

Heading out

It was a pretty awesome sight to behold.

Cool stuff to ponder once the last boat in line passed by, folks waving and laughing from the deck, folks waving and laughing – including me – from the pier.

I leaned down to pack up my camera, thinking about how special this was. The somber followed by laughter. It wasn’t comical laughter, but the deeper kind. Joyful. Hopeful.

But then.

I heard it again. We all did. The sound of a diesel motor, one last boat approaching.

This one had chairs scattered all hodge-podge on the deck, women of many ages and sizes occupying them. I couldn’t even tell if it was a fishing boat or not! But as it came alongside the pier, one of the women bounded up out of her seat – her salt and pepper hair pulled straight back into a ponytail – sunglasses splashed with salt water. She leaned over the side of the boat and, in a fanTAStic accent, shouted up: “MY BRUH-THUH OWNS THIS BOAT AND I’M TELLIN YA, HE NEEDS A BLESSIN’ SOOP-AH BAD!”

And with that, we all – every one of us – burst into laughter, including all the ladies on the boat.

And they got their blessing too.

Welcome to Maine.

As always, come on over to Just Ponderin’s Facebook page to comment.

*not really an inn… but once it was!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Elena Peters

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