It’s dark in the morning now when I leave Bath for Lincoln County. I follow a fast moving stream of headlights up Route 1. That’s how I know day is coming. If it was the middle of the night, I’d be chasing my own high beams, the road to myself.
It’s early enough that most days “The Dead at Dawn” radio show plays on WCLZ. I am accompanied by “Scarlet Begonias” or “A Box of Rain” as I clip along the waypoints of Wiscasset.
“Once in awhile you get shown the light … ” I sing, since I am alone, and if eyes be rolling, they’re in my own head.
My Grateful Dead days are well behind me. I was in college in the early ‘90s during the last years of the band’s epic tours. It seemed ridiculous to my 20-year-old self to follow a band around if you had no ticket or a place to sleep afterward. But I had friends who did, and while I never saw the band itself for all of the above reasons, I knew all the songs.
In the morning, just as sunlight pinkens the marsh grass of Great Salt Bay, I drive into my day at The Lincoln County News.
“Walk into splintered sunlight …” I hum, and pull into my parking spot by the staff door.
There’s a lot about the news business that I like, and believe it or not, one of its humblest of its daily tasks is one of my favorites. There’s no glory in copy editing press releases, but both the necessity and the monotony of it is a newspaper variation on the Zen “chop wood, carry water.”
Copy editing is a great rest for a mind harried by the ever-shifting news cycle, and capricious community concerns.
I take great satisfaction in lifting the who, what, when, where, and why from wherever I find it buried in adjectives to the top of the story where it belongs, trimming up quotes and tucking in dangling modifiers along the way. I could do it all day. Sometimes I do.
That’s how I started what I call my Spark List. When I come across a press release for an event in Lincoln County that sparks not just my interest, but kindles something in my spirit, too, I add it to the list with the intention of going out and doing that thing.
I was drawn to the light in November, and it started with Broad Bay Church in Waldoboro’s Day of the Dead memorial luminaires on Nov. 1.
The church invited people to send in the name of a loved one who passed away to be put on a paper luminaire lit from inside with a battery-powered tea light. The white memorial bags lined the streets around the Main Street church, as the Rev. Nancy Duncan lightly tapped a hand drum and church members arranged and rearranged the sacks.
I’m terribly inconsistent about bringing flowers to the graves of my mother and grandparents. I usually show up tearful and empty handed to pour my heart out, pulling a few weeds that get tossed in the air.
So when I saw Broad Bay’s event, it felt like the perfect way to send my love to these people who shaped my life.
My mother and three grandparents all died in a short five-year period in the early 2000s when my kids were very small. If I didn’t do a very good job of caring for their final resting places over the last 20 years, I always tended to memories of them.
“I remember you,” I whispered, as the luminaires grew bright in the gloaming.
Perhaps ancestors were heavy on my mind this month because the next spark that captured my imagination was the 200th anniversary lighting of the Burnt Island Lighthouse on Nov. 9.
All my ancestors on my maternal grandmother’s side hail from the Boothbay region, arriving there in the 1760s (and in some cases, earlier).
My many times great Scottish grandfather Samuel Adams, newly arrived from Londonderry, N.H., late of Argyllshire, Scotland, married my many times great Irish grandmother Sarah Murray Reed (born at sea), on Dec. 30, 1766.
Fast forward 204 years and that date became my birthday. I’ve always felt a special connection to these ancestors because of the coincidence of occasions. I fancy that in some small way I am the culmination of their hopes and dreams for life in this place called America.
As I drove to the Spruce Point Inn where the Friends of the Burnt Island Lighthouse hosted a party for guests waiting to count down the 73,000th lighting, I did some math in my head.
Were Samuel and Sarah Adams still alive in 1821 when the tower first cast its lifesaving beams across the harbor? Some or one of their sons and daughters? Grandchildren?
Chances are excellent that as Burnt Island Light blinked on for the very first time, one of my ancestors watched it.
And there I was 200 years later watching, too, except this time if you blinked you missed it. Lighthouse automation being what it is, the 200th birthday lighting was more of a red-glow in 6-second intervals in keeping with modern technology.
Other lights caught my attention, too, like the seminal Gardens Aglow press night on Nov. 18, at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, which I enjoyed at 5 mph sharing ancestry stories with a young person thinking about moving to Lincoln County.
I was fortunate to also attend the very first Gardens Aglow press night back in 2016, and whether on foot or by car, it’s an enchanting experience.
For the second month in a row, I missed the Edgecomb Community Church’s full moon candlelight labyrinth walk on Nov. 19. But if you can count on nothing else these days, the full moon will shine again next month.
And I’ll keep following all the lights of Lincoln County.
(“The Way Back” is a monthly column of reflections and revelations as editor Raye S. Leonard crisscrosses back roads and byways. Is there some light in Lincoln County she should know about? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)