Nat's entries in the cabin journal overflow with gratitude. "Thank you God for Islesford...Thank you for our cool place in the forest...Thank you for the peace..." And always full of love. "Love to our island and all who stay here," he wrote in June, 1994. And again, in October, 2005: "Love you, Islesford." It would be his last entry.
It is this "thank you" that ties the generations of Bowditchs--the "thank you" that is implicit in every page of Vincent's journals, the "thank you" that was the inspiration of Phil's open letter to his family and "all others who feel that Little Cranberry is as much a state of mind as a place," the "thank you" that echoes through Nat's entries in the cabin journal; and the "thank you" that so many others have spoken or written who have visited the Bowditch homes. Gratitude is the legacy of grace this family has left us.
Phil Bowditch died in July, 2007. In September of that year, Nat was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. He died a year later. Molly, Nat's mother, passed away in March, 2011. When I come here to Little Cranberry, I am keenly aware of their presence. I expect to see them. I speak to Nat as I walk about the island.
It's Friday morning and I walk down North Woods Road to the path that leads out to Marsh Head. The fog cleared in the night and the day is bright; an almost autumn clarity. The path emerges onto a stony beach where driftwood collects and is cast about. I cross over the tidal inlet and around the marsh to the rocky shore. At the edge of the woods, there's an outpost of the US Life Saving Station, now broken down and standing askew, it's shingled roof open to the sky, battered by a hundred years of winter storms. The men would stop there on their night rounds and hang their lantern, seeking shelter from the wind and snow.
Today, I walk on to the rocky headland. From the height one has open views across to the Acadia mountains to the north, Schoodic Point to the northeast, and Baker's Island to the southeast. Behind me, the osprey cry and wheel, keeping sentinel around their stick nest atop the old spruce.
Nat came here often, in all seasons, in all weather. Several of his pastels and watercolors and photographs were made here. Marsh Head was his sanctuary, his way station. And it's where I go to sense his spirit, his gratitude for this place, for life. After a nap in the sun, I pick up my pack and head back to the cabin. Tomorrow we head home. Photo: Outpost, Life Saving Station, Islesford.