Seguin Chanty / Ode to Seguin

Rick and I so enjoyed celebrating Seguin with a full house at Bath Golf Club this past Saturday. As requested, I am posting a recording of the song I wrote while out on the Cove Trail one morning. Lyrics follow. For everyone at the celebration – thank you for singing along with the refrain! Your voices joined us together in sweet island wave-lengths. Rick and I have now concluded our role as keepers but will long carry the influence of the island and the many special people drawn to and inspired there. Cheers to Friends of Seguin Island Light Station’s many past and present volunteers, board members, keepers, supporters, and sojourners who continue to shine and share the light.

Ever so gratefully,


Seguin Chanty / Ode to Seguin

We came to the island a summer to share;
we’d make memories there, and live by the sea.
There’d be people to meet and landscape to keep
and a light shining through history.

Oh Seguin. Oh Seguin! An island, a beacon, a friend…
Oh Seguin. Oh Seguin! An island, a beacon, a friend…

Hats off to the Coast Guard, the keepers who worked hard,
the families whose legacies live to this day.
Amid rocks and currents and foggy deterrents
the mariners finding their way.

Oh Seguin. Oh Seguin! An island, a beacon, a friend…
Oh Seguin. Oh Seguin! An island, a beacon, a friend…

“Place where the sea vomits”, the Wabanaki call it
Sutquin, where the Kennebec pours toward the bay.
Another word, Sigan, means hump / high round island,
looks like a big turtle shell from far away.

Oh Seguin. Oh Seguin! An island, a beacon, a friend…
Oh Seguin. Oh Seguin! An island, a beacon, a friend…

Birds in the morning delight with their singing, 
the goldfinches bringing a bright yellow mood.
Eiders and cormorants, ospreys and eagles
the swallows and seagulls enjoying their food.

Oh Seguin. Oh Seguin! An island, a beacon, a friend…
Oh Seguin. Oh Seguin! An island, a beacon, a friend…

“I love this place,” is often heard. 
The cove, the trails, the tower…
The stories told, and new ones birthed,
the tides refreshing power…

Oh Seguin. Oh Seguin! An island, a beacon, a friend…
Oh Seguin. Oh Seguin! An island, a beacon, a friend…

We came to the island a summer to share;
we’d make memories there, and live by the sea.
There’d be people to meet and landscape to keep
and a light shining through history.

(Alter or add verses according to one’s own connections to this special place.)

Grasswork Poem

During the foggy weeks of June and July, Lee and I spent a lot of time in the Seguin museum, trying to absorb as much of the island’s “story” as possible. One of the displays that particularly grabbed my attention was a whimsical poem called Brasswork, or the Lighthouse Keeper’s Lament written in the late 1920’s by Fred Morong, Jr., a Machinist with the U.S. Lighthouse Service who frequented Seguin. A gem of lighthearted verse, Brasswork pokes fun at what was then the “bane of a Lightkeeper’s life”—the futile task of constantly polishing and re-polishing metal objects to a bright, shiny finish. Apparently this included dustpans, water pumps, doorknobs and even the buttons on one’s coat!

Fortunately for us, “brasswork” has dropped off the to-do list of present-day Seguin keepers, along with other antiquated tasks like hauling whale oil up the spiral staircase, wiping soot from the Fresnel lens, and tending to the oxen. There is, however, one job that continues to weigh heavily on the soul of today’s Seguin keeper, and that’s the subject of a poem I worked on over the summer and shared at the “Celebrate Seguin” fundraiser last weekend. With a tip of the hat to Fred Morong Jr’s original, Brasswork, I humbly present…

or the Seguin Lighthouse Keeper’s Lament

Oh what is the bane of a Seguin Lightkeeper’s life?
That causes him worry, struggle and strife?
That makes him use cuss words and sob to his wife?
It’s Grasswork.

What drains you of energy and makes your back ache?
Takes all of your time without ever a break?
Creeps into your mind whether you’re asleep or awake?
It’s Grasswork.

From the North end near where the sailboats do moor
To the trail that leads down to the rocky South shore
Let’s face it—this place is just one giant chore
Of Grasswork.

Mow ’round the Lightkeeper’s residence
Mow down to the Boathouse, mow under the Bents
And where would the campers pitch their nice tents
Without Grasswork?

From the Coast Guard “H” where they land their heli
To the solar array where you crawl on your belly
Weeding and whacking till your arms feel like jelly—
That’s Grasswork.

Out in the yard hour after hour
Mowing so hard, frankly, you’ll need a shower
Just then someone asks for a tour of the Tower—
That’s Grasswork.

And even when the fog is thicker than soup
Up from the Cove tromps a sightseeing group
Along with a dog that is happy to poop
On my Grasswork!

And the one day a week they allow you to go
Off-island for groceries and a good cuppa Joe
You pass Cyndy’s house and the yard needs a mow—
More Grasswork!

You get back to Seguin late that same day
And the grass has grown tenfold since you’ve been away!
You wanna jump in that dinghy and row to Boothbay…
Oh the Grasswork!

What freak of Nature or cruel magic trick
Could make vegetation grow back so quick?
I wish that my own head of hair was as thick
As this Grasswork.

As I lower the flag it’s increasingly clear
I won’t finish mowing, not anytime this year
And I seriously question my choice of a career
In Grasswork.

Now it’s too late to mow, the sun has bowed out
The Tower light’s on and the stars start to sprout
I lay my head down and begin dreaming about…
The Grasswork.

I’m bug-bitten, thorn-scratched, sunburnt and sore
I’ve got Poison Ivy and I’m spent to the core
I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a job more
Than this Grasswork.

-Rick H

Laughter Fills Seguin Guest Rooms

Having a little extra time with guests who stay overnight has been special for us keepers. The “suite” above the Seguin Island museum sleeps up to five people. It’s two cozy bedrooms complete with bath, plus microwave, coffee maker, and small fridge. Most recently the Dominguez / Mono family completely filled the place with laughter. Their delicious-smelling barbecue dinner was followed by a stormy night and then a beautiful calm sunrise. Family chuckles and joyous energy persisted throughout. “We spent the once-in-a-lifetime night on this beautiful island with the loveliest hospitality…Beautiful memories where made here,” they wrote. Thank you Maria, Raul, Leo, Suzanne and Frank!

The campground located on the Cove Trail offers a great option for tenters as well. If interested in spending the night on land, you can get all the information you need and begin the reservation process here:

Engine House Gets a Shake Up

Friends of Seguin’s “Wednesday Warrior” volunteers have been improving the condition of buildings near the cove all summer. The welcome kiosk and the restroom both have new roofs. The Donkey Engine House is being newly sided with cedar shakes. By the end of the day this group always seems happy, tired, and satisfied. We so appreciate their labors, camaraderie, and good stewardship. Thanks for shaking things up!

Maine Lighthouse Passport Complete

Having seen it previously from a distance by tour boat, Melissa and her daughter got an up close and personal experience on Seguin July 29. Melissa has a Christmas ornament from most of the lighthouses she’s visited, and her lighthouse passport reflects her passion. In case others may be interested, here is a link to the list of lighthouses participating in the United States Lighthouse Society Passport Program:


Small Point Summer School

I don’t know where the planners with Small Point Summer School / Day Camp get their weather reports, but somehow they picked the first perfect weather day of the season. The counselors and campers were so fun to be around. Most of them have long been familiar with the island and rightly claim it among their own most-special places. One counselor summed it up with a phrase I’ve often heard around here: “I love this place!”

– Lee

Damariscove Caretakers’ Connection

Here on Seguin we hear wonderful things about Damariscove and the caretakers there. It’s not in the cards for us to actually visit there, but we enjoy seeing it every day from a distance. One day, sailors Julia and John came up the Seguin Lighthouse Trail with a care package from their last stop, Damariscove. Together we opened a warm note from the Damariscove keepers Aiko and Scott, along with a foiled bundle of wild blueberries. What a prize!

A few days later some boaters on Seguin told us they were heading for Damariscove. They cheerfully offered to deliver our note and fresh lettuce from Seguin’s garden to Aiko and Scott.

It’s downright delightful to connect through this volunteer courier service. In addition to the blueberries and lettuce, at this point grapes, licorice, and zucchini have all changed hands this way. Thank you Aiko and Scott for initiating, and to all the mariners who further energize the joy of connection.

– Lee

MITA Lends a Hand

When we returned to Seguin after our day off-island last Wednesday, we were delighted to find that volunteers from Maine Island Trails Association (MITA) had, like elves in the night, visited the island and done a TON of work while we were away!

They used long-handled trimmers to clear brush from under the tramway, mowed around the concrete fuel-tank “cradles” dating back the Coast-Guard era, and assisted FOSILS volunteers in preparing the historic Donkey Engine House for re-siding.

In our time here as keepers, we’ve come to appreciate that preserving Seguin’s natural beauty and history takes a collaboration between MANY organizations and individuals. Seeing the results of MITA’s efforts that day really drove home the point: their team of nine volunteers accomplished in a few hours what might have taken us weeks to do on our own—if we even had time to get to it. Thanks MITA!

-Rick H.

The Jewel and the Ivy – finding peace and other treasures on Seguin Island

I knew nothing of Seguin Island until my friend Eben took us (me & my 10 year old son) there to pick up a mooring for the night. On the sail out from Portland, we had our fingers crossed that there would be a space for us, considering there are only a handful of moorings for guests.

We thanked the stars for the gift of a mooring in the beautiful sheltered cove, hugged by a small cliff dense with evergreens, Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum), and Birch (Betula species). We swiftly shuttled ourselves to shore, secured the dinghy, and climbed the rocks and steps to the firm earth above the beach. 

The first plant I spotted was Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), and I was so happy to see her! She’s a good friend to have around for many reasons. On the practical side of things, Jewelweed is an effective remedy for skin irritations, most notably from Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) rash. The second thought I had upon seeing her was, where’s the Poison Ivy? The two tend to live in similar niches – moist woodland edges or riparian zones. 


Jewelweed can be infused in oil and made into a salve, but because of the high moisture content, the oil can easily spoil. So another method for preserving the medicine of this plant is to blend the leaves and stems with a little water and pour the mixture into ice cube trays. These Jewelweed ice cubes are doubly cooling and soothing to skin conditions, be it heat rash, bug bite, or – as mentioned before – Poison Ivy rash. 

This is a plant I have a deep relationship with – let’s just say she spoke to me and opened me up spiritually in ways I didn’t think possible. So coming across Jewelweed felt like a comforting welcome. And then we met Lee, one of the caretakers of Seguin. Lee made us feel right at home, and she did not hesitate to offer to show us the island and the lighthouse.

We made the short hike up the slope, barefoot on the soft grass, and embraced by the shade of all kinds of shrubs, including native Roses (Rosa species) and Elder (Sambucus nigra), as well as herbaceous plants like Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea). Jewelweed continued to show up, and I kept wondering where the Poison Ivy was. Lee assured me we’d find it if we knew where to look. 

She took us to the lighthouse and as luck would have it, the sun was shining for the first time in a while and we got a spectacular view of the island from the top. 

After exploring we chatted a while with Lee and Rick (Lee’s partner in caretaking and life) about the island’s history. 

We stayed the night in the peaceful cove and I woke before sunrise to take in the beauty around us. From the deck of the boat, I watched Osprey perching in their nest and a paddling of 12 Ducks swimming around and then climbing the rocks. I listened to songbirds calling the world awake in their dawn chorus. 

Before the sun broke the horizon, I caught the Moon setting behind the tall trees on the cliff. I looked longingly up at those trees, hoping to get a closer look in the new day. 

I got my wish. After breakfast we set off to explore the trails around the island. We walked down to Cobble Stone Beach, observing plants, and scats, and tracks along the way. Then made our way back up to the lighthouse and helicopter launch to walk the forested North Trail. It was a relief to be surrounded by the cooling shade and transpiration of the tall trees. I was delighted to come across soft-needled fir trees and inhale their delicious fragrance. We even came across a little bit of Ghost Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) one of my favorite ephemeral medicinal plants.

But still, no Poison Ivy. 

I came to Lee with my question and she promptly brought us to a spot where she was working to diminish this rash-inducing plant. 

Ah, there she is! 

Poison Ivy

It might sound strange, but I consider this plant a friend. I understand why some would not see things my way. There’s a percentage of people who have a very strong reaction to Poison Ivy’s irritating urushiol oil. There’s also a small percentage who have no reaction at all, and the vast majority develop at least some level of skin irritation. Interestingly, Poison Ivy is used as a homeopathic remedy for rashes! If you’re curious to know more, the homeopathic preparation goes by the old scientific name for this plant, Rhus tox (short for Rhus toxicodendron).

Poison Ivy is also important survival food for birds, as the berries are very hardy and withstand the cold of winter.

I see Poison Ivy as a plant who reminds us to be aware of where and how we stand and walk. She’s also a protector of boundaries, in the wilderness and of wild beings. She thrives in areas disturbed by human activity. When she shows up, it’s Mother Nature’s way of saying, do not disturb. If you’re intrigued by this fascinating native plant, I recommend checking out the book In Praise of Poison Ivy: The Secret Virtues, Astonishing History, and Dangerous Lore of the World’s Most Hated Plant by Anita Sanchez. It’s a great read!

The sun somehow felt hotter after visiting Poison Ivy. We made our way down back to the beach and with gratitude, I immersed myself in the cool water of the mooring cove and swam away from the island to the boat. 

Seguin Island is forever etched in my memory, thanks to Lee and Rick and all of the life thriving on that beautiful rock. 

How to identify Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy is a highly adaptable plant that varies in appearance depending on growing conditions. You may have heard the old phrase, “leaves of 3, let it be.” The truth is, there are a lot of plants with 3 leaves, or, in most cases (as in this one), 3 leaflets of one compound leaf. One of the things that makes the leaves of Poison Ivy special is that the terminal (or center) leaflet has a longer stem than the 2 opposing or parallel leaflets. 

The other traits that differentiate Poison Ivy are variability and leaflet individuality. When you look closely (but don’t touch!), you’ll notice that each leaflet has a unique presentation. Look at the margins (edges) of the plant. In general, the leaflets are toothed, but some appear smooth or just have a wavy edge. Each leaflet has its own toothy-ness independent of the other leaflets on the same leaf. Like a fingerprint, no two leaflets are alike. 

Also, the leaves can be shiny, and sometimes not. They can be tinged red, and sometimes not! (The young ones are usually both.)

The berries of Poison Ivy are a light creamy white to yellow color, as are the small five petaled flowers.

While Poison Ivy does generally present as a vine, it can creep along the ground in the edges, pop up in the grass on occasion, and of course, cling to trees. I’ve even seen Poison Ivy that I almost didn’t recognize as such standing straight up amidst other shrubs, as if mimicking them!

She is a highly mutable shape shifter, and that’s part of the reason I love her so. Not enough to rub up against her, but enough to respect that she has a purpose, just like all forms of life on our home planet.


Liz Neves is the author of Northeast Medicinal Plants: Identify, Harvest, and Use 111 Wild Herbs for Health and Wellness (Timber Press). She has been studying medicinal plants for over 15 years and leads regular plant walks in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY. You can find her online at, on Instagram @gatheringground and on Facebook @gatheringnyc.

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