The Stopfulness of Copper, Frost and the Armistice

The bluejay lifted his head. And disappeared.

If I had not seen him fly from the feeder to the branch outside my window, a patch of blue stolen from the sky, I would never have registered he was there. But because I had looked “outside” I experienced the wonder of seeing him vanish – noticing how the grey and tan feathers on his chest exactly matched the shadows of the tree trunks behind him. When he raised his head, the blue was gone. And so, it seemed, was he.

Now the sun has set on another preternaturally early afternoon in Eastern Standard Time as it overtakes the midcoast. And the day might have been lost but for the moment of the bluejay. So, it seems with life. Which is why what we’ve taken to calling “stopfulness” is so important: stopping to observe, to see, to hear, to notice all the instances that create the “oceanside memories made in Maine.”

Abraham Lincoln got it wrong when in another November in a small cemetery in Pennsylvania he said “the world will little note, nor long remember” what was said there, on that grey afternoon. But Maine’s own Gettysburg reminder, Joshua Chamberlain, the hero of Little Round Top, remembered in a different way the silence of his company’s empty guns. Just as all who learned of the Armistice ending World War One, a hundred years ago on Sunday, understood the silence of the guns that first fired in August.

In Boothbay that morning, as word spread from the telegraph office that the War was over, crowds started gathering in the street at 5 am. “Soon there were three parades: the naval boys, the East Coast yard workers on the east side, and the Atlantic Coast yard workers on the west side, helped by Bill Stewart’s ox team and cart. About 7 a.m. the separate parades were brought together, accompanied by three quickly-assembled bands: those of B. E. Hume, the Sons of Veterans, and the Coast Patrol.” There was singing and dancing and the bells of the Methodist Church were rung “from morn til late at night, occasioning many blistered hands.” (Those now commemorating that first Armistice Day are hoping to organize nationwide bellringing on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – though these Bells of Peace ask for just 21 tolls, not 12 hours.)

Here Armistice Day has morphed into Veterans Day, renamed in 1954 and recognizing veterans of all wars. In England, Remembrance Sunday is the time for the poppies we associate with Memorial Day. In November, as Lincoln learned, remembrance resonates.

So here as the woods turn copper and bronze and the fields carry the first frosts, we pause to start tallying all the things we’re thankful for that remain so vivid in our memories of the month’s past. If we weren’t constantly recording those oceanside memories made here at Spruce Point Inn and all around us in Boothbay – all those priceless experiences that have the world turning their paths to our door — the “stopping” would not be so “ful.”