From Six Feet Away
by Dave Dostie
During the pandemic that has crippled the Maine economy and forced people, at times, into near isolation, photographer Dave Dostie has travelled about Central Maine to capture people still living their lives and helping the community.
All from six feet away.
Ain't Nothin' Like a Puffin
Photo by Dave Dostie
Lens on History
A Hardscrabble Life
by Dean Lunt
Look at Hezekiah’s hands. Look at those tired eyes. Look at that stooped stance and the partially-buttoned sweater, open at the bottom. Look at Lydia’s homemade dress, her pulled-back hair, and her stern away-from-the-camera stare. Both are exhausted. These are the participation ribbons of a hard life. A 19th Century Maine life.
Hezekiah W. Lunt, my great-great-great grandfather, was born in a fledgling fishing village eight miles to sea. He worked as a fisherman—catching mackerel, maybe some cod— before fighting in the Civil War. He returned home with injuries that would render him near helpless as an older man. He and Lydia had fourteen children, although not all lived. He fought with the 11th Maine helping General Grant chase Robert E. Lee across the Old Dominion to Appomattox. I like to imagine he met the great Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain at the surrender and that the young fisherman stood witness to the “awed stillness” as Confederate soldiers lay down arms “as if it were the passing of the dead,” according to Chambelain. A mere six days later, he was in Maryland when President Lincoln was assassinated. I like to think he shed a tear for the great man. He must have wondered: what will beocme of us?
In the summer of 1865, he returned to an island radically changing as the old fishing economy collapsed and would not recover until rescued by lobsters decades later. Like many, he and Lydia set about scratching out a living from hardscrabble ground. By late century, he survived mostly off a monthly veteran’s disability pension of $6 and the few spare dollars he earned gathering wood for the island’s one-room school.
The backdrop to this picture is their weather-beaten home, located on land I now own. The house stood empty just a few dozen yards from a hillside field where a smattering of field stones still mark the shallow, hand-dug graves of his family and who knows how many others—they are lost to history. Hezekiah himself lay on that hillside for more than eighty years also in an unmarked grave.
In the late nineties, I asked the United States government for an official military stone. Months later, it arrived—a tall, white marker like you see in seemingly endless rows at Arlington. Only on Frenchboro it stands alone amongst the waving summer grasses, a dignified and proper sentinel watching silently over a lonely hillside of the forgotten.