by Sean Fowlds
As new residents of the light keeper’s house at Marshall Point, my wife, Linda, and I are given a unique perspective on life on the St. George peninsula. And since moving here from Rockport in May, we have not only encountered some of the nicest people anywhere but have also experienced the strong sense of community that we have sought elsewhere.
Allow me to share some of our backstory so you may better understand our journey here to Port Clyde. I am a native Virginian who married a Florida beauty more than 30 years ago. We spent the bulk of our marriage in the quaint Central Florida town of Mount Dora, which is the antique capital of Florida and has billed itself as “The New England of the South.”
We built our dream house in Mount Dora and enjoyed living close to family and friends for several years. Yet we frequently visited the local library to read Down East and Yankee magazines and dreamed of living in New England. We even decorated our Cape Cod-style cottage with a nautical motif and enjoyed living close to Lake Dora’s yacht club and, yes, lighthouse.
So, when a neighbor’s huge oak tree fell onto our house about a decade ago it served as a wakeup call for us and caused us to consider moving toward our dream sooner rather than later. While we had always strived to live simply, it was during this time that we became acquainted with the popular lifestyle of minimalism and decided to start downsizing our possessions to live and move more freely and lightly.
It was at our area lighthouse that we first discovered this motivational quotation attributed to Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” And thus began our journey from there to here.
My communications business specializes in editing and writing content for print and online clients and my wife managed customer service for a publishing company for several years, so our initial challenge was parting with our library of a couple thousand books. Once we donated the bulk of them to the local library and gave most of the rest to family and friends, we only kept our very favorite titles to lighten our load.
Despite a mediocre real estate market, we sold our house for cash, liquidated our furnishings, and housesat for a friend in the Disney-planned community of Celebration for several months before heading to the island of Nantucket for a wintertime sabbatical. From there we moved closer to other friends and family in the Nashville area for a few years but continued to yearn for a return to the New England seacoast.
Subsequently, Linda reconnected with a distant relative up the Maine coast in Northport who invited us to lease her guest cottage for the mild winter we had a few years ago. We moved here with all our belongings stuffed in an all-wheel-drive vehicle, with me running my communications business remotely and Linda landing an analyst position in the healthcare field. Afterward, we leased a condominium in Rockport for a few years before landing at the lighthouse. Suffice it to say it has been a winding journey here but well worth it.
Invariably, people wonder what life is like at the lighthouse and for us it is literally a dream come true. Even the grey, foggy days appeal to us as creative types who savor the solitude of our location. As with any move, there was a transitional period of getting settled in our new digs. Given that the keeper’s house was unfurnished and we had been leasing furnished places, we purchased the necessary furniture for delivery up the winding staircase to the second story.
For those who have never visited the upstairs quarters, it has about 800 square feet of space split among a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room. It is more than ample for the two of us since we intentionally downsized our stuff to live in such a space. For several years now, our mission has been to live with only what we could painlessly pack and move, negating the need for a storage unit or moving company.
Folks also ask about the tradeoffs of living at such a public venue, but we love watching people enjoy themselves at the property. We’ve lost count of all the people who have told us that the Marshall Point lighthouse is one of their very favorite spots to visit and we hope that is the case for each visitor to the grounds. As onsite residents, we consider ourselves ambassadors for the lighthouse and welcome others to experience it.
Blackout blinds provide us with the necessary privacy and help to mitigate the bright light at night. Admittedly, parking can be challenging when visitors park in the spots reserved for tenants and volunteers during the busy season. And some guests periodically need reminding that the site’s posted hours are between sunup and sundown, but any downsides are more than offset by all of the upsides.
As many locals probably recall, the lighthouse was prominently featured in the popular movie Forrest Gump and it is funny to hear people encourage each other on the lighthouse boardwalk to “Run, Forrest, run.” To share how our journey has come full circle for us, we used to pastor a church a couple of decades ago on the very same square in Savannah, Georgia that was the site of the famous bench scenes in the movie.
Since moving here to the lighthouse, we have had the pleasure of meeting many local residents and look forward to meeting many more. Rarely a day passes when we do not pinch ourselves that we live in such a special place and never take it for granted. If you see us out and about please do not hesitate to wave or say hello, as we like to make new friends. The community spirit of St. George is one of our favorite aspects of life on the peninsula.
(The Fowlds are available for professional consultations about lifestyle issues related to downsizing possessions and personal organization. They have taught seminars at the Belfast Senior College and Camden Public Library titled, “Living Large With Less: The Upside of Downsizing” and welcome readers to visit their website at livinglargewithless.net.)