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Former Shrine caretaker releases 'LIfe by the Lynn'

Posted: September 30, 2011 - 12:00am

Christie Loney’s new book “Life by the Lynn” shares a perspective on Juneau that is unique to most if not all of us who live here: the view of Juneau from the Shrine of St. Therese.

Loney and her husband Bob were caretakers of the Shrine for eight years beginning in 1988, living on-site at the caretaker’s cabin during that time. Loney had no plans for a book, but while they were there she inadvertently began writing one; one of her duties was to write out a monthly report about her activities for her supervisor, Thomas Fitterer.

“Every time I did he would say, ‘Oh, this is another story for that book you’re going to write,” Loney said with a laugh.

But it wasn’t until the couple returned from a mission to China that the idea for a book took shape, in response to a friend’s insistence.

The book’s chapters trace episodes in the Loneys’ lives as caretakers, and also include a good bit of history about the site, which held its first official service in 1941. The Shrine is officially “a place of spiritual refuge and retreat for the diocese of Juneau” and other groups, and is frequently used for weddings and other gatherings. For many locals, it is a special spot.

Readers will view, through Loney’s eyes, the beauty of the landscape, interactions with the animals that were their neighbors — including eagles, whales and an ermine — and the people they came into contact with, both locals and tourists.

“That really was the part of being caretakers that we loved, the people that came across our paths,” Loney said.

In some cases the interactions were humorous, such as the time a marmot knocked on the door asking to come in, or the time a group of Japanese tourists, apparently confused by the name of the Shrine, thought Loney was Mother Teresa.

Other stories are more serious, such as when Loney’s husband came across a young man who was contemplating suicide, or when Loney sat with a woman in her car while she spilled out her worries.

“We had a lot of that, people that would come out to think things through,” she said.

Other times the couple would be out there for as long as a week without a visitor, but Loney said the isolation of the site did not bother either of them a bit, and that they never once felt threatened by man or beast.

“I’m used to isolation, I like isolation,” she said.

Loney was born in Scotland and moved from Shetland to Tanzania with her family when she was young. Her idea of an ideal natural landscape involves wide open spaces (where she grew up, there were no trees); but her husband, originally from Chicago, has a very different preference.

“He wants everything close and I want things wide open,” she said.

Luckily for them, they both got what they wanted at the caretaker’s cabin. The view of the water out the front windows was perfect for her, while the view from his office out the back, into the trees, pleased him.

“It was wonderful,” she said.

One of Loney’s favorite parts of every day was closing up the chapel each night with a big key.

“Walking out to close up was always a quiet time, time to reflect on the day,” she said.

“Life by the Lynn” is Loney’s second book, following “Destination Holiness.” Like her first book, “Life by the Lynn” is, at its core,­ a book about Loney’s faith and how that steers her life.

“My life is about my faith and faith journey,” she said.

“I’ve lived an incredible life. I just want to share that and how God has been at work through it all.”

Loney will be at Hearthside Books in the Nugget Mall from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday. She’ll also be at St. Paul’s church Friday night as part of the 7:30 p.m. service, and at Chapel by the Lake Presbyterian Church after services on the next three Sundays.

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