Posted in Life

Words for Wednesday: gifted

Am I the only one who does this?

For those of you who are parents, do you ever look at your offspring and wonder where in the world a certain trait, personality, or skill came from? I mean, I sometimes wonder if some of those aspects just skip generations.

Papa’s and my young’uns are no longer children but are full-fledged adults. As they grew into maturity portraying certain abilities and skills, I often questioned how they possessed some of their talents.

I assumed somehow it was woven into their genes from an ancestor somewhere along the line because they certainly didn’t inherit some of those traits from their parents.

Like mathematics. All three of our kids excelled in that subject. And while Papa and I can balance our checkbook and perform basic math procedures, we are not stellar mathematicians.  

Case in point: number one daughter. Our oldest, she has always been interested in everything science and excels in that field. She attained a molecular biology degree and during her career has worked in medical research. On top of that all, she’s a runner and participated in track and cross country.

Where did any of that come from? I’m sorry to say neither Papa nor I were top-notch science students, nor did we desire a career in that intensive field in any way. And we certainly are not runners. Fast walkers maybe, but running for competition and pleasure? No way.

Next is daughter two, also adept in math and science and even as a child, sensitive to others’ needs.  She’s a medical professional and has worked at large hospitals attending to very sick patients. In the sports world, she shined in soccer until injuries halted play on her college team, so she too adopted running cross country.

Where did all that come from? Her parents aren’t necessarily full of mercy and sensitivity. Again, no proclivities for desiring a career taking care of sick patients in a hospital environment either.  Heck, her Mama can’t deal with the sight or smell of regurgitation, let alone tend to ill people’s physical ailments. Neither Mama nor Papa ever showed any prowess at soccer either.

Then there’s the last one, our son. Skilled in mathematics, science, and a straight-A student with a lot of artistic bent, he also played four different sports: soccer, basketball, baseball, and track in high school. He acquired his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering.

His parents? Not particularly athletic, certainly not merit-worthy scholars or artistically talented, and would not know a differential equation if it smacked us in the face (let alone know how to even begin to solve one).

Where do these abilities come from? Frankly, it stumps me when I pause to ponder it. Their mother holds a college degree in English and is only adept at writing, by no means math or science.

Their father’s bachelor of arts is in Criminology, for crying out loud. And even though his career was mostly in the sales business after serving in the military, he wasn’t the cream of the crop in math or science either.

So, can we attribute their skills and capabilities so very different from ours to recessive genes? Throwbacks to some ancestors? Who the heck knows?

I say all of this not to brag about our offspring, but to prove a point. Our kids amazed us with their abilities and talents and we’re thankful and appreciative for them.

Just in the last couple of years, we’ve been pleasantly astonished when our son demonstrated another of his talented sides. He remodeled the kitchen in a former home of his and our daughter-in-law’s.

It looked like this when they moved into the 60’s era house, which had been updated somewhat, before they owned it.

After their purchase of this home, our son redesigned and remodeled the kitchen himself and constructed the beautiful wood countertop on the center island and our talented daughter-in-law decorated their kitchen.

And it looked like this – something out of house beautiful magazine pages. The best part? Son really relished planning and completing this project.

That’s a plus – thoroughly garnering delight and satisfaction while using your talents. And that exactly describes the feelings I’ve experienced while writing this blog for over 11 years now. It’s not a chore, it’s a joy and a talent I’ve tried to use wisely.

From where do our talents, abilities, and skills come? This I know – hard work is part of it. My parents instilled that value in me, and Papa and I always encouraged our children to do their best and work diligently as well.

“Talent comes from God. If you have been given some, then value it, cultivate it, work and develop it.” ~Denzel Washington

But I also believe God graciously endows us with capabilities He wants us to use for His glory, to do His will, to somehow help others along the way.

And I believe each one of us possesses God-given gifts that He intends us to use for some purpose, a reason to be grateful even if that purpose isn’t completely obvious to us. He’ll show us if we listen for His instruction.

Each of us is a somebody, a person with talents that shouldn’t go to waste.

“God didn’t have time to make a nobody, only a somebody. I believe that each of us has God-given talents within us waiting to be brought to fruition.” ~ Mary Kay Ash

© 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: isn’t it grand?

What comes to mind when you hear the word “grand?”

You could be a grand champion, you might sum up a grand total, you might define a grand example, or enjoy a grand time at a grand celebration perhaps in a grand ballroom.  We use that word grand to describe something of importance or huge in size, concept, or appearance.

I bet it’s safe to say we’ve all viewed or experienced something grand in our lifetimes and the way we describe those occurrences influences what other people perceive about them.

Grand aspects of life often arrive in threes for Papa and me. I gave birth to three children, who we deem grand in importance to us, and we’ve been blessed with three grandchildren, certainly a grand occurrence.

Today on our Tuesday Tour, I’m sharing three grand sights Papa and I have been fortunate enough to have viewed.  

The Grand Canyon in Arizona, of course, is the grandest of all. But we’ve also seen lesser “grand canyons.” Perhaps they pale in comparison to the big one, but we found them to be grand in their own way.

Visiting the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona has always been on our bucket list, and we made it there in March 2020 just as the you know what hit the news.

For much of our visit, that magnificent sight remained veiled behind a curtain of mist and fog but when it appeared in all its glory, we were mesmerized, inspired, and awe-struck at its sheer magnitude and beauty.

This past summer on a trip through upstate New York, we enjoyed traveling through the Adirondack Mountains and stumbled upon the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, also known as the Ausable Chasm, located west of Lake Champlain near Keeseville, NY.

A unique, sandstone gorge that geologists say is 500 million years old, the vertically-walled canyon is approximately two miles long. The Ausable River flows through the chasm on its way to emptying into Lake Champlain.

Ausable Chasm is touted to be the oldest natural attraction in the United States since it became a tourist spot in 1870. A campground there includes sites with cabins as well as tent sites and RV hookups and amenities.

Visitors can hike and bike along more than five miles of trails, float down river on tubes or with guides on rafts, and rock climb or rappel on the sandstone walls during the summer. In spring and fall, many of those activities are still available with limitations. Even in the winter season, tours can be taken on snowshoe and ice cleats.

While we did not partake in any of the activities at Ausable Chasm, we did enjoy a short walk in an area where we could view portions of the gorge.

The other grand scene we viewed on that same trip occurred in New York’s neighboring state when we stopped at the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. Located in the north central part of that state, this 47-mile long gorge, also known as Pine Creek Gorge, was carved by Pine Creek through the Tioga State Forest.

At its deepest point, the canyon is nearly 1500 feet. There are two vistas from which visitors can view this grand canyon: a 585-acre park on its east rim, Leonard Harrison State Park, and Colton Point State Park on the west rim.

We visited the Leonard Harrison park which had a very accessible walkway to view the forested canyon and Pine Creek below, a visitor’s center, and restroom facilities.

We lingered along the walkway captivated by the view and enjoyed briefly chatting with a few visitors there. Then we relished quiet solitude as we ate our picnic lunch nearby.

As beautiful as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania was in the summer, we can only imagine how spectacular it must appear in the fall. We’re hoping to take an autumn trip back there some time.

Having witnessed the tremendous power rushing water carves upon rock resulting in deep canyons, I can’t help but compare that action to life.

Sometimes life is so good, we feel like we are soaring on mountain tops. Yet other times, we find ourselves swept away by ravaging rivers of difficulties which result in sending us to lowlands or valleys of despair.

And if we allow it, we can become overwhelmed by how deep our canyons are.

But a way out, a climb out of the canyon, no matter how grand it may be, is always supplied by the One who provides exactly what we need just when we need it.

That same One created grand sights for us to view, sources of inspiration and beauty which ultimately show us His power and might.

If the God of the universe can create grand canyons, He can lift us out of despair and give us encouragement and hope. We just must reach for His hand.

“Life is supposed to be a series of peaks and valleys. The secret is to keep the valleys from becoming Grand Canyons.” ~ Bernard Williams

© 2021

Posted in Life

Words for Wednesday: left-brained?

Maybe I’m just obtuse – my definition: thick as a brick, just not getting it – but I have a difficult time understanding modern or contemporary art.

I certainly can appreciate the time, effort, and expression an artist puts into creating this genre of art, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out what it represents or means.

Maybe I’m just too much of a realist, which could also explain why I’m not a prolific fiction writer and stick to essay-style writing here in my blog.

I don’t have a vivid imagination enabling me to fill page after page with a fabricated story. If there’s any truth to the theory that right-brained people are more creative free thinkers and left-brained are more prone to logic and details, you could probably categorize me as a lefty.

And that could explain why I’m very adept at editing other’s writing. Not only am I a good proofreader finding typos and mistakes, but I am proficient at improving word choice, grammar, sentence structure, style, plot and character development, and using more concise writing. (It’s the former English teacher in me.)

Case in point: just the other day I read a self-published book, which will remain nameless here, one I actually borrowed from the public library. Whew, boy. That author needed an editor!

Not only was the plot weak and the characters undeveloped, but the author chose to tell the story by continuous dialogue between all the characters. Talk about uninteresting. It was like eavesdropping on people’s mundane conversations and surely did not engage me in the story at all.

I put the book down several times because I’m sorry to say it was just so boring, but then would pick it back up and continue reading in hopes it would eventually improve.

Nope. Page after page of just dialogue. No descriptions. No interactions. Just blabbing. I’m glad it was short, but I skipped through most of the book anyhow.

I mean when you write this as a phone conversation in your book: “Hello, what are you doing?” “Not much, how about you?” “Can you meet me at the library?” “Sure, see you there, bye.” “Bye!”

You’re going to bore your reader to tears.

So enough of that diatribe. If I had edited that book for the author, I would have suggested SO MANY ways to make it better. That I get.

But back to modern or contemporary art. That I don’t get.

Too many times I view examples of artwork and they just stump me. Whatever does it signify? What was the artist attempting to portray or express? Beats me.

A few years ago, Papa and I took a day trip to a well-known museum which also features an entire building with various forms of artistic expressions.  I enjoyed most of it, but try as I might, the modern and contemporary art sculptures, paintings, and mixed media stymied me.

This past summer I was once again reminded that I am pretty obtuse when it comes to understanding this form of artwork.

On our way to visit family, Papa and I stopped for lunch in an area where there were several shopping centers. Because of the you know what, some restaurants were still not open for seating, so we just ordered at a drive-thru Chick-fil-A to grab a sandwich.

We found a fairly empty parking lot outside of a sporting goods store and pulled over to eat. On our way to the area where no vehicles were parked or driving through, we passed two sculptures.

Of course, I had to vacate the car for a couple minutes to take photos of them.

This one I understood. It was simple and easy for me to say, ‘Aha, I get it.’

But this other one? Well, it certainly was beautiful – all shiny and glowing – situated there on a little plot of green grass. However, I haven’t a clue what it represents or the emotions or thoughts it’s meant to evoke in the viewer.

The only thoughts I had were “Hmm…what is that supposed to be?” And “Gee, why was it placed way back here in the far area of this shopping center where not many people can see it instead of in a more prominent spot?

See how my brain works? How about yours? Does the sculpture above speak to you in some way? What impression does it give you? Any meaning come to your mind?

Enquiring minds (and probably left-brained) like mine want to know.

“You never know when contemporary art is going to insinuate itself into a normally art-free zone.” ~ Roberta Smith, art critic

© 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: to the mountains

Sometimes you just need an escape from reality and that’s exactly what Papa and I needed as the you know what continued to drag on.

“The lake and the mountains have become my landscape, my real world.” ~ Georges Simenon

That quote by the Belgian writer personifies a more soothing real world that became our landscape when Papa and I left our empty nest this past summer and traveled through parts of New York state where we had never before visited.  

After our successful quest to view 20-some lighthouses along the shores of Great Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River via the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, we traveled east to the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York.

As our landscape changed to mountains, forest, and smaller lakes and rivers, we thoroughly enjoyed the fascinating, peaceful, and relaxing views that entered our world.  

Driving blue highways eastward towards Lake Champlain, we encountered few vehicles making for a pleasant journey.

We stopped for a short while at St. Regis Falls near a town named Waverly. The falls are on the river of the same name which is a tributary of the St. Lawrence River.

Shortly afterwards, a torrential downpour during a rainstorm didn’t daunt our journey, although visibility was a little dicey. But seeing the mist rise over the mountains added to the mystery of this mountainous region.

We paused once again at Barnum Pond, not far from Saranac Lake. Wondering how the pond got its name, I did a bit of research. Some folks claim it was named after famous circus man, P.T. Barnum, because he was a friend of local hotel owner Paul Smith, and he claimed Barnum enjoyed fishing there while staying in the hotel.  

Yet some historians refute that claim since the small body of water clearly was named Barnum Pond on a county map published in 1853, years before Smith built his hotel on nearby Lower St. Regis Lake and long before Barnum would have visited to go fishing.

Another theory involved a road constructed sometime from 1814-1817 to travel by two small lakes now called Barnum Pond and Osgood Pond. This theory suggests the road commissioner (Barnum) and a construction foreman (Osgood) named the ponds by their last names. 

However Barnum Pond’s name came about, the lake creates a pretty scene.

Continuing east through Lake Placid on our way to Wilmington, we visited High Falls Gorge, a 22-acre nature park through a gorge along the Ausable River.

We took a walking trail to view a series of four cascading waterfalls that travel over 700 horizontal feet allowing over one million gallons of water to flow through the gorge each day.

The park is privately owned, parking is free, but there is an entrance fee to walk the trail, which includes a clear groomed path, and a network of bridges and stairs which give you spectacular views of the rushing water.

Since it was a pleasantly cool day, we lingered for quite a while on the waterfall walk through a wooded area, marveling at this place that Native Americans called the “Ancient Valley of Foaming Water.”

Hard core hikers would probably find the walking trail too tame but for this pair of retirees, it was perfect.

And I just could not stop taking photographs of this astonishing sight in nature.

From walks beside a great lake to treks along a rushing river with mountains as backdrops, we found plenty of worthwhile sights in nature on our summer journey.

Nature often provides the best kind of road trips.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” ~ John Muir

© 2021

Posted in Humor, photography, travel

Words for Wednesday: eau de toilette

You can’t fight city hall, or can you?

If you’re unfamiliar with this idiom, “You can’t fight city hall,” most of us Americans use it to mean there’s no way we can win against the bureaucracy of government whether it be local, city, or national.

Supposedly, this saying originated and became popular back in the 19th century when a very powerful political machine, Tammany Hall, controlled New York’s Democratic party. And by controlling the party, that organization controlled city government. Anyone outside of that political organization had no say so.

With that in mind, I found it fascinating that an unusual photo opportunity we discovered on our summer journey to New York state provided me with not only quirky pictures but a story about one man “fighting city hall.”

While cruising through the New York town of Potsdam, I couldn’t help but notice an entire vacant lot filled with toilets. Yep, you read that correctly. Toilets. What toddlers call potties. In POTSdam. (I found that particularly funny.)

Now this wasn’t just a couple of abandoned toilets on a plot of ground. Oh no, toilet after toilet lined up in rows all adorned with brightly colored artificial flowers – potty posies.

Naturally, I yelled, “Stop the car!” to Papa and even though he managed to do so because we were at a traffic signal turning red, he willingly obliged me by going around the block, returning to the scene, and locating a spot to park so I could satisfy my trigger-happy finger on my camera.

Shaking my head in wonderment and after quite a lengthy conversation with Papa about what possibly could be the reason for someone purposefully adorning a vacant lot with a plethora of potties, I decided as soon as we arrived home, I’d search the all-knowing internet for an answer.

And I found one.

Pottsdam is a college town, home to Clarkson University and SUNY College at Potsdam, so you might think the toilets were placed there as a prank by students.  Nope. Turns out, a businessman and life-long Potsdam resident named Hank Robar created this “toilet garden,” one of two such unusual attractions.

Is he a budding contemporary artist of some sort? Well, no. He actually installed the first of his “gardens” as a protest. His own fight against City Hall because the town planning board rejected his bid to have his residential lot rezoned commercial. Back in 2004, he wanted to sell that property to Dunkin’ Donuts which would construct a store on the site, but city hall said no way.

In retrospect, I wonder if they are now regretting that decision since probably a donut shop would have been more preferable than a toilet garden. Or maybe they can just call it an outdoor art exhibit since New York Times bestselling author Jenny Larson wrote: “It’s okay to keep a broken oven in your yard as long as you call it art.”

So why not artful toilets – they are a form of pottery after all?

Regardless, the Potsdam potty garden provided a fun photo-op and some eau de toilette (literally translated: toilet water) humor that made me laugh even while I was writing this post, my ode to toilet.  

“Problems are like toilet paper. You pull on one and ten more come.” ~ Woody Allen

© 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: end of the trail

Back in the 1960’s, a popular singer named Bobby Vinton released a hit song with lyrics like these: ‘’Cause the night has a thousand eyes, And a thousand eyes can’t help but see if you are true to me…”   (Written by: Dorothy Wayne, Benjamin Weisman, Marilyn Garrett; Lyrics © Concord Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.)

Arriving near the end of our scenic driving tour on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in western New York state, I began to wish I had a thousand eyes – or at least a better pair of eyes.

As we entered the Thousand Islands region, which consists of both American and Canadian communities along the Saint Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, the quest for spotting the lighthouses there proved more difficult.

Logically this area is named so because there are more than 1000 islands within the international waterways of both the lake and river. Amazingly, the Sant Lawrence River is 250 feet deep in this area enabling ships to travel from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Thousand Island region was and still is a popular tourist attraction and legend has it that the salad dressing named Thousand Island came from this area, although that apparently cannot be proven to be fact.

The first beacon we managed to observe is Rock Island Lighthouse, located in the Saint Lawrence Seaway off Fisher’s Landing and only accessible by boat. This historic 50-foot-tall tower was one of six lights built along the river in order to guide water vessel traffic to and from Lake Ontario and was constructed in 1847.

Eventually, Rock Island Light was moved in the early 1900’s and closed by 1955. In the late 1970’s, New York state acquired the island and began restoring the lighthouse so the public could tour it.  Using my telephoto lens from a pavilion in Fisher’s Landing, I was able to capture some nice photos of Rock Island.

The next lighthouses in the Thousand Island region proved a bit more difficult to spot and photograph.

A lighthouse was needed to designate Bush Island, a mostly submerged rock formation which made passage between the mainland and another island named Wellesley very dangerous.  

Sunken Rock Lighthouse, a 27-foot-tall brick tower, was constructed on top of the rock in 1847, torn down in 1882, and replaced with a round iron tower. Now owned by the Saint Lawrence Seaway Corporation, Sunken Rock is still an operational lighthouse today. Again we searched for a convenient place to view the tower and a telephoto lens was necessary to get a nice photo.

Listed next on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail lighthouse tour is Sisters Island Light, which was built in 1848 in the middle of the Saint Lawrence Seaway shipping channel. Because of that, lighthouse lookers can’t see it from land. The only way to observe this privately owned tower is by taking a cruise tour, which we opted not to do on this trip.

After quite a bit of driving around the area, crossing and re-crossing bridges, we finally found a point to locate Crossover Island Light Station and use the telephoto lens once more.  The original beacon was first constructed in 1848, rebuilt in 1882, but then deactivated in 1941.

Named Crossover Island because ships cross there from country to country, the tower is located very near the Canada-United States border, which was closed when we visited.  This lighthouse is also privately owned, not open to the public, but was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

The Thousand Island region is one area where we could imagine spending more time since there are other attractions including two castles: Boldt Castle on Heart Island and Singer Castle on Dark Island (we caught a far-off glimpse of Singer from a lookout point) and various boat tours of the islands.  Also, visitors could enter Canada from this area when that country’s border is open to Americans.

However, because we were traveling to yet another area of New York state, time constraint prevented us from doing more sightseeing there. Plus, we were on a mission to visit the last lighthouse on the scenic byway before the sun set and darkness enveloped us.

We arrived in Ogdensburg, New York where we had hotel reservations for the night and located Ogdensburg Harbor Lighthouse just as evening was drawing nigh.  Standing at the mouth of the Oswegatchie and Saint Lawrence Rivers, the tower was built in 1835, making it one of the oldest lighthouses in the Thousand Islands and the furthermost  eastern American beacon.

Although the light there was deactivated in 1964 and the property was sold to private owners, in 2011 the U.S. Coast Guard granted permission to once again light Ogdensburg Harbor Lighthouse as a private aid to navigation. The maintained beacon was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.

We viewed this historic lighthouse after a long day of travel and lighthouse searching and at the end of our journey along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail. We made great memories along that trail.

The next day we would trade lake and river views for mountain and forest vistas. But that’s another tale for yet another Tuesday Tour coming next week.

“The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast, and you miss all you are traveling for.” ~ Louis L’Amour

© 2021

Posted in photography, season changes

Words for Wednesday: waiting for autumn

It’s here. All the signs are evident. The days grow shorter. The nights turn cooler. Summer flowers are fading fast. And here and there, a bright spot of color other than green appears on our trees.

My favorite season of the year is autumn. I recently noticed one of those cute signs that folks put out in their yard for fall decorating that said: “There are two times of year: autumn and waiting for autumn.”

I can agree with that. Right now, our front porch is demonstrating that thought. Our bright red petunias still bloom in the dark green porch boxes hanging on our railing, but gorgeous yellow mums stand at attention like sentries beside our front door, waiting for autumn.

The porch swing still adorns the porch and the tree swing remains suspended in the front yard. But we gleaned six pumpkins from just a couple vines in our garden patch and they grace the front sidewalk, waiting for autumn.

We visited a local pumpkin patch with our oldest grandchild to enjoy some fall fun. After meandering through a corn maze, we noticed an entire field of sunflowers were still blooming just like the ones in the photo above snapped at a Maryland lavender farm back in July. Apparently, they are waiting for autumn.

The calendar says it’s autumn…yet here we’re still waiting for it to fully arrive. Waiting for the leaves to completely transform into fall’s colored hues and that special nutty aroma that announces autumn is in session.

I’ll be patient because all good things come to those who wait.

“Go, sit upon the lofty hill, And turn your eyes around, Where waving woods and waters wild Do hymn an autumn sound. The summer sun is faint on them— The summer flowers depart— Sit still— as all transform’d to stone, Except your musing heart.” ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in her poem The Autumn

© 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: the right path

It truly does help to keep your eyes wide open when you travel. By not doing so, you might miss something along the way that enhances your journey.

On our early summer road trip on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail through western New York state, often our eyes zeroed in on the magnificent Great Lake Ontario as we searched for the 27 lighthouses along this scenic byway in that state.

Entering Cape Vincent, New York, our focus centered on finding Tibbetts Point Lighthouse, the next stop on our list. But because I was glancing around in hopes of noticing any photo worthy attraction, I spotted a short tower resembling a lighthouse situated on a plot of land not near the lake at all.

Papa willingly turned around so we could backtrack, find a place to park, and allow me to jump out of our vehicle to explore that glimpse I caught.  I was certain it was just a lighthouse replica, a form of welcome “sign” to Cape Vincent.

But I was surprised to discover that the small, 15-foot structure was actually an authentic wooden lighthouse that once stood on a pier in the lake.  Cape Vincent Breakwater had been removed from its former location and relocated to the southern end of town.  

Constructed in 1904 to replace temporary breakwater lights, two such structures once existed but were removed from the pier and replaced by skeletal steel structures in 1951.  Only the one we noticed survived through the years and now is owned by the village of Cape Vincent where it welcomes land visitors.

Cape Vincent is known as the only U.S. town where one can view Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River where they merge. That merging point is marked by Tibbetts Point Lighthouse, which soon became one of my favorites on this trip. The winding drive along the river to this lighthouse is a scenic path (pictured at the beginning of this post) and beautiful homes are located along it.

In 1827 the first tower and keeper’s quarters were constructed at that merge point on three acres of land given by Captain John Tibbetts to the federal government for the establishment of a lighthouse.  By 1854, the tower was replaced by the circular one which stands to this day. The Fresnel lens installed at that time is still in operation and a fog signal was added in 1896.

Manned by the U.S. Coast Guard from 1939 to 1981, Tibbetts Point then became automated. However, the lighthouse continues to be a navigational active aid maintained by the Coast Guard.

When the town of Cape Vincent acquired the property, a visitor’s center was added, and the keeper’s quarters became a hostel. Because the lighthouse tower is still an active aid, it’s not accessible for visitors.

But the fog signal building, containing interesting exhibits, is open to the public and we got a kick out of the opportunity to blow the fog signal. The visitor’s center/gift shop is also an interesting place and there is plenty of parking on the grounds, which makes this lighthouse conducive for easy viewing.

Strolling around the lovely grounds at Tibbetts Point was very pleasant and we ate our picnic lunch in a pavilion for that purpose on a sunshine-filled day. We also observed large ships passing by since the Saint Lawrence River is a major shipping route from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.

Another enjoyable aspect we found was using an outdoor telescope on the grounds to peer out into the lake and locate another lighthouse called East Charity Shoal. Even with my telephoto lens, I couldn’t capture a good shot of this one.

But we also used the telescope to view windmills at Canada’s Wolfe Island Wind Farm across the Saint Lawrence River.

My photos don’t really do justice to how picturesque Tibbetts Point truly is because the grandest view of it is by air or from a boat on the lake or river. But you can see what I mean by watching this video of Tibbetts Point.

Our decision to search for lighthouses along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail certainly led us on the right path. As we wound down our tour, we discovered it was necessary to keep our eyes open in order to view the next beacons when we entered New York’s Thousand Islands region.

It’s a good analogy for life, isn’t it? Stay focused. Keep your eyes open. Look for the right path that will guide you to well-being not just physically but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. That path will lead you to the lighthouse you need.

“If you open your eyes very wide and look around you carefully, you will always see a lighthouse which will lead you to the right path! Just watch around you carefully!” ~ Mehmet Murat Ildan

© 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Words for Wednesday: balanced history

The Papa of this empty nest and I have history.

Considering how many relationships end after just a few years nowadays in society, Papa’s and my history goes back pretty far. We met as college students and dated for three years before we took the plunge into wedlock 44 years ago as we were launching our careers.

In just a few years, Lord willing, we will hit the big 5-0. Not 50 years of age, that’s long past. Not quite 50 years of marriage yet, but adding up the time we’ve been a couple, 50 years together.

We’ve learned much through all these years, but one of the most significant aspects of successful relationships we’ve discovered is balance.

Picture one of those instruments used for weighing items, like the scales of justice shown below. Composed of an arm, supported in the center, extending out with two dishes suspended on each side of the arm’s ends.  When material of equal weight is placed in both pans, the scale is perfectly balanced.  

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on

Balance is a key in wedded life. Not perfect because no relationship ever attains that rating. Balance in an equal partnership. Balance in fulfilling both person’s needs. Balance in love, caring, and respect.  

And that’s what Papa and I have strived for during our married life. Honestly, we didn’t always succeed but we persevered in trying. Life throws relationships curve balls, and we experienced our share of those, but we learned to adjust and take care of one another until we could hit that ball out of the park.

Why am I reminded of this? Since our nest became empty when our last offspring graduated college and flew away over 10 years ago, Papa and I started contemplating more seriously what retirement years would be like.

And now we are in that stage of life. Spending more time together than ever since taking care of our children and working away from home doesn’t require our time any longer. And we enjoy traveling together to view new sights and gain new experiences.

When we plan a vacation or trip, we try to keep balanced. We discuss travel plans and include places I would like to visit and spots that interest Papa as well. Sometimes we travel to a place where one of us has visited before, but the other hasn’t. Instead of saying, “Oh, I’ve been there; I don’t want to go back,” we agree to travel there so either Papa or I can see that spot for the first time.

Unusual places and natural sights interest me, and I appreciate opportunities to photograph those. Papa loves historical and nautical attractions and museums. So, we try to combine both of our interests into our journeys.

Our early summer trip along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in western New York is a perfect example of how we include balance in our excursions.

Since Papa is fascinated by historical facts and places, we not only visited the lighthouses along that national scenic byway but also spent a considerable amount of time exploring Sackets Harbor Battlefield, the site of two battles during the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain.

The well-protected harbor on Lake Ontario became the US Navy’s Great Lakes headquarters and played an important role during that war. Papa relished reading all the historical signage about this village, where thousands of naval and army troops once worked, building ships, forts, and barracks, as I captured scenic photos of the lake and battlefield.

The historic area of Sackets Harbor is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has many well-preserved 19th century structures. Today Sackets Harbor is a quaint village with many shops and restaurants as well as a spot for boat enthusiasts and a historical tourist attraction.

As we walked around the battlefield that nice summer day, only a few people were there. But the village itself where the shops and restaurants were located was very busy.

Too busy for us. A fact that both Papa and I have discovered in which we have balance. Neither of us cares to be in crowded, congested places for long. Our history proves it.

“History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” ~  David McCullough

© 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: keep shining

The Great Lakes Seaway Trail tour of lighthouses continues. I never get tired of observing these guiding lights and I hope my readers agree because I think they offer us a compelling insight.

During our search for Lake Ontario’s beacons during our early summer journey along that national scenic byway, often it took some perseverance to find a perfect location to spot some of the lighthouses we sought.

Oswego West Pierhead is a good example and I’m happy to report our persistence paid off. Since this particular lighthouse is located off the coast of Oswego, New York, and is not open to the public, it’s not easy to access.

Owned by the city of Oswego but operated by the U.S. Coast Guard since it is an active navigation aid, it’s located a half-mile out into the lake on a breakwater. We finally found a spot to park where we could view the lighthouse in the distance, and I managed to get some decent photos using a telephoto lens.

The current tower was erected in 1934 to replace an earlier one constructed in 1889 and has an attached one-story keeper’s quarters, which is not used because the station became automated in 1968. Oswego West Pierhead is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been the site of tragedy. Six members of the Coast Guard died when a boat transferring lighthouse keepers capsized in the lake in December 1942.  

On to Port Ontario, we again drummed up some patience to locate our next stop at Selkirk Lighthouse, situated on land at the mouth of the Salmon River. Situated on a sharp turn along a narrow road beside the river, with a small marina and few public parking areas, we were able to find a spot to pull over so I could capture a few shots of Selkirk.

An interesting aspect of this beacon is that it is one of only four United States lighthouses that still has an original bird-cage lantern. Constructed in the 1830’s with stone from a nearby quarry, eventually a need for Selkirk Lighthouse was no longer justified, and it was deactivated by 1858.

A private citizen purchased the building in 1895 with intentions to turn it into part of a hotel development. A few years later, the owner suffered a massive heart attack and died but his family continued to operate the property, which changed hands a couple more times, and eventually the hotel and property became popular with vacationers.

The hotel didn’t survive though and was razed, but current owners restored the lighthouse and offer nightly and weekly accommodations there and in cottages nearby. By special request, overnight guests can climb the light tower.  

The next three lighthouses listed on the driving tour of the national scenic byway proved even more difficult to observe, trying our patience and causing us to spend quite a bit of time attempting to view them.  Stony Point Lighthouse in Henderson Harbor was more easily seen but is privately owned, so while viewing it from the road, I chose not to share a photo here to respect the owner’s privacy.

We never did find spots to catch sight of the other two lighthouses located respectively on Galoo Island and Horse Island a few miles offshore in Lake Ontario. The only way to access these two beacons is by boat and much of the property on the islands is private.

But we didn’t give up! And next week on my Tuesday Tour, I’ll showcase the last few lighthouses we encountered on our June journey and one of my favorites among the many we observed on this scenic tour.

Lighthouses remind me that even when life gets kind of wonky and it doesn’t work out the way we plan, we must not surrender to defeat. And hasn’t life indeed been strange and thrown us all for a loop since 2020 and the onset of the you know what?

But we cannot give up. We can’t succumb to adverse conditions in life, no matter what it throws at us.

Instead, we need to stand firm and be shining lights to those around us who struggle and falter. Maybe we all can be lighthouses. We just have to keep shining.

“Lighthouses don’t get all wobbly when the weather gets rough; they just stand there shining.” ~ Unknown

© 2021