Tuesday Tour: mystic & mystery

I just recently finished reading a library book – a real, honest to goodness hardback book with paper pages that I could hold in my hands while curling up in my comfy family room armchair and reading. Our favorite library once again opened its doors for visitors and we gladly walked inside to borrow a stack of books yea-high.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with my usual Tuesday Tour post about lighthouses Papa and I have visited over the years? One of the mysterious elements in the plot of the novel I just completed was the image of a lighthouse, connected to a violent crime.

Are lighthouses mysterious? I suppose they certainly could be considered that. They are usually stationed in isolated places. The solitude of living in a lighthouse definitely connotes an air of mystery, I think.

While considering lighthouses as a source of mystery, my mind wandered to one of the places Papa and I have visited – Mystic, Connecticut. The word ‘mystic’ conjures up a person or place that exudes mystery, something difficult to explain or secretive in my mind.

For some reason, Mystic Seaport has always been on my list of places to visit, so Papa and I included the spot on our way south from our Boston tour one summer. While this place didn’t exactly provide a great mystery, we did find it fun. And while there and on a side trip to Newport, Rhode Island, we spied three lighthouses, although one was just a replica.

We enjoyed touring the Mystic Seaport Museum, which includes historical sea-going vessels, tall, wooden sailing and whaling ships, and a walk-through village to transport you  back in time to a 19th century seaport with authentic New England buildings from the 1800’s. 

As we strolled through the village learning about maritime history, we noticed the Mystic Seaport Light, or as it’s also known, a replica of the Brant Point Light, which was a lighthouse built in 1901 on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts.  

This recreated lighthouse is a small, two-story white wooden structure with a glass-enclosed lantern on top and is located at the south end of Mystic Seaport. Constructed in the late 1960’s, it wasn’t lit because of navigational regulations from the U.S. Coast Guard. However, it now is an active light, although it does not serve as an official aid for navigation. 

Constructed as a lighthouse example for museum visitors, the structure was closed to the public, but became an actual exhibit called Sentinels of the Sea in 2008 when the tower was opened for visitors, who can view two educational videos about the history and architecture of American lighthouses inside.  

After our visit in Mystic, we decided to drive an hour or so east to Newport, Rhode Island, where we thoroughly enjoyed scenic, relaxing views of the Atlantic Ocean along Ocean Drive, a 10-mile trip along the southern coastline of Newport.

We stopped several times just to sit on a park bench and relish the gorgeous scenery and cooler temperatures. Our day concluded with a stop at Fort Adams State Park, where we were treated to a panoramic view of the Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay.

We watched sail boats drifting by and of course, I pulled out my camera when I realized two such vessels traveling in different directions would pass by each other making a neat photo opportunity.

I hauled out my telephoto lens to capture those shots and when I did, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. A mystery to me. A little lighthouse situated very near the long Newport Bridge as shown in the photo at the beginning of this post.

The Rose Island Light was built on Fort Hamilton, located on Rose Island in the Narragansett Bay, as it was needed to guide steamships back and forth between Newport, New York, and Boston. Its fixed red light was first illuminated in 1870, a fog bell was added in 1885, and finally a fog horn in 1912.

The U.S. Coast Guard managed Rose Island Light from 1941 until 1970 when the lighthouse became obsolete because navigation aids were placed on the newly constructed Newport Pell Bridge. Vandals ruined the lighthouse but it was later restored by the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation and on National Lighthouse Day (August 7) in 1993, the lighthouse once more shined its beacon.

Today, the Rose Island Light is a private aid to navigation, officially sanctioned by the U.S. Coast Guard, is maintained by the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The 35-foot tall wooden lighthouse sits upon a two-story keeper’s house and can only be reached by boat.  Visitors can tour the museum in the keeper’s house and can pay to spend a night as a guest in one of the two rooms in the upper story or even a week as a “lighthouse keeper.” Staying overnight in an empty lighthouse on an island sounds mysterious to me.

Again, the photo I captured is not of the best quality since I shot it from quite a distance away, but I was happy to later research and solve the mystery of this lighthouse’s name and history.

Later on our jaunt back from Rhode Island to Connecticut, we once again crossed the Jamestown Bridge across the Narragansett Bay. While peering out our vehicle window, I spied a squat little lighthouse sitting atop what looked like a tiny island of rocks in the bay just after we left the island where the town of Jamestown is located.

Another mystery!

In my hurry to grab my camera and try to snap a photo through the bridge railings while Papa kept up with traffic, I didn’t manage the best photo.

Later I identified it as Plum Beach Light, a sparkplug lighthouse which was constructed from 1896 to its completion in 1899. The interesting fact about this structure is its foundation was built onshore and then towed out into the bay where it sank to the bottom. Using something called pneumatic caisson engineering, eventually Plum Beach Light was completed.

By 1941, the lighthouse became deactivated due to construction of the Jamestown Bridge and it fell into disrepair, became dilapidated, and eventually abandoned. Decades later, the lighthouse was rescued, restored, and its beacon reactivated by the non-profit Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard as a private aid to navigation.   

It didn’t take a ‘mystic’ to figure out the mystery behind these three simple, small lighthouses. They just were there. Waiting to be noticed. Not creating much fanfare, just being a source of light.

Kind of like the person I hope I am – not a mystic, not a mystery, just a person who attempts to shine some light in this dark world.

“Like a simple little lighthouse, my true ideal is to just be…having no trace of seeking, desiring, imitating, or striving, only light and peace.” ~ Bodhi Smith

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: first day

It’s in the air. I can smell it, I can feel it.

The days are still filled with bright sunshine and warm temperatures tricking us into believing summer is still hanging on till the bitter end, but after the sun sets in the west, the evening produces a bit of a chill.

And in the early mornings? Oh, it’s so very prevalent.

I’m talking about the change of season which signifies another kind of change. It’s back to school time.

Do you remember your very first day of school ever? I truly do not. Since I first hopped onto a big yellow school bus for the first time to attend public school 60 years ago (can THAT be right??!?), I don’t recall my first day at all. But I think it’s safe to say I was probably terrified.

My school didn’t offer kindergarten classes back then and preschool existed only in the cities where children went to “nursery school.”  So first grade was my first experience at school. I do have a few recollections of first grade but mostly they aren’t positive ones.

I was shy and timid and my gray-haired, somber teacher was also the school’s principal, so she was a strict disciplinarian. To me she loomed large over us with her very stern appearance and her unbending rules. Frankly, she scared me and most of the time, I was afraid to even open my mouth.

Once I became an adult, my mother shared a story about my first few days of school with me. As we were adjusting to school and schedules and rules, my classmates and I tended to cry during the day. Obviously, we sobbed because we were frightened or we just wanted to go home or we missed our mothers, who were mostly stay-at-home moms at that time.

So every school day for the first few days or so after I arrived home, my mother would ask me which of my friends cried that day. I didn’t like to admit that I shed tears as well because I really didn’t want her to know that. You know, put on a brave face so mom wouldn’t worry and would believe I truly was a brave, big girl.

One day, Mother asked me that question again and I promptly gave up the wailing culprits’ names. Of course, she suspected I wept as well, so she inquired once more, “Didn’t you cry too?”

My answer was, “Well, I wheened a little.” Apparently I knew the word whined and what it meant, but didn’t know how to properly pronounce it. Obviously, my mother thought it was funny enough to remember it and tell me the story decades later.

That memory came back to me just the other day – the first day of school in our local district. A lot of preparation and anxious discussion preceded it due to covid-19 concerns, but after advisement from area medical personnel and listening to parents give their thoughts and opinions via a video conferencing school board meeting, the district announced school would resume in person for those who wanted their children to attend. For others not comfortable with that, online learning would continue to take place as it had during the months of lockdowns.

Tons of safety precautions and procedures later, those big yellow school buses roared down our roads, picking up students, whose smiles or frowns were hidden by masks. Children must have their temperatures checked at home before they board, practice social distancing on the bus, and undergo another temperature check upon arrival at school.

It’s enough to make your head spin but I know one school student who happily complies. I can hardly believe it, but our grandchild – our oldest one, the first one, the one who loves to stay at Nana and Papa’s while her mommy works – trotted off to kindergarten just the other day.

She couldn’t wait. She was so excited to ride the school bus. She shared that she was eager to make new friends at school and confessed that she was a little nervous because it was a “big school, not like my preschool.” 

Papa and I arrived at her house several minutes before the bus was due to pick her up, we snapped photos, and she looked so big and grown up in her dress carrying her lunch box and her pencil case. She didn’t appear nervous or scared or any of the emotions I’m pretty sure I experienced the first day of my school career.

Instead, it was her Mama and her Nana who were nervous and apprehensive for her – but we didn’t let on to her that we were feeling that way. You know, put on a brave, happy face so she wouldn’t see us cry.

The big yellow school bus stopped in front of her house, she held her Mama’s hand and waited for Mr. School Bus Driver to motion that it was safe to cross the road, and she boarded that bus all by herself. Miss Independent. And at the end of the day, when she jumped off the bus, we could tell that she had a great, fun first day of ‘real’ school.

Even with her mask on, her eyes were smiling. As she removed it, she gushed about all the excitement of the day and she couldn’t wait to go back to school the next day.

A great start to a new season of learning. A new season of experiences. A new season of growing up. A change of life just as the season is changing.

I don’t remember my own first day of school all of those years ago, but I remember other first days. Wasn’t it just the other day that I was sending my own first child to school for the first time? Wasn’t it just yesterday that the other two eventually followed her onto that big, yellow school bus?

I remember those first days when my own children were filled with the same eager excitement that my grandchild experienced. I also remember feeling a little sad and teary-eyed but happy for them at the same time as they began a new phase of life.

And as long as my memory serves, I will remember my grandchild’s first day going off to school as well.

“You’re off to great places. Today is your first day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” ~ Dr. Seuss

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: Cape Cod lighthouse

The older more mature I become, the more I realize that I’m just not a city lover. Oh, cities are exciting with all of the hustle and bustle of busyness, and there’s a surge of energy felt when you’re in the midst of it. But the noise, the traffic, and the sheer amount of people crammed on sidewalks, buses, subways, etc. just make me pine for some space and peace and quiet.

Country girl grown up enjoys a short time in a city atmosphere, but when it comes right down to it, I like the spaciousness and quieter lifestyle of country living.

I realized that all too well when Papa and I journeyed to Boston on a summer vacation a few years ago. Boston provides so much to see and do and since neither of us had ever been there before, we anticipated we would enjoy the history and interesting sights the city has to offer. And we did… for a couple of days.

By then, heat and humidity boiling over us combined with so much traffic and crowds of people had taken its toll. I was ready to head for a quieter atmosphere. It really wasn’t on our travel agenda, but since we had time, we decided to drive through the Cape Cod National Seashore before heading to our next destination. And I’m so glad we did.

Our nice, leisurely drive along Cape Cod was so very pleasant and one of the highlights (although there were many) was stopping to visit The Highland Light Station, an active lighthouse, in North Truro, Massachusetts.  

Also called Cape Cod Light, this lighthouse is known as the oldest and tallest lighthouse on Cape Cod. The first wooden tower was erected in 1797 when it became the 20th light station in the U.S., and its illuminating beacon was first fueled by whale oil. This structure, along with the keeper’s house, was situated more than 500 feet from the edge of a 125-foot tall cliff.   

Later in 1831, that tower was replaced with a brick one, which was replaced again in 1857 with the current 66-foot tall brick lighthouse and the L-shaped keeper’s house. After illuminating the light with lard and kerosene, it eventually became electrified in 1932, making it the most powerful light on the East Coast at the time.

Since the lighthouse was established back in the late 1700’s, the cliff in front of it had been increasingly eroding away. I found it interesting that in the 1850’s, Henry David Thoreau visited Highlight Light and wrote about this massive erosion taking place. Time eventually wore the area down and by the 1990’s, only 128 feet of the original 500 to the edge of the cliff remained.

Fund-raising ensued and Highland Light Station, which had been automated in 1986, was moved back 450 feet in 1996 and a couple of years later, the light station opened to visitors. Currently owned by the the National Park Service as part of the Cape Cod National Seashore and managed by the Truro Historical Society, Highland Light is maintained by the United States Coast Guard, and continues to serve as a navigation aid.

The lighthouse grounds, keeper’s house, where a gift shop and historical exhibits are located, were all open when we visited back in 2017. Since then, the lighthouse itself has been undergoing repairs and volunteer-led tours were discontinued until 2021 when repairs are completed. Currently, both the keeper’s house gift shop and museum area are closed until further notice due to coronavirus concerns.

I remember visiting this lighthouse after the hectic pace of sightseeing in Boston and feeling such a sense of calm and serenity while viewing it.

Even though it was daylight, with each step of the short walk from the parking lot to Highland Light, I could sense a time-worn steadiness of the lighthouse and I imagined how sailors from yesteryear to the current time trusted its light guiding them through the sea.

Its light seemed brighter to twinkle,
      As if from passing ships
      It heard the benedictions
      Fall from the sailors’ lips.
And it seem’d to tell me the secret
      That gave it power to win
      The trust of the anxious seamen—
      Its light shone from within.

~Rowland Brown, “The Lighthouse,” Songs of Early Spring, with Lays of Later Life, 1872

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: sea prescription

The news is disheartening. I can’t even turn it on any longer. And I’m staying away more and more from social media these days as well.

Everywhere I look on the air or online, it seems anger, rage, vitriol, obscenity, explosions of it dominate. Life is difficult enough with all of the virus pandemic restrictions still weighing heavily on our lives, but now violence and chaos reign in many of our cities. And hateful spite spews forth online endlessly.

One can’t openly share your own opinion because verbal and sometimes physical attacks descend on you like ravaging wolves preying on a defenseless, wounded creature. You are shouted at, disrespected, and debased just because your thoughts, opinions, and/or beliefs are completely different than theirs.

Remember that old adage, “Live and let live”? Well, it appears that exists no more. People are enraged over every social/political/medical issue and the list goes on. Inconsiderateness, rudeness, and downright nasty meanness seem to prevail in humanity right now and it doesn’t make me angry. Instead it grieves me and saddens my heart.

What have we become? You know what I think? We all need to swallow a chill-pill. We need a prescription to reset ourselves, restore kindness and respect for one another, treat others the way we would want to be treated.

We all need to simmer down.

Maybe what we all require is a trip to the sea to restore a sense of calmness, composure, and civility in our lives.

Last week, I wrote a post about how situating myself beside the ocean, lake, river, or creek is extremely restful and tranquil for me. Maybe it will work for others too.

Might I suggest when rage over whatever causes you to flip a gourd threatens to agitate and overwhelm you, you go sit by a body of water for a time and wipe those thoughts from your mind?

If you’re not close to one, maybe just step into your shower, close your eyes, and let water stream over you until you sense peace filling your thoughts.

Then perhaps we all can discuss our opinions and differences calmly, intelligently, and with respect for each other.

Searching my photo cache for blog posts lately, I noticed that. over the years, I’ve snapped many pictures of waves rolling into shore or creeks rippling over rocks.

Just viewing those pictures gives me a sense of tranquility and reminds me of a poem, Sea Fever, that I remember memorizing as a young student in school. 

The first line of the poem, written by English poet John Masefield (1897-1967) easily came to me once again: “I must go down to the seas again…”

Maybe that’s exactly what we need – we all must go down to the seas again to quiet the loud, angry, and divisive voices that are screaming at us from all sides and maybe even inside our own heads.

My hope is we can find sane restoration from the insanity that prevails.

 “When I sit here by the sea and listen to the sound of waves, I feel free from all obligations and people of this world.” ~ Henry Thoreau

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: river detour

Time for a detour.

If you’ve been following my blog for the last few weeks, you’ve seen my Tuesday Tour posts. This series highlights photos I’ve taken of the many lighthouses Papa and I have visited over the years.

Up until now, I’ve featured lighthouses we’ve seen on both sides of America – first on the Pacific Ocean in Oregon and Washington and then on the Atlantic on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. But today, we’ll take a little detour along a river – the Hudson River in New York State to be exact.

Papa and I had traveled in New York many times before but had never journeyed along the Hudson River northward.  In 2017, we planned a summer road-trip/vacation to Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Of course to get to our destinations, a trip through New York was required.  

One of our itinerary stops was the U.S. Military Academy at West Point because Papa always wanted to visit there. So prior to our trip, I began researching other interesting places to stop along the way. And I found a spot that sparked my interest in viewing and photographing lighthouses. The rest as they say, is history. (Which means there are so many more to come!)

It wasn’t the easiest place to find, but after driving through the eclectic town of Saugerties, we finally spotted a small parking lot, departed our car, doused ourselves with insect repellent, and sauntered down a half-mile trail to Saugerties Light, a light house overlooking the Hudson River just north of the town of the same name. The secluded lighthouse is accessed only by the walking trail or by boat.

The nature walk leading to the lighthouse was pleasant and as I snapped photos along the way, you couldn’t yet see it. But oh, when it finally came into view, I was hooked. Only a couple of other people were there, so I was able to take as many photos as I wanted without worrying about people in the photo.

Peace and solitude just exuded from this particular spot. We read the placards which gave us more information about Saugerties Light. As one of New York’s historic light stations, it’s listed on both the National Park Service’s Maritime Heritage Program and also on the National Register of Historic Places.

The original light station was erected back in 1835 to mark Hudson River shoals as well as the entrance to Saugerties harbor at Esopus Creek and was damaged by ice floes. The now existing one was built in 1869, automated in 1954, but then deteriorated after decades of remaining vacant.

At one point, the lighthouse was scheduled to be demolished, but the non-profit, Saugerties Lighthouse Conservancy, purchased the structure in 1986, restored it, and it was re-dedicated as a navigation aid in 1990.

Presently, Saugerties Lighthouse and the nature trail leading to it is managed by the conservancy. A delightful fact about this beautiful place of serenity is that it is also a bed-and-breakfast where visitors can stay in one of two rooms in this quaint restored lighthouse. Public tours are also offered.

After visiting this particular lighthouse, my interest in visiting others and capturing their likenesses soared.

But more than that, Saugerties Light reminded me that often times truly serving others isn’t broadcast in a grand way with a lot of fanfare.

Instead when we serve others, it may not be easily perceived just like this particular lighthouse isn’t easily visible. It doesn’t call attention to itself by proclaiming, “Ta-da! Here I am for all to see! Look what I’m doing!”

Instead, it just stands there serving. Fulfilling a purpose. And that’s how we too should serve others. Just doing it in our own unobtrusive way, not seeking recognition, just serving because our service to others makes a difference. Our serving has a purpose, to place others before ourselves.

Sometimes our purpose is just meant to serve.

“I can think of no other edifice constructed by man as altruistic as a lighthouse. They were built only to serve.”  ~ George Bernard Shaw

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: At water’s edge

What is it about the water?

If you were to categorize me, I suppose you’d called me a landlubber since I grew up far from any ocean. I’m not particularly fond of actually being in water either be it ocean, lake, river, or even swimming pool.

But there’s something about the water that draws me to it like those moths addicted to and circling my front porch light every evening.

The sound of moving water soothes me. Ocean and lake waves lapping to the shore call to me saying, “Come sit beside me, close your eyes and just listen…listen to my ebb and flow.”

Though the waves may be strong or mild, that rhythmic sound is restful to my soul.

Rushing rivers, babbling brooks, and the cadence of creeks beg me to park myself on their banks, tune out the world’s din, and listen to their mesmerizing, flowing movement over rocks, soothing my quest for tranquility and serenity.

Apparently, science exists to support why I feel the way I do when I’m beside the water.  Psychologists say that being close to water results in positive emotional states – feeling calm, relaxed, restful, and feeling restored.

A marine biologist named Wallace Nichols wrote a book entitled Blue Mind about this phenomenon: our brain chemistry changing when we’re around water.

Nichols states that “Water is considered the elixir and source of life. It covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface, makes up nearly 70% of our bodies, and constitutes over 70% of our heart and brains. This deep biological connection has been shown to trigger an immediate response in our brains when we’re near water. In fact, the mere sight and sound of water can induce a flood of neurochemicals that promote wellness, increase blood flow to the brain and heart and induce relaxation. Thanks to science, we’re now able to connect the dots to the full range of emotional benefits being on, in, or near the water can bring.”

He was quoted in a Psychology Today article as saying, “The best way to handle stress may be to get to the closest beach.”

I’ll buy that.

Perhaps that explains why I’ve noticed most of the vacations Papa and I journeyed on in the last few years have been “down to the water.” We live several miles away from the river that runs through our home town, and not near any creeks or lakes. So our treks to water’s edge must be our way of de-stressing from everyday life.

Just this past week, Papa and I needed a little escape from the sameness and mundaneness of life in these days of social distancing and restrictions. I researched day excursions hoping to find a road trip we could take where we would be outside away from crowds of people.

So Sunday morning we rose early and set our sights on a destination in the state next door, just a couple of hours drive away. There we completed a driving tour of covered bridges located on country roads and viewed two lighthouses on nearby Lake Erie.

Was it coincidence that our travels that day took us to an area where we peacefully ate our picnic lunch while seated on a wooden bench overlooking a rippling creek?

Was it our unconscious desire to find release from stress by ultimately winding up our day relaxing on a porch swing while overlooking a calming view of the lapping lake?

And was it mere chance that several times as we traveled, a particular song – As I Went Down to the River to Pray – played on Papa’s Pandora list? That old song with unknown origins has been called a song about keeping faith in dark times.

I don’t know if that’s truly the meaning of the song or not because I always thought the song was simply about Christian baptism by immersion, but this I do know… going down to the water provided peace, soothed my soul, and gave me pause to pray, thanking God for blessing this world with the sound of water.

“The sound of water is worth more than all the poets’ words.” ~ Octavio Paz

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: Outer Banks Lights

(Bodie Island Light, North Carolina, taken with film in 2003)

A trip to the beach had been a long time coming.

For the six years our family lived in the Pacific Northwest, we made a lot of trips to the Pacific coast and I possess a plethora pf photos taken with my old 35 mm film camera back then to prove it. But beach trips stopped for a few years when we moved across the country to our home state. Life got in the way of vacations.

However, in 2003, five years after our move, we planned a beach vacation to the Atlantic Ocean shore where we’d never been before – the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I really wasn’t yet enamored with visiting lighthouses but we decided to put two of them on our sightseeing itinerary anyway: Bodie (pronounced body) Island Light Station and the more famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

The Outer Banks were considered a dangerous area of the Atlantic coast where many ships were lost so both lighthouses, which are located in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and managed and operated by the National Park Service, were erected in the 1800’s.

Bodie Island Light Station, located south of Nags Head, North Carolina, is a 156-foot tall black and white horizontal striped tower with 214 spiraling steps. The current lighthouse is actually the third erected one named Bodie Island. The first one suffered foundational problems and was torn down and the second one was destroyed by retreating Confederates during the Civil War to prevent Union troops from occupying it.

Although Bodie Island Light was closed for many years because of safety issues, it has been renovated and is now open to the public and visitors can take a tour of it.  

An interesting fact about this particular lighthouse is that it’s one of the few lighthouses in the USA lit with a restored but original First Order Fresnel lens. The light rotates every 27.5 seconds and on a clear night, can be seen from up to 19 miles away.

During our 2003 vacation, we stayed on Hatteras Island, which is not as populated and crowded as other areas on the Outer Banks. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest brick lighthouse in America, is located there and is considered one of the most famous and recognized lighthouses because of its candy-cane style black and white stripes.  It attracts thousands of visitors every year.

(Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, North Carolina, taken with film in 2003)

Its light beams 20 miles out into the Atlantic guiding ships through the treacherous waters there. Cape Hatteras Light is open for the public to climb the steps inside but it was so very hot and humid when we were there, I passed on doing so. The rest of my family paid to do so and were treated to quite a view from the top. Once a month during the summer season, there are full moon tours visitors can take at night as well.

A surprising fact about Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is that it was moved. Because many years of storms and hurricanes eroded the beach area in front of the lighthouse, it was feared the tower would tumble into the ocean. So just a few years before we visited, the lighthouse and surrounding outbuildings were moved inland by 2,900 feet to a safer location. That produced another claim to fame for this lighthouse, being the tallest brick structure in history to ever be moved.

Those two lighthouses were the last ones I captured on film with my old point and shoot camera. Many years passed before Papa and I would once again decide to visit lighthouses.

Once we did, we delighted in finding them on our travels and I developed a love of photographing them with my better DSLR camera.

That began another journey – searching for those lighthouses that just stand there shining and finding them. So there are more to come on my Tuesday Tour and better photographs to view.

“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” ~Anne Lamott

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

What’s missing

What do you miss the most?

That’s a question I’ve heard often in the last few weeks. As this pandemic paranoia continues to press us down with its overreaching heavy hand, we find ourselves waxing nostalgic over simple aspects of life we once managed to accomplish every day without thinking long and hard about it.

You know…things like hugging your family members, sitting closer than six feet apart to have a conversation with your best friend, climbing out of your car without a mask on to enter a business and noticing someone smiling at you, going to the barber shop/hair salon, sitting in a darkened movie theater catching the latest release, live in-person medical and dental check-ups, and attending worship services in person.

Months and months of restrictions that don’t seem to cease have made us weary and, in many cases, downright depressed. That’s the negative side of all of this. But I strive to don my rose-colored glasses and my Pollyanna attitude every day and attempt to find some positive aspects during this trying period.

I know it’s difficult to accentuate the positive, but I do find myself being grateful for the blessings we have. Papa and I are retired so we don’t have to worry about losing jobs or being exposed to the nasty virus at work.

Our children are all grown so we don’t have to stress over whether to send them to school or not and whether to home-school instead.

Our retirement income has remained steady and our home is mortgage-free so we aren’t agonizing over meeting necessary expenses each month.

Even though some of our family members live far from us, thanks to technology we can see and talk with them and that bolsters our spirits.

Our home is situated in the country on 2.5 acres of land in a fairly rural county so we don’t have to fret over living in heavily populated areas and being exposed to large crowds of people.

Our church broadcasts live worship services online and our pastor provides encouraging sessions on Facebook.

And again, thanks to video conferencing, I was able to lead a women’s Bible study online every week since the end of March.

So yes, I find I can be truly thankful for many aspects of life during this difficult time in our lives.

Still there are facets of life that I also truly do miss; one of those is visiting the public library. Papa and I are readers and we regularly spent time at the library perusing the rows upon rows of books available to borrow and usually come home with a tote bag full.

Prior to the pandemic, it wasn’t unusual for me to check out six or eight books at a time so I always had plenty of good reading material available. But alas, the library closed and remained closed during the lockdown edicts from our state governor.

Of course since Papa has a Kindle and I have an iPad with a Kindle app, we still had ample books available to read that way. But I’m old school. I like the feel of a bound book in my hand, paper pages to turn, and a pretty bookmark to mark my place when I close the book.

But there’s another reason I miss jaunts to the library to check out some books. I miss really good books. Well-written books that give me pause to think and use vocabulary that causes me to turn to my handy-dandy dictionary to make sure I understand what that word means.

And frankly, I find those kind of literary works lacking on kindle apps. Today’s fiction seems crude and too simplistic.  And sometimes it’s so poorly written, I can’t stand to continue reading (that’s when the English teacher in me comes out and I want to mark up the pages with my red pen!).

Unfortunately, for me there seems to be an abundance of not-so-great literature out there.

I remember when our kids were still in high school and were required to complete summer reading lists of classic literature and I would read the books compiled on the lists as well. Now that was some challenging reading, some intelligent writing to stimulate your brain and increase your vocabulary.

The writers of old were true wordsmiths, nothing like the drivel that appears today en masse either by traditional publishing companies or through self-publishing. Years ago there was a movement in education that was against what was called “dumbing down” curriculum. Unfortunately, the literary world seems to have fallen prey to dumbing down.

That’s why I can’t wait to get back to the library to find some better books to read. And I can’t express my thoughts in any better words than these written by Alexandre Dumas in his classic novel, The Count of Monte Cristo: “…never forget that until the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in these two words, – wait and hope.”

Waiting and hoping is what I’m doing as I anticipate a trip to the library once again.

Wait and hope. Solid, intelligent advice, I’d say. Perfect for this pandemic period. We must wait and hope.

“The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones.” ~ Joseph Joubert

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: North Head Light

North Head Lighthouse, Long Beach, Washington (taken with film in 1996)

A long weekend stretched ahead of us. Four days off – no school, no work. And we were itching to go someplace we’d never been before. We wanted a mini escape from busy suburbia and to find a peaceful place of solitude.

On a whim and without any hotel reservations, our family of five left our Oregon home on Memorial Day weekend, no less, and headed north.

Our goal – Long Beach Peninsula in Washington, a 28-mile stretch of quiet sandy beaches along the Pacific Ocean, about a two-hour trip away.  We traveled to Astoria, Oregon where we stopped to view some landmarks and then crossed the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which was quite a sight and interesting drive itself.

This 4.1 mile long span from Astoria to Point Ellice, Washington, crosses the Columbia River at its mouth where it meets the Pacific.  That bridge might give some nervous travelers pause to cross but we found it exciting.

From there we drove up Highway 101 to Long Beach and fortunately found a place to stay right on the beach. Of course, it was May and the Pacific Northwest weather was still very chilly resulting in us wearing sweatshirts AND jackets.

We definitely found the beach peaceful and quiet and enjoyed walks, beach-combing for shells, playing in the sand, and kite flying. Needless to say, no frolicking in the waves since the ocean water proved downright frigid at that time of year.  

During our weekend stay, we also visited another Pacific coast historic lighthouse, North Head Light, situated on a rocky cliff more than 190 feet above sea level near the small town of Ilwaco. 

North Head was built in the late 1890’s to directly face the ocean and be clearly visible to ships traveling southward to the confluence of the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River.  

Before North Head and nearby Cape Disappointment Lighthouse existed, the only way ships sailing for Portland and Astoria navigated through treacherous waves and ever-changing sandbars was by spying signal fires at night and white flags and shoreline trees with notches in them by day. Not a safe way to travel, which is why waters around Long Beach Peninsula was known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific.”

An interesting fact about North Head Light is that it is considered the windiest lighthouse on the West Coast and the second most windy in North America. Maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard from 1939 to 2012, ownership of this particular light station now belongs to Washington State Parks.

Although North Head Lighthouse is closed for tours currently, visitors can still access the grounds at no charge all year-round from dawn until dusk where they can marvel in awe at the amazing panoramic view of Long Beach Peninsula, the Pacific Ocean, the Columbia River Bar, and even the northern Oregon coast just as we did back in 1996.

Visiting a light station like North Head, one can imagine the wind howling around a vessel out in the Pacific, waves crashing into it and tossing it to and fro, and mariners aboard fearing a violent end against a rocky coast but then…then, the lighthouse comes into view, guiding the ship safely on its way.

Such a scenario reminds me that life often resembles the treacherous sea but that’s when we must look for a light to guide us onward. And like a sentinel guarding the sea, the light will be there. It will always be there.

Loud howls the wind, and the sea runs high,
Bearing the burden of many a cry
For help to land, while the vessel runs,
Firing at random her signal guns.
Black is the night as a sable pall;
The thunder answers the sailor’s call;
And all seems lost till the friendly light
Of the lighthouse bursts on the wearied sight.

Then hurrah for the lighthouse, hurrah!
Her light shall shine o’er the billows afar,
Wherever gloom and doubt prevail,
To guard the storm-tossed shattered sail.

~William Thomas Birch, “The Lighthouse,” Home Reveries, 1871

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: closer look

Sometimes the teacher is really the student.

Papa and I spend a lot of time with our oldest grandchild since we provide childcare for our daughter while she works.

When our grandchild is with us, we do a lot of game playing, enacting the roles she provides with her active imagination, and doing outside activities as well like gardening, vegetable picking, flower tending.

So much of the time we do educate her. Papa shows her how to fix something; Nana helps her practice writing her letters and numbers, doing simple math, talking about shapes, sizes, and patterns, learning how to sound out words in the books we read together.

She learns how to make certain crafts from us, how much water it takes to keep her fairy garden growing, and so much more.

I believe we also teach her about faith in God, about the world around us, and about life in general.  But you know what? She teaches us a lot too.

She shows us how vivid an imagination can be and she demonstrates how we should view this world we live in, how to see wonder in the smallest aspects of life from a child’s perspective.

During one of our country drives, Little One gave us a commentary from her back seat car seat each time we came upon a new scene out the vehicle windows.

“Oh, Nana!” she exclaimed as we drove along a long, winding road finally reaching the pinnacle where the view around was pretty amazing, “It’s SO beautiful!”

And you know what? It truly was a beautiful view which may not have even registered as so for us. She notices small things that wouldn’t even cross Nana and Papa’s radar screen like the day she found a praying mantis slowly walking along in the mulch around our shrubs.

We had walked right past it and never saw it. But not Little One. She spied it right away, caused us to stop when she asked what kind of bug it was, and she spent a good bit of time watching it as it made its way up onto the boxwood shrub.  

All of it delighted her. And when she’s delighted, so are we. Grandchildren teach us to slow down, notice what might have been unseen, and take a closer look so we don’t miss a wonderful moment in life.

And that’s a lesson we all need to learn no matter what our age.

“Anything looked at closely becomes wonderful.” ~ A.R. Ammons, American poet

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com