Will the small survive?

And so it begins.

It’s the week after Thanksgiving and for many folks, this is when their Christmas shopping kicks into high gear.  A tremendous amount of shoppers usually inundate the mercantile scene on Black Friday – either in a physical store or online – in normal circumstances.

But this year is so different. With the pandemic STILL an issue, virus cases on the rise, and so many governors issuing stay at home orders, shopping malls and physical stores must be reeling from lack of business, unless they have an online presence. So who do I think are going to be the hardest hit businesses? Our small shop owners.

Last Saturday marked the traditional “Small Business Saturday” when buyers are urged to shop locally in their own communities and patronize small businesses. With stay at home orders, that makes doing so difficult. And I truly wonder how many small shop owners have an online presence and delivery service.

So the easiest way to accomplish Christmas shopping if you can’t leave your house to do it in person, is order online and a myriad of boxes will be deposited on your own front porch.

You don’t have to leave your house or fight traffic, just scroll online and click away.

I suspect commercial merchants like the gargantuan company, Amazon, will reap major benefits as well as those other massive retailers like Walmart and Target from this style of Christmas shopping.

Call me a dinosaur, call me out of date, call me whatever you want to, but this style of shopping doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t want to shop online; I want to see the product I’m purchasing not just a digital image of it. I want to hold it in my hands and examine it.

And I want to support local businesses, local restaurants, and local small shops, who may not have websites but feasibly, we can’t accomplish that right now which troubles me.

It doesn’t just bother me, it actually saddens me. How many small shops, specialty stores, restaurants and cafes, not owned by chain franchises, but by people like you and me, will be forced to close their doors for good?

As autumn rolled around, we were still in the thick of social distancing but our state had opened up somewhat. Papa and I took one of our day-long road trips out and about. We headed northward in our state, mainly to observe fall foliage in what we call “the mountains.”

After stopping to eat a picnic lunch, we drove through a small town that I had been to several times  when I was a youngster and my parents owned a camp “in the mountains” not too distant from the area we were driving through.

I hadn’t been there in many, many years and as we drove through that little town, we spied a picturesque cluster of shops, about a block long. We found a parking spot, donned our face masks, and ambled through the small “village.”

It consisted of a few diminutive shops, each in what might be called sheds.  Of course because of social distancing, each tiny shop only allowed two masked visitors at a time inside. We entered each one, taking our turns, to peruse quaint and unique handcrafted wares inside.

Naturally, I pulled my camera out and snapped some photos. While doing so, a local gentleman began conversing with me and told me the story of how the little village-style shops came to be.

At one time, a large and popular non-chain restaurant once stood in that location, but a major fire broke out in it and decimated not just the restaurant but the entire block too.  For 10 years, that block stood vacant until someone presented an idea to place temporary small shops as a kind of vendor market there in hopes of enticing summer tourists to visit the town once more.

The idea not only came to fruition but proved very successful when local artisans, along with the community, embraced the plan. The Tionesta Market Village has existed there for seven years now, has helped revitalize this small town, located in a rural area, and its economy, and has received accolades for its success in doing so.  

According to the Market Village’s website, this unusual marketplace “represents what’s best about small town Americana…independent and self-reliant, willing to take a risk instead of hoping for a handout, and not wanting to wait for someone else to solve our problems.”

To me, that totally embodies the spirit of small town America and small business owners.

But now, I have to wonder…will those tiny shops survive? Will small shop owners ever recoup what they surely have lost in revenue because of the impact of this pandemic? And will they finally have to close up shop and abandon their dreams come true after all of their hard work?

I guess it all depends on us. Will we take the easy route and purchase from all of those large companies? I realize that those companies do employ some of our fellow Americans providing much needed income for them during this difficult time. I get that and I applaud that.

But still. Are we killing our small businesses? What can we do to help those owners stay afloat as well? Their livelihood depends on us.

How we spend our money makes a difference. Each purchase we make does impact our world, so let’s choose wisely.

“A small business is an amazing way to serve and leave an impact on the world you live in.” ~Nicole Snow

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2020

Tuesday Tour: history and mystery

They weren’t easy to find.

On our empty nest road trip to New England in 2018, one of our quests was to locate some lighthouses on the coast of Maine, which didn’t prove to be a simple task because some of the beacons aren’t easily reached or are inaccessible by car.

After a few wrong turns and scratching our heads, we reached success when we discovered Owls Head Lighthouse near Rockland, Maine and Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in South Portland.

On that June day, we actually were the only people at Owls Head Light Station. Pulling into the parking lot near the structure in Owls Head Light State Park, we were surprised to find no other visitors and that our vehicle was the lone one there.

Peace and quiet accompanied us on a short walk through a wooded area to this picturesque lighthouse sitting on top of an 80-foot bluff above Penobscot Bay. Both history and mystery surround this beacon.

Construction for the original station was approved by President John Quincy Adams in 1824 and the original, 15-foot tall, stone lighthouse was established in 1825.

Even though that tower was relatively short, because of its location on the rocky bluff, the beacon could be seen for 16 miles. The first lighthouse keeper, a War of 1812 veteran, earned an annual salary of $350. By 1852, that structure had deteriorated so a new, 24-foot tall, brick tower was built with a new keeper’s dwelling added two years later.

Tending the lighthouse was risky business as the tower was situated 120 feet up a steep ascent from the keeper’s home. Winter was especially treacherous and finally in 1874, walkways and stairs linked the keeper’s house with the beacon.

Two fascinating tales exist about Owls Head including a story of two people frozen in ice who came back to life and a dog who rang the fog bell.  During a raging December 1820 storm, a small schooner set anchor at the onset of the storm and the captain went ashore leaving three others on board.

As the storm worsened, the vessel was ripped from its mooring and smashed into rocks near the lighthouse after which the boat’s mate attempted to go ashore for help.

The lighthouse keeper found and revived the mate, but the man begged the keeper to rescue his fiancée and a fellow crewman who were still on the wrecked schooner. When a search party recovered the two people, they reportedly were encased in an ice block formed from the water’s spray in freezing cold temperatures.

Even though it seemed they were deceased, hours-long efforts to chip off the ice, place the man and woman in cold water, and massage their legs and arms continued. Miraculously, both were revived.

And then there is the tale of Spot the dog, a springer spaniel owned by an Owls Head keeper during the 1930’s-40’s. The keeper’s daughters apparently taught the dog to ring the fog bell by tugging on the rope and whenever a boat passed by, the dog rang the bell with the ship returning the sound by bell or horn. Sounds like a perfect example of Pavlov’s conditioning experiment with dogs, doesn’t it?

But Spot’s “trick” actually saved someone’s life. Spot became friends with a mail boat skipper who always brought the dog a treat. Spot soon learned to recognize the boat’s engine sound and knew when his friend was arriving.

When a blizzard hit, Owls Head’s fog bell was muffled by snow drifts. During the snow storm, Spot scratched at the keeper’s door to be let out, sped to the shoreline, and barked repeatedly and loudly. The mail boat captain heard his canine friend, replied with the boat’s whistle, and later claimed he was saved from disaster because he was able to determine his location thanks to Spot.  

In addition to its history, some mystery swirls around Owls Head Lighthouse as well. Named first on a most haunted lighthouse list,  some claim there are at least two ghosts there – a female who has been “seen” in the kitchen or looking out a window and another who some believe is a former keeper’s spirit.

The later just may have climbed into bed with a Coast Guard keeper’s wife one night. She distinctly felt what she thought was her husband crawling back into bed after he gone outside to check something.

When she questioned him and received no response, she rolled over to find no one there yet an indentation in the mattress appeared to be moving. Her husband, who had not yet returned to the bedroom, claimed he saw “a cloud of smoke hovering over the floor” which passed through him.

Yet another ghostly tale is that of a Coast Guardsman’s two-year-old daughter who described seeing a bearded man wearing a blue coat and seaman’s cap, yet no such person had ever been there.

Still others report that unexplained footprints, leading in only one direction to the tower after rain or a snowfall, appear and strangely enough, brass is found polished and the lens cleaned in the lighthouse afterwards.

Fact or fiction? Who knows, but we found this lighthouse, automated in 1989 and still an active navigational aid today, intriguing. We managed to climb the 52 steps up to the lighthouse where we found the view simply amazing.

Owls Head Lighthouse and the keeper’s dwelling now is licensed to the American Lighthouse Foundation. The foundation, along with the U.S. Coast Guard, restored the tower to its original 1852 appearance.   

Only open on selected days, the lighthouse was closed when we visited, but the grounds were open. Currently due to the pandemic, lighthouse climbing tours have been suspended until further notice.

The 1854 keeper’s dwelling still stands on the site and serves as the American Lighthouse Foundation headquarters. According to the non-profit’s website, that organization is responsible for restoration and preservation of 18 lighthouses.

From Owls Head, we headed south to Portland, Maine and our next lighthouse stop proved to be a bit of a challenge.  After several wrong turns and a bit of exasperation, we finally located Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, which actually sits on a breakwater connecting it to the Southern Maine Community College campus.

Because of its location, it’s not only difficult to find but parking is very limited when the college is in session. We found that to be so. Papa finally just pulled alongside a curb temporarily and I jumped out of the car and jaunted quickly to a vantage point to capture a photo of this distinct lighthouse that kind of looks like a spark plug.

Since we were apprehensive about the parking situation and didn’t want to incur a fine, we weren’t able to walk out onto the breakwater to see this caisson-style lighthouse closely. Out of 49 such types of lighthouses in the United States, Spring Point Ledge is the only one visitors actually can walk to.

Constructed in 1897 and first illuminated in May of that year, this lighthouse was erected in the Portland Harbor to mark a ledge projecting from the shoreline at South Portland’s Fort Preble and extending into the main shipping channel of the harbor. Several significant shipwrecks and groundings occurred due to this dangerous area in one of the busiest harbors on the east coast.

Despite the need for it, Spring Point Ledge Light was darkened for about three months in 1898 during the peak of the Spanish American War, resuming illumination once again in late July of that year.

After sustaining years of damage from ice, granite blocks were placed around it for protection in the 1930’s. The 950-foot granite breakwater connecting the lighthouse with the shore was constructed by the Corps of Engineers in 1951.

The U.S. Coast Guard automated Spring Point Ledge Light in 1960 and nearly 40 years later, ownership was transferred to the Spring Point Ledge Light Trust. Responsibility for the lighthouse’s functions as a navigational aid is retained by the Coast Guard.

The lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Normally, visitors could explore the inside of the working lighthouse on Saturdays and Sundays, but tours are now closed due to the pandemic.   

Two more visits to Maine’s lighthouses followed after this one. I’ve saved what I think are the best for the last couple of posts yet to come. I hope my readers continue joining me on my Tuesday Tours to view photos of those remaining sites.  I believe they are the cream of the crop.

“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining- they just shine.” ~  Dwight L. Moody

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2020

Words for Wednesday: grateful Thanksgiving

It’s true that there seems to be so much darkness in our world during these November days leading up to our American holiday of Thanksgiving, and I don’t just mean because the days are getting shorter and night falls earlier each day.

The pandemic continues, cases are rising, restrictions being put back into place. Election results are a mess. Vitriol and anger are still spewing forth on social media about both issues.

Tragedies and dire diagnoses of illness touch the lives of those we know and love. Our view of the near future looks uncertain, bleak, and unsettling to say the least.

It’s enough to make one throw up hands in despair and surrender and say, “Enough!! I’ve had enough!” A title from an early 1960’s musical, which I believe was eventually turned into a movie as well, comes to my mind – “Stop the world, I want to get off!”

We can’t stop the world though. We can’t put a halt to the difficulties that surround us. We don’t have that power.

But we also can’t give up. We can’t succumb to fear or despair or calamity or any other negative aspect of life. Why? Because there is always hope.

“When the world says, ‘Give up,’ hope whispers, ‘Try one more time.’ ” ~ author unknown

And hope for me comes from my faith in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit because the Triune God I believe in has the power to give me strength to endure, help to persevere, and wisdom to see blessings instead of curses.

I just must grasp my faith with all of my might, hold on, and remember to be light in the darkness.

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” ~ Helen Keller

For me, the way to strengthen my faith is to humble myself in gratitude.

Am I disappointed that my entire family cannot gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing on our Thanksgiving feast at our dining room table? Of course.

But I’m thankful that my family is well. I’m thankful they all have provisions – good health, jobs, homes, enough food to keep their bodies nourished.

I’m grateful that our family is close-knit and even if we don’t agree on issues and sometimes drive each other a little crazy, we don’t suffer from unresolved conflicts and intense arguments.

Yes, my heart is thankful for each one of my family, my blessings to count – my understanding husband; my three thoughtful and loving adult children; my son-in-law and daughter-in-law, who add even more love into our family; my three adorable grandchildren who give me so much joy; my sisters, brothers-in-law, and their families.

Blessings? They are bountiful when we choose to remember them, to count them. And that abundance of life’s blessings is what I must focus upon as Thanksgiving Day arrives tomorrow.

Focus on the light instead of the darkness.

“Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.” ~ Amy Collette, author

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2020

Tuesday Tour: Road trip lights

We love road trips.

I know many folks prefer plane travel when the destination is several hundred or thousand miles away. But for us, a road trip is far more pleasant. You can take your time. You can stop wherever and whenever you like. You can traverse along the scenic route, not just the most direct one.

A couple of years ago, we traveled by car to New England, somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit. After days and various stops in Vermont and New Hampshire, we arrived in Maine.

We were anxious to drive along the Atlantic Ocean coast of that state, especially in Acadia National Park, and compare it to our memories of the Pacific coastline of Oregon.

We certainly weren’t disappointed and we located a number of lighthouses for me to photograph, although this trip was completed prior to our acquiring our trusty U.S. lighthouses map and guide. The unique Egg Rock Light, located in Frenchman’s Bay, was one of those.

Since it is situated out in the water, I had to resort to using a telephoto lens to attempt a capture, and I don’t think it’s a great photo. The surrounding scenery though was gorgeous.

However, you can ascertain from it that this lighthouse is a square, brick tower extending out of a square keeper’s dwelling. The second building there is the fog station.

Egg Rock Light was constructed in 1875 but was automated in 1976 by the U.S. Coast Guard. Today, it still is an active navigation aid managed by the Coast Guard and flashes red every 40 seconds.

An interesting historical tidbit is how Egg Rock got its name – an abundance of birds’ eggs could be collected on the island, but seabirds abandoned the island after the lighthouse was built. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, today the site is owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is not open to the public.

Our next lighthouse stop within Acadia National Park was more spectacular – Bass Harbor Head Light.  Located on Mount Desert Island in Tremont, Maine, this cliff-side brick light marks the entrance to Bass Harbor and Blue Hill Bay.

Although there are well over 60 lighthouses in Maine, not many of them are accessible by driving vehicles but Bass Harbor Head Light Station is one of them. Normally the parking lot is free and the grounds are open daily from 9 a.m. until sunset. Now, of course, covid-19 restrictions apply.

After arriving there, we followed a path that led us to the tower and a viewing area where the harbor and distant islands could be observed.  We viewed the bell, now outside the tower, and plaques detailing the lighthouse’s history on the grounds. Neither the tower itself nor the keeper’s house is open to the public.  

For the brave at heart and fit in body, you can also take a path leading to a stairway down the cliff, but one has to keep in mind that there are no safety devices on the boulders below and the Maine coast is a rough one with many loose stones and slippery places.

The stairway back up to the lighthouse is also very steep. We chose only to go part way, although now I realize it would have provided a more dramatic photograph from the ocean side of the lighthouse had we ventured to the bottom.

Standing 56 feet above water, Bass Harbor Light was erected in 1858 with a fog bell and tower added in 1876. An even larger bell weighing in around 4,000 pounds was later installed in the 32-foot tower itself.  Electrified in 1949 and then automated in 1974, this light can be seen 13 nautical miles.

Even though the land upon which the lighthouse sits belongs to Acadia National Park, just this year, the light station was transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to the National Park Service. Rights to operate and maintain this navigational aid is still retained by the Coast Guard.

Bass Harbor Head Light Station’s claim to fame is that it is the fifth most popular site in Acadia National Park. An estimated 180,000 people visit it every year. It has also been featured on the America the Beautiful quarter minted in 2012 and appeared on a 2016 postage stamp depicting the National Park Service’s centennial.

Someday I’m hoping Papa and I can take more long distance road trips once again. And when we do, I’d like to go back to that rugged coast of Maine and beyond into our next-door neighbor country Canada to catch a glimpse of more lighthouses.

Like the vital rudder of a ship, we have been provided a way to determine the direction we travel. The lighthouse of the Lord beckons to all as we sail the seas of life. Our home port is the celestial kingdom of God. Our purpose is to steer an undeviating course in that direction. A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder—never likely to reach home port. To us comes the signal: Chart your course, set your sail, position your rudder, and proceed.” ~  Thomas S. Monson

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2020

Words for Wednesday: oh, deer!

Home, home on rural land, where the deer and the antelope stand….okay, no antelope. Wrong part of the nation for that. But we do have a plethora of deer and an assortment of other wildlife that traverse through our property out here in the country.

Critters of all kinds use our 2.4 acre yard as a bi-way from one wooded area to another. Our “wildlife refuge” has included bear, wild turkeys, quail, skunks, raccoons, groundhogs, rabbits, red fox, opossum, birds of all kinds, even a turtle, and of course, white-tailed deer. Lots of deer.

In just one year’s time, two have met their end via vehicle on the road in front of our house. When hit, those unlucky creatures flew through the air and landed dead on arrival in our yard. You haven’t lived until you walk to your mailbox and find a dead deer lying beside it.

Mostly, the deer run through our yard on their way elsewhere early in the morning or at night. Oh, we know they’ve stopped occasionally to chow down on our garden because we see their tracks all through it.  This summer, they found our strawberry plants way too delectable which is why Papa had to put a fence around it to keep them out.

Hardly ever though, do we actually see deer grazing in our yard especially in the middle of the afternoon. But last week, one brave, young doe decided to stop for snacks at our place.

After lunch, Papa left to finish some repairs at our daughter’s home, so I plunked myself down in our home office at the desktop to write a blog post.

After working busily and steadily, I needed a break so I ambled out to the kitchen to make myself a cup of hot tea. While filling the teakettle at the kitchen sink, I gazed out the window and spied her.

She was nibbling away at some bushes that produce some type of inedible-for-humans, red berries in our back yard. Just munching away and taking her good old time doing so. Unusual, especially for 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

I grabbed my camera and attempted a photo through a kitchen window because I didn’t want to scare her away. Taking a picture through not only glass but also a window screen did not satisfy me at all and the doe’s head was hidden by the bush as she plucked berries off there.

So I hurriedly stepped into some shoes (it was pretty cold outside), and slowly opened the French door leading to our backyard deck. She heard me, of course, but didn’t take off running. I was thoroughly surprised by that. Instead, she simply stopped eating and peered at me through the bush.

I stood stock still for a few seconds, and she commenced chowing down once more. I then quietly and slowly slipped out onto the deck and snapped a photo.

The click of my camera caused her to pause, then peek around the bush at me. I didn’t move. She didn’t move. We stood that way for a minute or so. But the lure of those berries, which must have been delicious, caused her to resume snacking.

Cautiously and ever so slowly, I moved towards the deck railing to try some closer shots. Again she heard the clicks and stared straight at me.  We engaged in a staring contest much like my kids used to do when they were young.

Who would blink first? Who would flinch first? Who would move first?

For a few seconds, we just watched each other. And then, in a soft quiet voice, I asked her “Are those berries good?” She never moved. She never flinched. She just kept watching me, curiosity causing her to stay.

I’ve never experienced that with a wild deer before. Why wasn’t she afraid of me? Usually, deer are so skittish, they dart away as soon as they spot a human. I’m not sure how long we both stood there keeping our eyes on one another.

Suddenly, the sound of a vehicle coming down our driveway broke our reverie.  Boom! Like a shot, she was off, dashing away as fast as her four spindly legs could carry her, back into the tree line that separates our property from the farmer’s field behind us.

I can’t help wondering what her fate will be. Will she meet her end from a vehicle or from the blast of a rifle or a piercing of an arrow during deer hunting season?

Whatever transpires, she gave me a pleasant, little gift that day. A moment of tranquility amidst the noise of the world’s craziness right now.

That little doe feasting on berries in my yard made me smile, provided a moment of delight, something I truly needed.

In this November month of Thanksgiving, I consider the blessings – yes, I will count them one by one – that God bestows on us even in circumstances that are trying and difficult. And I count that little doe visit as one of them.

It reminded me, as always, how grateful I am to live here in the country – in rural land, in what some folks call “fly over land.” I wouldn’t trade it for any other place because I can find happiness right in my own back yard.

“I don’t have to take a trip around the world or be on a yacht in the Mediterranean to have happiness. I can find it in the little things, like looking out into my backyard and seeing deer in the fields.” ~ Queen Latifah

©mamasmeptynest.wordpress.com 2020

Tuesday Tour: Guiding light in autumn

It won’t come to you as a surprise.

If you’ve been a reader of Mama’s Empty Nest for very long, you are probably quite aware that autumn is my very favorite season of all.

Oh, I like winter enough when it snows and is frosty outside. Spring rates as my second favorite season because finally color bursts forth across the landscape. Summer? Blech. I only tolerate those months of the year when it’s not hot and humid and that doesn’t happen very often in my neck of the woods.

Since Papa and I entered the empty nest stage of life well over a decade ago when our last offspring headed off to college life, we’ve enjoyed taking vacations in the fall. And now that we’re retired, traveling during that season suits us even more. The weather is usually very pleasant and sightseeing spots are far less crowded.

Our trip to Michigan last year was no different except that we encountered much colder weather than we expected. But even though we had to find a retailer to purchase winter hats and gloves to stay warm, we relished in our sightseeing – especially all of the lighthouses we visited in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

We spent a day enjoying snow flurries while touring that area with our trusty lighthouse map/guide specifically to find a couple of lighthouses. Our day trip ended in Sault Ste. Marie shivering in rapidly falling temperatures at sunset to watch a ship proceed through the locks there, which is one of the most heavily used commercial shipping canals in the world.

Prior to that though, we traveled along the shoreline of the deepest and coldest of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior, to Point Iroquois Light 20 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie.

The area known as Point Iroquois was named by the Ojibwa for the Iroquois war party who invaded the area in an attempt to dominate the fur trade but were defeated in a massacre in 1662. The name used by the Ojibwa in their native language meant “place of Iroquois bones.”

After French explorers arrived in the area, the point became a notable landmark, especially once Sault Ste. Marie was established as a settlement. By the mid 1800’s, copper and iron ore were discovered in the area resulting in the need for a passage for ore-carrying vessels to safely travel and the “Soo Locks” was built.

Because of the increased volume of water traffic leaving and approaching the locks and the very hazardous weather conditions in the area, the addition of lighthouses along Lake Superior became apparent. 

Construction of Point Iroquois Light Station, which would serve to guide ships through a narrow channel between shallow sand bars and shoals off the point and rocky reefs on the Canadian side of Whitefish Bay, commenced in 1854 and was completed the next year. The light was emitted for the first time in September 1857.

The original lighthouse consisted of a cylindrical 45-foot wooden tower with a detached one-and-a-half story stone dwelling for the keeper’s quarters. Years later, both structures were in poor condition, so construction began on a new 65-foot brick tower and eight-room keeper’s home in 1870, which still stand today.

When a fog signal was added to the station, another keeper was required, so an addition to the keeper’s home was added in 1905 to provide more living space.

After 107 years of service, Point Iroquois Lighthouse became deactivated in 1963 when it was replaced by the automated Gros Cap Point Light in Canada. The lantern room’s Fresnel lens was removed, shipped to Washington, DC’s Smithsonian Institute, and the lighthouse property deemed excess. In 1965, the U.S. Forest Service assumed responsibility for the property.

Ten years later, the light station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and during the 1980’s, Bay Mills-Brimley Historical Research Society joined the forest service in restoring the lighthouse and creating a museum and gift shop in the keeper’s dwelling.

Despite the navigational light and fog horn aid Point Iroquois provided in its many years of service, occasionally ships still wrecked in the passage. Such an event occurred in 1919 during a November lake storm.

The steamer Myron sunk in the freezing lake and 16 of the crew lost their lives. The light keeper at the time found their bodies washed ashore and had to transport them to a nearby town undertaker. Reportedly, the undertaker paid $10 apiece for “floaters.”

Treacherous winter weather also took its toll when the keeper and assistant took a team of horses out on the ice to either fish or gather ice blocks to store in the ice house.

On more than one occasion, horses broke through the ice because of soft spots where warm springs bubbled up. During one such episode, the horses became so frightened that they thrashed around and unfortunately sank into the icy lake to their deaths.

Those are just some of the stories about the light keepers and their families visitors learn about when viewing exhibits at this light station’s museum.

The lantern room is open to the public and you can climb the 72 steps of the circular iron stairway to reach it. Papa and I accomplished that and were rewarded with an amazing view of Lake Superior, particularly beautiful in autumn.

We peeked into the assistant light keeper’s apartment which has been restored to reflect how it looked during the 1950’s. We thoroughly delighted in a short walk along a wooded boardwalk path to a cobblestone beach where we gained different perspectives of the lighthouse amid the fall foliage. 

Currently during this pandemic, the Point Iroquois Lighthouse is closed. However, visitors can still stroll the boardwalk and grounds there.

I sincerely hope my readers are finding the stories of all of these lighthouses I highlight on my Tuesday Tour posts as fascinating as I am. Each lighthouse has a different story to tell just as each has a purpose for existing.

And isn’t that just like us as human beings? We each have a story, we each have a purpose, and sometimes, our purpose is to tell our stories to help someone else.

Just like a guiding lighthouse.

“ …what he told himself on those sea-soaked nights…Others joined in and it was discovered that every light had a story-no, every light was a story. And the flashes themselves were the stories going out over the waves, as markers and guides and comfort and warning.” ~ Jeanette Winterson in  Lighthousekeeping

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2020

Champions of a noble cause

One hundred and one years ago on this 11th day of November, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed this date as the first commemoration of Armistice Day, noting the end of World War I.

This day became known here in our country as Veteran’s Day, a day we still celebrate and give honor to those who served our country in military service.

“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.” ~Bob Dylan

I didn’t grow up in a military family but there are several veterans in my family who I admire and hold in high esteem because of their willingness to protect my country and my freedom.

And I’d like to honor those veterans today in my thoughts as well as highlight some photos I’ve taken over the years pertaining to three military branches – U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force – that I think are appropriate for Veteran’s Day. 

I regret that I don’t have pictures to honor the U.S. Marine Corp or the U.S. Coast Guard, but please know that I am thankful for those military veterans as well.  

Taken at U.S. Air Force Museum, Dayton, Ohio

My father did not serve in World War II, although he certainly would have if he had not been given a health deferment. But my father’s brother, my uncle, did go to war and blessedly, he returned.

While clearing out my parents’ home after their deaths, my sisters and I discovered many postcards, written by my uncle and sent to our grandmother (his mother) during his time at war, as well as a couple of photos. We gave them all to our cousin, the son of our uncle, but before I did so, I scanned a few pictures of my uncle in his uniform.

My husband’s oldest brother, who passed away last year, was a U.S. Navy veteran. It touched our hearts that he was given a military burial and received some veterans’ benefits before he succumbed to cancer.

I also want to honor other vets today who have been part of my life.

My brother-in-law, married to my oldest sister, served in the U.S. Army prior to the Vietnam era.

A former brother-in-law went to Vietnam and I still remember the anxiety and concern our family felt while he was stationed in that war zone.

I also still recall the disgraceful way our Vietnam veterans were treated, which I believe was horrendous, when they returned home.

I also must give a salute of respect and appreciation to our many friends and acquaintances who also answered the call and fulfilled their duty to protect our country by their military service.

And last, but certainly not the least, I honor my own husband, a former Army officer, who willingly answered the call to duty when he joined R.O.T.C. in college and then spent several years on active duty after graduation and our marriage. One of those years we spent apart when he followed orders to serve and protect our freedom while overseas.

Not only should we give reverence to our veterans, but also to their families as well.

It’s not easy being a member of a military family. The hardships are many and they must be strong and steadfast as they support their loved one, at home and abroad.

Papa occasionally wears a baseball cap with the words U.S. Army embroidered on it and it causes me to smile when a stranger will say to him, “Thank you, sir, for your service.”

Even though my husband served his country and us many years ago, he never fails to support his fellow veterans and to educate and inspire the younger generation about the reasons why our military personnel serve our country.

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”~ G.K. Chesterton

Every year, our local high school invites former U.S. servicemen to a Veteran’s Day assembly at the school where they are honored and given opportunities to speak to students about their military experiences.

One year, my husband was invited to speak. His topic? Why it’s important to understand that those men and women who proudly serve begin their duties with an oath, promising to protect and defend the United States Constitution and they take that oath very seriously.

An enlisted service member’s oath is as follows:

“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962).

An officer’s oath, the one my husband took, is a little different:

“I, _____ , having been appointed an officer in the _____ (Military Branch) of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.” 

On this Veteran’s Day due to the pandemic, that high school assembly will not take place, but I urge all of us Americans – young and old – to offer our appreciation, our respect, and our undying gratitude for our veterans.

They deserve it thousands of times over.

We remember those who were called upon to give all a person can give, and we remember those who were prepared to make that sacrifice if it were demanded of them in the line of duty, though it never was. Most of all, we remember the devotion and gallantry with which all of them ennobled their nation as they became champions of a noble cause.” ~ Ronald Reagan

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2020

Tuesday Tour: Whitefish Point Lighthouse

Today is November 10th – a day of remembrance at the lighthouse featured in my Tuesday Tour.

Last year, Papa and I traveled to Michigan and visited various sites around two of the Great Lakes there. On a downright cold and blustery October day, we located the oldest operating lighthouse on Lake Superior.

Whitefish Point Light is considered to be the most important such structure on this Great Lake because all ships either entering or departing Lake Superior pass by this lighthouse.

Its location in Whitefish Bay on the southern shore of the lake is considered a treacherous spot earning it the nickname, “Graveyard of the Great Lakes.” Out of 550 known significant shipwrecks lying on the lake’s bottom, around 200 are in the Whitefish Point area, more than any other part of Lake Superior.

Thirty-some years before the placement of this lighthouse, a 60-foot trading ship named Invincible became the first known ship to sail on Lake Superior and it sunk in fierce winds and overwhelming waves.

The need for a lighthouse here became very apparent in the following years as ship traffic increased. Whitefish Point Light first became illuminated in 1849, marking the end of an 80-mile stretch of lake shoreline known as Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast and the entrance to Whitefish Bay. A four-room, one-and-a-half story stone keeper’s dwelling was attached to the 42-foot stone tower in this isolated location and retaining keepers there was difficult.

Constantly barraged by wind and weather by 1861, Whitefish Point Light was replaced by an 80-foot tall steel cylinder, supported by skeletal steel framework and designed to reduce the stress of high winds.  Fog signals were added and by 1894, a second assistant keeper was necessary to continue guiding mariners through turbulent waters there.  

The sheer force and duration of violent storms on Lake Superior have been compared to that of a hurricane. When sudden and treacherous winds build up over the deep lake’s many miles of open water, massive waves, often coming from several different directions, slam into ships with great intensity.

One such storm occurred in 1905 and is noted as the worst ever on the Great Lakes. During a combination of snow, wind, freezing cold, and violent waves, the temperature plunged to 12°F below zero. The after storm tally was 30 shipwrecks with some vessels actually thrown out of the lake’s water.

The U.S. Lighthouse Service operated this light station from 1849 until the U.S. Coast Guard instituted a Lifeboat Rescue Station there in 1923. Several changes transpired in the following years and in 1930, both the fog signal and a radio beacon signal were synchronized to help mariners determine their distance from Whitefish Point and guide them safely through the area.

The Lighthouse Service united with the Coast Guard in 1939; the lifeboat station was closed in the early 1950’s, and all Coast Guard personnel removed in 1970 after the light house became automated. The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

But the Whitefish Point Lighthouse was still very much needed. It has guided vessels for over 170 years, and continues to do so, except for one horrendously stormy night.  

It was November 10, 1975 – 45 years ago today – when the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald struggled against extremely hazardous weather conditions as it attempted to make its way towards Whitefish Bay.

An assortment of failures accompanied this fated vessel. Its radar system had been damaged and the tempestuous lake was taking its toll. The ship’s captain, who was a 44-year veteran sailor, reported: “We are taking heavy seas over our decks; it’s the worst sea I’ve ever been in.”

And then the unthinkable happened. The automated radio beacon at Whitefish Point suddenly switched off providing no guiding light and the raging storm overtook the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Around 7:15 that night, the 729-foot ore freighter and a crew of 29 souls perished into the deep, cold lake.  The wreck lies offshore about 15 miles northwest of this lighthouse.

If you are of a certain age like me, you’ll well remember a song written, composed, and recorded in 1976 by Canadian musician Gordon Lightfoot called, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It’s a long song, but you can listen to it and read the lyrics in the video below.

Every year on this date, a public memorial service is held at Whitefish Point Light in remembrance of the Edmund Fitzgerald crew. The ship’s actual bell, which was recovered from the shipwreck site in 1995, is rung 30 times, once for every crew member and once again for all sailors who have been lost at sea.

It’s fascinating to note that Lake Superior’s water is so cold it preserves shipwrecks quite well and scuba divers at the Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve can enjoy 30-50 feet of visibility even at 100-foot depth.

Actually, a group of divers called the Great Lakes Shipwreck History Society researched shipwrecks in this area and consequently, opened the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum on the Whitefish Point Light Station grounds in the 1980’s.

Owning the site, this society restored the keeper’s quarters, lighthouse, fog signal building, and all the structures associated with both the Lighthouse Service and the U.S. Coast Guard Lifeboat Station.

Both the lighthouse and the museum are normally open from May 1-October 31 daily, 10 a.m-6 p.m. An admission fee is charged to visit the lighthouse itself and the museum, but there is no charge to walk around the grounds, visit the gift shop, or stroll on the beach, where a memorial monument to the Edmund Fitzgerald is located.

When we visited, the wind was ferocious and the cold air quite piercing that October day, but there were visitors on the grounds and on the beach.

Today, this anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, I consider this thought – that freighter foundered and went down into that cold, deep lake and those men lost their lives in the midst of a terrible storm.

Yet they were only 15 miles from a lighthouse.

There are many of our fellow human beings drowning while they’re caught in a whirlwind of violent storms in life. Are we reaching out to them, extending a light that may rescue them from harm’s way, guiding them to a place of security and well-being? Or are we allowing them to sink into despair, fear, and anxiety?

Maybe I am a lighthouse and so are you.

“Don’t forget that maybe you are the lighthouse in someone’s storm.” ~ Unknown

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2020

Words for Wednesday: Progression

You know how it goes – you take one step forward and it seems like you end up two steps backward.

Just this past weekend, we who live in places that adhere to Daylight Savings Time turned our clocks back one hour. The old mantra for these time changes is “spring forward, fall backward.”

But really, who wants to go back in time? Go back to high school days? Not on your life, if you ask me. Perhaps there is a time you’d like to return to so you could rectify a wrong or make a different decision. We all have instances in our lives that we regret, but that’s how we learn – from our mistakes.

Or maybe you’d like to step backwards in time to relive those joyous events in life, those happenings that made you so very happy. I can understand that desire for time travel, but what lessons would we learn if all our days were pleasant and blissful?

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” ~ Frederick Douglass

For the most part though, I think human beings like to move forward. Make progress. Not dwell on the past but look ahead to the future.

These thoughts came to mind during one of my early morning walks taken with my husband, the Papa of this empty nest. We walked along on a crisp autumn morning discussing current events which included subjects like politics and the pandemic.

In both cases, it doesn’t seem like our society makes much progress. Politics is still an ugly subject causing people to become angry and close-minded when someone doesn’t agree with their stance.

And here we are nine months into pandemic mode still under the thumb of a virus that prevents us from moving forward into normalcy of life.

Progress? It certainly doesn’t seem like it.

As I weighed these thoughts in my mind while walking along fallen autumn leaf-covered sidewalks, I couldn’t help but notice all the varying kinds of leaves. Maple, oak, birch, sycamore, beech, poplar, elm, and chestnut.

If someone desired to gather an assortment of different fall leaves, it would make a nice project, I thought. And then I began noticing the variations of color even in the same type of leaves.

Here, a dark maroon red and there a crimson red. I stopped and picked them up. There a leaf turning russet. Here a golden yellow. And even there, one still green with no signs yet of changing colors.

I gathered all five leaves, carried them during the rest of my walk, and took them home with me.

“It will make an interesting photograph,” I told Papa.

And then as visual pictures often provide ideas in my mind, one word popped into my mind. Progression. What better visual example of progression than the stages of autumn changing colors in those leaves?

Life goes on. Seasons come and go. The brilliantly colored leaves of autumn have fallen and we will progress into the winter season – actually we had our first dusting of snow just this past Monday. One season following another.

Life is like the seasons. This season of strife – warring politics and a restricting pandemic – is just another aspect of life as we make our way into the future. And it is for that future we must hope.

We must never give up hope even as we face hardships and difficult times. We hope for better outcomes, we cling to hope as we progress into tomorrow no matter the struggles we endure today.  Sacrifice and suffering serve a purpose, to make us stronger than before.

 “As we progress along our path, our experiences help us to define our own character. ~ Richard Allan Krieger

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com