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

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

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

Tuesday Tour: Yaquina Head Light

Life became an adventure back then.

When our family of five found ourselves living in the Pacific Northwest back in the 90’s, it was like a whole new world opened up before our eyes.

Up until my husband accepted a company transfer that moved us there, we had lived the majority of our married life in the Midwest.

Flat open landscape as far as the eye could see became the norm during his military days when we resided in the state where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain. 

After he embarked on a sales rep career with a national company, we lived in the Kansas City suburbs of the sunflower state until we moved to the west coast.

Once our eyes beheld our new home, we viewed some of the most dramatic and beautiful scenery during the several years we lived only about an hour from the Pacific Ocean.

Fair weather or foul, the Oregon Coast is nothing like sandy, sun-drenched beaches you’ll find elsewhere. The coastline is mostly rocky and the temperature of the water very cold, even on a summer day when land temperatures reach 100°.  On a day like that, our children still shivered in the water and we had to coax them out before their lips turned blue!

But we found trips there all year-long to be a worthwhile adventure – one we will never forget, just like the lighthouse I’m sharing with you today on my Tuesday Tour.  

Today’s tour takes us to another of the first few such structures I have visited in person – Yaquina Head Light. (In the 1990’s, I only possessed a point and shoot film camera, so the photos’ quality is not the best.)

On one of our many trips to the Oregon coast, we stopped to view this 93-foot tall tower, noted to be the tallest lighthouse in the state. I can’t recall exactly when we stopped at this site, but I suspect it was during a wintertime visit to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, located in Newport along Yaquina Bay. This top-rated aquarium became famous in the 90’s because Keiko, the orca whale who starred in the movie Free Willy, lived there until he was transported to Iceland.

Yaquina (pronounced “yah-KWIH-nah”) Head Light is located north of Newport. Its claim to fame is that it is Oregon’s only remaining “historical, wooden” lighthouse and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Another interesting aspect of this lighthouse, which was once called Cape Foulweather Lighthouse, is that it is purported to be haunted. Folklore says that when a ship passes near it, compasses onboard become erratic.  Apparently, that has been explained by the fact that the ground upon which the lighthouse was built contains magnetized iron, which can throw off readings.

The lighthouse was actually constructed in Paris in 1868, then shipped to Oregon, and first was illuminated in August 1873. Back then, the light was provided by oil burning wicks, but the lighthouse was modernized and became automated in 1966. Another noteworthy fact about this particular lighthouse is that during World War 2, military servicemen were stationed there to watch for enemy ships.

Yaquina Head is still operational today and flashes a distinct pattern 24 hours a day: 2 seconds on, 2 seconds off, 2 seconds on, 14 seconds off. Its signal can be seen 19 miles out to sea.

When visitors scan the ocean view from the lighthouse, they may be able to spot whales as they migrate south during the winter months of December and January (to warmer water so they can breed and give birth) and again in the spring (March and April) when the whales head back north to the Bering Sea.

Whatever season one may visit and no matter what kind of weather befalls, Yaquina Head Light provides a beautiful view, one I’m glad to have witnessed.

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: Just a bend

The last several months have really thrown us all for a curve, haven’t they?

What we once considered normal life has taken a major turn.  Along with the covid-19 pandemic, it seems like the world just detoured into craziness as highlighted on the news every day – violence, devastation, natural disasters, you name it, it’s happening.

I’m reminded of a quote I once read by pastor and motivational speaker Robert H. Schuller: “What appears to be the end of the road may simply be a bend in the road.”

Times like these certainly are bends in the road and during them Papa and I realize how blessed we are to live in a mostly rural area. We’re close enough to enjoy a city with all it has to offer yet far enough away that we aren’t as affected by some of the less desirable aspects of city life.

During this period of quarantine, isolation, stay-at-home, flatten the curve,  or whatever you want to call it, we’re thankful we can jump in our car and travel through countryside without engaging with other folks and have to wear masks and social distance. Something that those who reside in heavily populated areas or in cities where houses are crammed together or people must live in apartment buildings have not been able to do.

On one of our “road trips” just to get out of our country abode and break up the monotony of staying home, we traveled to an area we’ve often traveled through. But there was one attraction there that we had never stopped at before – the World Famous Horseshoe Curve in Altoona, PA.

Shortly after our state re-opened with restrictions still in place, we checked to see if the landmark was open for visitors. We found the Railroaders Memorial Museum there remains closed, but we were pleased to find the Horseshoe Curve and visitor’s center open, but only on limited days and hours with state department of health restrictions and CDC guidelines in place.  So off we drove for our day-long excursion.

If you’ve been a steady reader of Mama’s Empty Nest for long, you probably remember that Papa is a train enthusiast. He loves them. Because his father’s life-long career was working for the Pennsylvania Railroad, my husband enjoys reading about trains, learning the history of them, and especially riding on them.  

We’ve taken several train excursions and visited railroad museums, but hadn’t traveled to the Horseshoe Curve at the foot of the Allegheny Mountains.

The drive through the mountainous area is scenic but that curve, an engineering feat completed by 450 railroad workers laying 2,375 feet of rail tracks in rough terrain all by hand in the 1800’s, prompted us to exclaim “wow!” Simply amazing.

We arrived at our destination, donned our face masks, paid our entrance fee, and toured the visitor’s center which only contained two other people besides us and we all practiced social distancing.

We learned a number of interesting facts about the Horseshoe Curve and its construction. 

Before the curve was constructed and then opened in 1854, travel across Pennsylvania from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia took the better part of three weeks or so by wagon. When traveling by train and canal, the same trip lasted about four days and relied on the Allegheny Portage Railroad, which didn’t operate at night, to cross the mountains.  Once the Horseshoe Curve was completed, the time for train passengers to travel across the state was reduced to about 15 hours.

Of course, Papa being the train and history buff that he is, spent much more time reading the information placards than I did. But I did find two noteworthy tidbits to share with you that surprised me.

During World War 2, the Horseshoe Curve was on a list of 12 key industrial sites targeted by Nazi saboteurs. Yikes! And well-known people who once traveled by train on the curve were several U.S. Presidents (Lincoln, McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, Hoover, FDR, Eisenhower, and Carter) as well as many entertainment personalities from vaudeville, the theatrical stage, and the silver screen.

After touring the visitor’s center, we ventured outside to view the curve up close and personal. Because the incline ride up the mountain, which takes visitors to the center of the curve was closed due to pandemic restrictions, we began the climb up the steps – all 194 of them – to the observation area.  

Shortly after we reached the top, we found a spot under a shade tree away from other visitors, and waited for a train to come along. We didn’t wait long! And actually during the time we spent there, two different trains traveled through.

Papa, as always, got a kick out of seeing them. And it truly was quite an experience to watch those lengthy trains approach and navigate that curve shaped like a horseshoe on the side of a mountain right in front of us. If you want to see an aerial view click here.

Of course, we enjoyed our road tripping day and a little sightseeing. We relished the opportunity to just get away and forget for a time what was going on in the world.

Once again the experience reminded me how grateful we are that even in this time of uncertainty, when life has definitely thrown all of us a curve ball, we can still hit it out of the park.

There’s always something for which we can be thankful even when life throws us a curve. That bend doesn’t mean the end!

Sometimes our biggest nightmare turns out to be our biggest gift. And it all comes down to our attitude. Life will throw us curve balls and disappointments, even heartbreak. But ultimately we can choose if we’re going to be bitter or better for the experience.” ~ Kathryn Orford

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: Heceta Head

Last Tuesday, I launched a new series of posts – Tuesday Tour – here on Mama’s Empty Nest. One facet of enjoyment Papa and I experience now in our foray into retirement years is traveling more. (Of course, traveling far from home remains on hold due to situations gripping us in a tight grasp right now in our country.)

So I’m doing the next best thing, recalling some specific places Papa and I once visited – lighthouses.

Last week, I explained that every Tuesday, I will take my readers on a tour of a different lighthouse that I’ve enjoyed photographing on our excursions. Lighthouses mesmerize me and they often provide a spectacular photo.

If you missed my introductory post detailing why lighthouses provide a spiritual kind of message to me, click here to read last week’s post.

Back in the 1990’s, due to a career promotion for Papa, we moved our family of five from the landlocked Midwest to the Pacific Northwest where we lived just about an hour or so from the Pacific Ocean. A trip to the coast soon became our favorite way to spend a day.

But for one of our vacations – a trip to San Francisco – we decided to drive along the coast of Oregon on U.S. Highway 101, also known as Oregon Coast Highway 9. This stretch of two-lane road took us through some of the most scenic areas along the Pacific coast in that state. We followed the route all the way into northern California.

Today I’m highlighting one of those spots, the Heceta (pronounced “Ha see ta”) Head Lighthouse, located just a few miles north of the Oregon Pacific coastal town of Florence.  It’s one of the first lighthouses I actually viewed in the early 1990’s although it was from afar.

The lighthouse there is still operational and touted as the strongest light on the Oregon coast.  The structure, which was built in 1893, sits high on a cliff making it a beautiful sight. Today, you can tour the lighthouse and also stay on the grounds in the assistant light keeper home, which has been turned into a bed and breakfast.

Back then my camera was a point and shoot film camera, hence no telephoto lens, so the photo – the arrow I placed in the picture points to the lighthouse – I snapped from a distance isn’t that great, but you can tell how dramatic the view is.

Even though my photo doesn’t show you Heceta Head up close, this shot brings some thoughts to my mind.  The view from a distance demonstrates how very isolated, high on a rocky cliff, that lighthouse truly is.

I can only imagine how lonely keepers must have felt manning lighthouses like Heceta Head. When we’re isolated, cut off from other humans, it’s a hardship. We need connections to other people. We aren’t meant to go through life totally alone.

Unlike a secluded lighthouse high on a cliff, we must not sever our ties to other people.  I think that’s even more important during this time when we’ve been forced to isolate ourselves. Humans aren’t wired for this. We need to feel connected to other human beings.

If you are feeling isolated and cut off from others, please reach out to someone who can help you navigate your way through your difficulty.

Want a better photo of Heceta Head than the one I captured so long ago? Click here.

“Lighthouses are endlessly suggestive signifiers of both human isolation and our ultimate connectedness to each other.” ~ Virginia Woolf

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com