Tuesday Tour: Strait lights of hope

We’ve been drifting out here in a sea of gloom for many months now. Some might even be in the grips of despair. Turmoil, uncertainty, chaos, and fear swirl around us.

It’s hard not to lose hope that at some point life will resume some normalcy. But we cannot surrender to the negative. Instead we must hang on with hope and cling to the light it provides.

In my own small way, by highlighting the lighthouses Papa and I have visited during our empty nest travels, my desire is to provide a spark of light in a dark world, to transport us to places where light  prevailed to guide those in the darkness.

A year ago, Papa and I journeyed to Michigan with specific places to see in mind – one of those being Mackinac Island. On our ferry ride from the mainland into one of the Great Lakes – Lake Huron – we caught a glimpse of two lighthouses.

Located in the Round Island Channel of the Straits of Mackinac, one is named the Round Island Passage Light and the other is simply called Round Island Light. Both are distinctly different.

Because it was a direct shipping route between Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, the narrow (less than a mile) passage between Round Island and Mackinac Island marking that hazardous area containing dangerous reefs became necessary.

Construction on the Round Island Light, also known as the Old Round Island Point Lighthouse, began in 1894. An interesting fact about this two-and-a-half story structure resembling an old-fashioned schoolhouse, is that a man named Frank Rounds was hired to build it. He had worked on Mackinac Island’s famous Grand Hotel, a luxurious resort that is still a popular site today.

The light emitted its first signal in May 1896 as a fixed white light, interrupted by a red flash every 20 seconds. A fog signal was added in October of that year which sounded a five-second blast each minute when needed.

By 1948 though, Round Island Light became unattended when a new tower, Round Island Passage, located just off Mackinac Island began operating. Decommissioned in the mid 1950’s, the Round Island Light became property of the Hiawatha National Forest.

A storm damaged the structure significantly in 1972 and one Mackinac Island summer resident spearheaded a campaign to save it with assistance from the Mackinac Island Historical Society, the U.S. Coast Guard, and others. Repairs were accomplished and the Round Island Lighthouse was named on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Almost 20 years later, restoration was once again needed. This time a Michigan Boy Scout troop, along with the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, stepped up to make repairs. The scouts continued to take care of the lighthouse.

In celebration of its 100th centennial in 1996, Round Island Light once again began operating as a private navigational aid, emitting two white flashes every 10 seconds. Currently, the Round Island Lighthouse Preservation Society works to provide restoration work for this historic landmark.

Just 1000 feet off Mackinac Island, construction commenced on a distinctly different beacon called Round Island Passage Light after World War 2 and it began operating in 1948. Instead of resident keepers, however, U.S. Coast Guard personnel manning the station on Mackinac Island remotely controlled the lighthouse by using a submarine channel from onshore.

A distinguishing feature of the 120 foot tower is ornamental – bronze Native American heads, commemorating the Great Lakes regional tribes who lived in that area and considered Mackinac Island a sacred place.

This automated and unmanned lighthouse was deemed unnecessary by 2013 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places the same year.

After touring Mackinac Island and the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (more of those lighthouses to come in future posts), we crossed the famous Mackinac Bridge into Mackinaw City and managed to visit two more area lighthouses.

Just off the south side of the huge suspension bridge we stopped at Mackinaw Point which marks the junction of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

There we found the Old Mackinac Point Light Station, completed in 1889 to mark the narrowest section of the Straits of Mackinac, and operated from 1890 until 1957.

The station consisted of a cylindrical brick tower and lighthouse keeper’s two-story dwelling, which actually was two separate houses under one roof joined by an access lobby. The keeper’s dwelling was also constructed of brick with limestone trim and a bright red, tin roof.

By 1957, the Mackinac Bridge was completed and since lights on the suspension structure were very adequate to mark the straits in this area, Old Mackinac Point Light Station was no longer needed as an active navigational aid.

Purchased by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission in 1960, the station became a part of Michilmackinac State Park, was restored and opened 12 years later as a point of interest in Michilmackinac Maritime Park.  But time, money, and dwindling public attendance caused the light station to close in 1990.

Again fundraisers came to a lighthouse’s rescue when enough money was raised to restore and reopen Old Mackinac Point to the public just six years later. Interestingly enough, one of the key leaders in the fundraising campaign was a gentleman named Jim Belisle and he was the great-grandson of the man who built the station.

When we visited there, the grounds were open, but the light station itself was closed. However, it remains quite the sightseeing spot since climbing the tower provides a spectacular view of the Straits of Mackinac. Currently the lighthouse is closed and according to its website, a tentative reopening is scheduled for the 2021 season in May.

Using our trusty lighthouse map and guide, we located another nearby lighthouse that was constructed to serve as a navigational aid through the Straits of Mackinac. Located about three miles west of Fort Michilimackinac, another historic spot worthy of visiting, McGulpin Point Light is noted for being the oldest surviving lighthouse in the Straits of Mackinac.

Operation at this light house began in 1869 but only continued until 1906 in McGulpin Point. The point itself was named for a British army officer named John McGulpin who once served at nearby Fort Michilmackinac.

Standing over 700 feet from the shore of Lake Michigan, one might wonder how this light truly served as a navigational aid for sailors passing between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan because this lighthouse is now surrounded by dense trees.

But if you climb to the top of the tower which is situated on a hill, you’ll see a sprawling view of the straits. The tower, which is only 40 feet tall, is set diagonally into a corner of a one-and-a-half-story keeper’s dwelling, which now houses a gift shop.

McGulpin Point was almost decommissioned as an aid to navigation in 1889 because construction had begun on Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse and confusing discussion ensued about having two lighthouses so near to one another. However, it was determined that both lights would “best serve” lake navigation in that area.

But by 1906, McGulpin Point’s operation was terminated and the property sold. Nearly 100 years later, the property owners at the time placed the lighthouse and adjoining land for sale. It didn’t sell until 2009 when Emmet County Commissioners purchased it and prepared it for public view.

In May of that year, McGulpin Point Lighthouse was re-lit in a ceremony that included Native American drummers and an invocation by the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians tribal chairman, Frank Ettawageshik, according to Lighthousefriends.com.

Navigating in the darkness through treacherous waters, whether it be along the coasts of a Great Lake or a great ocean, is dangerous. That’s why lighthouses existed – to offer a beacon of hope for safety.

Perhaps envisioning or simply viewing photos of lighthouses offers us a symbol of hope during this challenging time in our world. I can only hope.

“At some time, often when we least expect it, we all have to face overwhelming challenges. When the unthinkable happens, the lighthouse is hope. Once we find it, we must cling to it with absolute determination. When we have hope, we discover powers within ourselves we may have never known- the power to make sacrifices, to endure, to heal, and to love. Once we choose hope, everything is possible.” ~ Christopher Reeve

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Michigan vs. Pennsylvania

From my title you might think I’m writing about college football teams today – Michigan versus Penn State. It might be football season but football is definitely not the subject of this post.

If you read my post yesterday, you’ll remember I highlighted some Lake Erie lighthouses Papa and I visited on our autumn vacation last year to Michigan.

We left our home on a sunshine-filled, crisp fall October morning in 2019 and road-tripped on some blue highways along Ohio’s shoreline of Lake Erie. As the day progressed, so did the temperatures and it reached 80° by mid-afternoon and I began to regret my packing choices of cool weather clothes.

By the time we reached our destination in Michigan, the tide had turned, so to speak. We encountered much colder weather which eventually caused me to regret my packing choices again because I didn’t bring enough warm clothes, like hats, gloves, and a winter coat! We even encountered snow.

But there was another big difference that became so very apparent on that trip. Usually in our neck of the woods, we have some nice color on our deciduous trees during the autumn months, but for the last several years, our fall foliage just wasn’t that great. And being such a lover of the season, I missed those vibrant colors.

With each mile as we traveled northward through Michigan last October, my eyes beheld a feast of gorgeous, colored trees bedecked in vibrant shades. I just kept exclaiming, “Those trees, that color, oh, oh, oh!” as I grabbed my camera for shot after shot.

“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.”~ Emily Brontë

After being fall color deficient for so long, I absolutely reveled in seeing those lovely trees with their coats of scarlet, gold, russet, and amber.

That was a year ago. And now it’s 2020 and something magnificent happened — yes, I can say that even in this dreadful year of difficulty and hardships that we won’t soon forget.

Autumn, in all its glory, shined forth here in my hometown area. The leaves this year have been beautiful and Papa and I took another day-long road trip not too far from home just to bask in all their splendor.

So I thought I’d give my readers a little quiz (no need for test anxiety, this is just for fun!) and post some fall photos for you to identify. Some were taken in 2019  in Michigan and some were taken just recently here in my own little corner of Pennsylvania.

Can you identify which fall photos are from Michigan and which are from my home state? (Answers provided at the end of this post.)


“Autumn… the year’s last, loveliest smile.” ~ William Cullen Bryant

Well, how did you do? Here are the answers: #1 Pennsylvania 2020; #2 Michigan 2019; #3 Michigan 2019; #4 Pennsylvania 2020; #5 Michigan 2019; #6 Pennsylvania 2020; #7 Michigan 2019: #8 Pennsylvania 2020.

Anyone get them all correct? You get an A-plus!

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: Lake Erie lights 2

It’s an old adage but it’s true – what a difference a year makes. Pandemic restrictions curtailed our empty nest travels this year.

But one year ago this month (October 2019), Papa and I embarked on a road trip driving through the state next door to our final destination – Michigan, a state we’d only visited by changing flights in the Detroit airport.

Along the way, we opted for a blue highway route along the southern edge of Lake Erie in Ohio. And with our trusty lighthouse treasure map, we found three such structures to visit.

We first stopped at lovely park to eat a picnic lunch and catch a scenic view of the Lorain Harbor Lighthouse, also known as Lorain West Breakwater,  located in Lake Erie, a half mile off the town Lorain’s shore. 

Dubbed “The Jewel of the Port,” this lighthouse is open for public tours and also for private events, but can only be accessed by boat. When we stopped to catch sight of it, I used a telephoto lens to capture pictures.

Some interesting tidbits about this beacon is that it originated in the early 1800s from a simple lantern hanging on a pole at the mouth of the Black River. By 1836, a brick tower including a lantern room was erected on a pier to provide a fixed light for navigational purposes. Even though it wasn’t that impressive, the famous author Charles Dickens noticed the beacon while sailing from Sandusky to Cleveland in 1841.

Later a brick tower was constructed but as sand deposits built up along the pier, that effect moved the light closer to the shore. By 1875, that tower was replaced by a wooden one 46-feet tall. Damaged by ships, it eventually fell down and was replaced by yet another structure.

But it wasn’t until 1916 that construction began on the historic three-story lighthouse that still exists today. The U.S. Coast Guard manned Lorain Harbor Lighthouse from 1939 until it was automated in 1965. At that time, the light was deemed unnecessary and scheduled for demolition until the city’s community leaders and the Lorain Historical Society stepped in to save it.

The lighthouse became the property of the historical society in 1977 and the next year was named on the National Register of Historic Places. Since then this lighthouse has been refurbished, restored, and its foundation stabilized. Because of its location, it is open only during summer months. Another white tower named Lorain East Breakwater sits near this lighthouse, so you can view “two for the price of one.”

After we left Lorain, we traveled to Vermilion, Ohio where we saw the Vermillion Lighthouse located near the mouth of the river with the same name, which empties into Lake Erie.  

However, this particular structure is only a replica of a former lighthouse removed in 1929. Prior to that one, the first Vermilion Lighthouse, a wooden structure built in 1847, and renovated in 1859, eventually was replaced by a permanent iron lighthouse. A fascinating fact about the iron is that it was actually recycled from cannons that had been declared obsolete after the Battle of Fort Sumter during the Civil War.

Apparently, the citizens of Vermilion felt the lighthouse was a very romantic spot, even more so than Niagara Falls. Proof of that was written in a 1920 newspaper: “If all the residents of Vermilion were questioned and truthfully answered to the query, ‘Where did he pop the question?’ a large percentage of them would answer, ‘Down at the lighthouse.’ “

But the romantic aspect of the lighthouse wasn’t enough to save it because after an icy winter storm in 1929, the structure listed towards the river. So it was dismantled and replaced with a smaller steel tower. The old iron lighthouse then was transported to Buffalo, New York and renovated in 1935 to become the East Charity Shoal Light on the Saint Lawrence Seaway.

Many years later, however, to ensure the original Vermilion Lighthouse would not be forgotten, one man named Theodore Wakefield attempted to sustain its memory. Known for favoring historic preservation in his hometown, Wakefield’s childhood home was donated to Bowling Green State University which then sold it to the Great Lakes Historical Society.

The home eventually opened as the Inland Seas Maritime Museum and Wakefield headed a fundraising campaign to construct a replica of the 1877 Vermilion Lighthouse on the museum grounds.

The 16-foot replica, erected in late 1991 and dedicated in June 1992 as a Coast-Guard-sanctioned private navigational aid emitting a steady red light, resulted. However, the museum closed in 2011, reopened in Toledo as the National Museum of the Great Lakes, and then deeded the replica lighthouse over to the city of Vermilion.

A pleasant drive continued along Lake Erie to our next viewing stop, Marblehead Lighthouse, which has been featured on a postage stamp, showcased on Ohio license plates, and is currently part of the Ohio State Parks system.

Unfortunately, we found ourselves disappointed because the tower, a popular landmark and tourist attraction, was under renovation and wrapped in covered scaffolding. Since I couldn’t get a nice photo of it, click on this You Tube video of lovely Marblehead.  

The oldest continuously operating beacon on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes, this lighthouse is located along the rocky edges of Marblehead Peninsula in the nine-acre Marblehead Lighthouse State Park.  We did enjoy strolling the grounds which provides views of not only Lake Erie, but also Sandusky Bay, Kelleys Island, and South Bass Island. 

Still an active navigational aid today, Marblehead was constructed in 1821 with native limestone. This lighthouse existed as the only such aid in the Sandusky Bay area for many years. In 1897 when repairs were necessary, instead of building a new tower, the top eight feet of limestone were removed and a cylindrical, brick extension added making the lighthouse 65 feet tall.

A noteworthy item is that before it became automated, 15 lighthouse keepers tended the beacon and two of them were women. The intensity of the signal dramatically increased in 1923 when the light’s kerosene lantern was replaced by electric light but it was not automated until 1958.

Marblehead served as a strategic national defense point during World War 2 and following the war, the U.S. Coast Guard became responsible for it when the last civilian lighthouse keeper resigned. The Coast Guard continues to operate and maintain the beacon which flashes a green signal every six seconds which can be seen for 11 nautical miles.

The Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society operates a museum in the park inside the old keeper’s home, built in 1880. The grounds in this state park are open year round but the lighthouse and keeper’s house is only open in summer and fall.

However, it has been closed due to covid-19 restrictions. Since we visited in the fall of 2019 and when renovations were taking place, we were not able to tour either the museum or the lighthouse itself. 

Hopefully, we can take another road trip in the near future to see this iconic lighthouse uncovered.  The pandemic has just caused us to change course for the time being. We will resume our empty nest travels yet again. And I’m fairly certain visiting more lighthouses will be part of our itinerary.

“Knowing when and how to change course is important to success. Self-doubt is a lighthouse that will keep you from running aground. Don’t become shipwrecked on the rocks of time. Be willing to rethink your decisions and change course.” ~ Harley King

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

More than pumpkin spice

It’s October. And every year around this time, my heart sings. Why? Because out of the four seasons of the year, autumn is my favorite of all. And the month of October is usually when all of my senses heighten and I celebrate fall’s arrival.

Writer L.M. Montgomery may have summed it up best for me when she wrote this line in Anne of Green Gables, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

For me, autumn is about more than pumpkin spice. Matter of fact, I don’t go rushing out to purchase all things pumpkin spice like the “in crowd” does. It seems that everyone on social media rants and raves that the best thing about fall is pumpkin spice.

Nope, I beg to differ. Pumpkin spice certainly has its place – in a freshly baked pumpkin pie or bread or even cookies and the aroma of that is scrumptious. 

That delectable scent and taste of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves mixed in with pumpkin does tempt the nose and taste buds, but this season is about more than pumpkin spice.

It’s about warm, sunshiny days followed by cool, crisp nights.

It’s about apple picking time, the comforting feel of warm apple cider gliding down your throat, and the aroma of apples cooking in a huge kettle over an outdoor fire to make apple butter.

It’s about the distinct nutty scent of leaves and acorns wafting in the air.

It’s about those chilly mornings when you can see your breath as you exhale on your daily walk.

It’s about pulling out the warm, comfy sweaters and wrapping hand-knitted scarves around your neck.

It’s about a feast of color for the eyes, when brilliant golds, ambers, russets, maroons, and crimsons replace deciduous trees’ green leaves.

“Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.” ~ Stanley Horowitz

It’s about the distinct odor of wood smoke as you gather around a blazing bonfire with friends and family wrapped up in blankets and inching closer and closer to the burning embers for warmth while night draws its curtain over you.

It’s about weekend jaunts to the nearby farm turned pumpkin patch to snag the best shaped pumpkins for porch decorations, or to be carved into jack-o-lanterns, or cooked and baked into a pie.

It’s about gazing upwards into a clear night sky and marveling at the brilliant display of stars and if you’re lucky, catching the sight of a falling star shooting across the firmament.   

It’s about jumping for joy in an immense pile of raked leaves.

It’s about back to school buses on the road again and Friday night football games with high school bands’ melodic music and drum cadences serenading the air.

It’s about climbing aboard a tractor-drawn wagon, situating yourself on a bale of hay, and enjoying a hay ride in fresh air and glorious sunshine.

It’s about farmer fields of corn stalks turned into mazes.

t’s about fragrant walks through the woods and hearing fallen leaves crunch beneath your feet.

It’s about finding uniquely shaped gourds and Indian corn at the farmer’s market.

And it’s about celebrating 43 years of love and marriage with the man you call your best friend and partner for life.

It’s why I love autumn – the best season of all – way more than pumpkin spice.

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”~ Lauren DeStefano

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: Lake Erie Lights

One of the perks of empty nest retirement is that, for the most part, you can take off on an impromptu day trip whenever you feel like it.

On a whim one summer day last year, Papa and I decided to do just that and traveled northward in our home state. Although we’ve often been to and through the city of Erie and specifically to Lake Erie, we decided to spend a day exploring the area to see sites we hadn’t toured before.

Our excursion eventually took us to Presque Isle State Park where we visited two of the three Pennsylvania lighthouses situated on Lake Erie. Presque Isle is a peninsula that’s basically a sand bar located on the Lake Erie shoreline. Its name is derived from the French and means “almost an island.”

A fascinating folklore legend exists about Presque Isle. The Erie Indian tribe once inhabited the area because they believed the Great Spirit guided them to the shores of Lake Erie. In order to discover where the sun set in the evening, some of them entered into the lake paddling their canoes in that direction. But according to the legend, this made the spirits of the lake angry and a violent storm occurred.

They believed the Great Spirit heard their desperate cries during the storm and stretched his arm out into the water to protect them from the tempestuous lake, allowing them to safely navigate their canoes back to shore.  A sand bar formed where the Great Spirit extended his arm and blocked the turbulent water from harming his favorite people. After that, the sand bar, named Presque Isle, provided protection and a safe harbor for the Erie people.

The legend about Presque Isle is interesting enough but we found the lighthouses we viewed just as intriguing. Located on the northern shore of the state park, Presque Isle Light was constructed in 1872 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This picturesque lighthouse is 68 feet high and the original design called for cut stone blocks to construct it. However, that proved too expensive, so bricks were used instead. 

A barge anchored off shore from the building site held 6000 bricks for that purpose. One of those Great Lakes storms that occurs so often on Lake Erie caused the barge to break free and all of the bricks ended up in the lake.  To this day, intact bricks and bits and pieces, which many people believe were originally meant for the lighthouse, have been found on lake beaches.

Presque Isle Light was known as the Flash Light in its early days and was probably lit by oil because of its nearby vicinity to Pennsylvania’s oil country. Using an oil lamp burning inside the Fresnel lens caused the light to expand and produced a stronger beam.  Keepers and their families lived in the attached home, which was of considerable size since it consisted of nine rooms, until 1944.

Still an active navigational aid today for boaters on Lake Erie, this lighthouse is a popular spot for visitors during the summer season. When we visited last year, it was open to the public and while browsing in a nice gift shop located on the site, we found a treasure map – an illustrated 39 X 27 inch map and guide to every standing lighthouse in all 50 of the United States of America. The acquisition of that guide has fueled our desire to visit more lighthouses than ever.

The second Lake Erie lighthouse we visited on the Pennsylvania side was the Erie Harbor North Pier Light, also known as the Presque Isle North Pier Light, located at the far eastern end of Presque Isle State Park.

We parked our vehicle and then strolled out onto the pier, which is accessible to the public all year long even though the tower itself is not, to get an up close and personal view of the 34-foot high tower.  It’s also a popular spot for fishermen.

The original wooden tower was built in 1830 but in 1857 a schooner rammed it sweeping the tower away. Interestingly, the present black and white metal structure was forged in France and then assembled on site in Erie, but later moved east 450 feet in 1891 and then again moved in 1940 to its present location.  

By 1995, North Pier’s beacon changed from a fixed red beam to an automated red flashing light and is operated by the United States Coast Guard.  The old Fresnel lens that was removed is now exhibited in the Erie Maritime Museum, another fascinating and worthwhile place we visited in Erie.

This summer during the pandemic, Papa and I again ventured on a day trip to check out other Lake Erie lighthouses – only this time, we drove to the Ohio side of the lake.  Capturing photos of the two lighthouses we viewed proved more difficult though. 

First we located the Ashtabula Harbor Light, over a century old, situated in the rocky Ashtabula Harbor on a pier head.  The only spot we could find to access a view of it was from the beautiful Lakeshore Park. Becoming operational in 1876, the current square, pyramidal 30-foot Ashtabula Light replaced the first hexagonal tower built in 1836.

The present lighthouse endured some skirmishes when it was damaged by Lake Erie schooners and steamships which necessitated repairs and moving the lighthouse as well.

Another noteworthy fact involved a winter storm in 1928 when the lighthouse was covered in several feet of ice trapping two keepers inside for two days.  Eventually the keepers thawed the door open but had to dig a 40-foot long way through five feet of ice to escape. Can you imagine the claustrophobia that might cause?

Automated in 1973, this lighthouse was the last remaining manned beacon out of 68 Lake Erie lights. Currently, it is owned by the Ashtabula Lighthouse Restoration and Preservation Society and plans include restoring the structure and opening it for public tours.

From Ashtabula, we drove east to Conneaut (pronounced con-ee-aught and derived from Konyiat, the name Seneca Indians gave the creek emptying into Lake Erie here and meaning “place of many fish”).  Also located in Ashtabula County, we easily found the present Conneaut Harbor West Breakwater Lighthouse, which is only accessible by boat.

Not the first one to exist, several beacons serviced the Conneaut port from 1835 until 1934 when construction began on a new square, steel 60-foot tower. After its completion, the tower’s beam was visible 17 miles out into the lake and its fog horn could be heard from about 15 miles.

Originally, this tower was painted white, but later a black horizontal band was added to it.  By 1972, the lighthouse was automated and it currently emits alternating red and white flashes. In the early 1990’s the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office nominated Conneaut Harbor West Breakwater Light to be included on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2007, the U.S. Coast Guard regarded Conneaut West Breakwater Lighthouse as unnecessary and offered it at no cost to any federal, state, and local agency, and non-profit and educational organizations which met certain eligibility.  However, a qualified owner was not attained and subsequently, an online auction for the lighthouse was held.

A winning bid ensued but due to leasing issues, another online auction took place in 2011 when an Ohio businessman was awarded the lighthouse. By 2018 though, the lighthouse was listed for sale by the owner. Asking price – $72,000. I was not able to find any information on whether the lighthouse has actually sold since then or not.

Apparently, there are a number of lighthouses currently on the market all around the world. Living in a lighthouse in these modern times is an interesting concept and must appeal to some people.

I do appreciate and enjoy visiting lighthouses, and I love photographing them, but I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t want to live in one. Would you?

“We have a light upon our house, and it gives hope to all who sail upon the stormy seas. Do ya know what it means to have a light burning atop your home? It is safety, a place of refuge, seen by all as a signal that ye stand for something greater than this world, greater than us all.” ~James Michael Pratt, The Lighthouse Keeper, 2000 

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: true colors

While looking through photos I captured on a day trip with our nearby grandchild to an outdoor animal park, the vibrant colors of this parrot inspired me to write this post. But bear with me, it’s not about the parrot.

One of the most difficult aspects of relationships of any kind is when a mind-boggling revelation comes to light and causes you to wonder if you really ever knew the one with whom you had a connection.

We all like to believe that family, friends, and acquaintances possess the utmost caliber when it comes to character. But what happens when suddenly, under scrutiny or duress, the character that is revealed to us is anything but stellar? Definitely not what we thought?

At one time or another in life, we’ve all met someone who, over time, seemed to become quite different from how we first perceived.  And instead of the positive character we thought we knew, we see some downright negative character traits surface like a monster from the deep.

What happened? Did that person truly change? A Dr. Jekyll turn into a Mr. Hyde? Or was that the ‘real’ person all along?

Some of those people are truly self-centered and think of no one but themselves and eventually that becomes evident. Some are simply users. They get what they want or need from you by “playing nice” and then when they’re finished with you, they discard you like yesterday’s stale, dry bread. And some are purely narcissists.

It’s then when we say people show us their true colors. Their real personality, disposition, or temperament is revealed to us and we shake our heads and wonder why we didn’t realize that earlier.

The reality is some people are experts at masking their true colors. They’ve learned the fine art of manipulation of others to achieve what they want. They put on a smiling face that appears pleasant and likeable so you’ll be attracted to a friendship with them or worse, a romantic relationship. But as time goes on, the persona they tried to show you in order to win your favor slips. Their true identity becomes evident.

“People are like chameleons, they adapt to your favorite color so you’ll like them. But eventually, true colors always show.” ~ source unknown

True colors ultimately are revealed.

It seems to me way too many people’s true colors are exploding in rage as evidenced by nasty, vile, pure rancor spurting out of my fellow human being’s mouths as well as their fingers when they tap away on their keyboards and phones spewing vitriol all over social media and beyond.

I don’t broadcast my political views and I don’t write about them either here in my personal but very public blog or on social media. Believe me, I do have my opinions, but I choose not to make those known unless you are family or a very close friend – in other words, someone I trust completely.

For me, many of my viewpoints are a private thing because that’s what I was taught by my parents. Some things you just keep close to your chest and don’t reveal publicly and I learned the hard way to consider wisely when and how to discuss my opinions on divisive issues.

Years ago, a “friend” confronted me in anger online and told me how “disappointing” I was. This person assumed the worst of me without even discussing an issue with me. What tied this person’s shorts in a knot was not my opinion at all but what “seemed” to be my belief. We eventually straightened it out, but it bothered me that immediately, this friend assumed the worst about me which wasn’t true at all.

I felt like that person should have understood my true colors after knowing me for many years. But by that one jumping on a particular bandwagon at the time and assuming I was on the opposing side created some hard feelings. And that experience altered a relationship. To this day, I’m careful about discussing certain issues with that person because I believe any differing opinions I may have will be attacked.

Right now, politics is one of those issues that fuels people’s firestorms of animosity from both sides of the fence. Call it malevolence, call it contempt, you could also say it’s just pure hatred. Poisonous, bitter loathing just because people don’t agree.

I’ve seen so much aggressive arguing on social media, I truly can’t stand to log in much anymore. To me, the arguing is so hostile and so obnoxious, it repulses me. And honestly, I find it utterly pointless. Do you really believe you are going to change someone’s mind – especially that of strangers – on social media by yelling at them and calling them names because they don’t see eye to eye with you?

I have my thoughts and you have yours. I have my opinions and you do too. Why can’t we respect the fact that they may differ and agree to disagree in an amicable, calm manner? Why can’t we just have a decent discussion with someone who has an opposing view?

Or is it just that our true colors are showing?

For me, as a believer in Christ, I believe our true human nature without Him is revealed with willful sinfulness. We can try to convince ourselves that our motives are noble and that really, mankind is good. But without the saving grace of a Savior, our hearts are dark, venomous, and full of hate.

My desire is to show my true colors – revealing a heart that reflects colors of love and forgiveness, colors I learn from following and imitating my Savior. How about you?

“Hatred is one of the poisons; like jaundice, it alters the true colors of things.” ~ Rae Foley (pseudonym for author Elinor Denniston)

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: Assateague Light

We came in search of wild horses, instead we found a lighthouse.

On our jaunt to the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay a couple of years ago, after touring various sites in Maryland, we decided to head south to Assateague and cross over into Virginia for the afternoon. On a whim, we thought we’d particularly visit Chincoteague Island where we hoped to catch sight of a wild horse or two.

No such luck for us that day. All we spotted within the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge was some…ahem…evidence, shall we say, that horses had recently been where we were.

But we did spy a red and white striped 142-foot tall lighthouse in the distance when we stopped at a visitor’s center and were bird watching on the building’s deck looking over marshland.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Assateague Light is an active navigational aid located on the southern end of Assateague Island, maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard, and currently owned by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

We easily found our way by car to an area to park and walked the short hike along a trail to the lighthouse itself. We found that we were the only visitors there that afternoon.

Open to the public on weekends from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. from April through November with free admission, although donations are accepted to help maintain the lighthouse, unfortunately we visited on a weekday and it was closed.

However, visitors may take tours of Assateague Light to learn its history and about life as a light keeper. In addition, they can climb 175 steps to the top of the tower and view the surrounding areas of the eastern shore of Virginia and Maryland as well as Chincoteague, Assateague, and Wallops Island where NASA has a flight facility.

The current brick lighthouse is the second to stand at this location. After the original one, only lit by candle lantern and erected in 1833 was determined to be too short, construction of a new taller and more effectively illuminated lighthouse began in 1860.

The Civil War interrupted and the newer Assateague Light wasn’t completed until 1867. Converted to electricity in the early 1930’s, Assateague’s current beacon consists of two rotating lights flashing one after another 154 feet above sea level and can be spotted 19 miles out to sea.

As one of less than 20 lighthouses of its type still operational on the eastern coast of the United States, we were pleased we noticed it and took the time to visit historic Assateague Light.

I believe while gazing at that old lighthouse still shining without ceasing to guide sea vessels through shallow shoals of Chesapeake Bay, a glimmer of light flickered in my mind — a light bulb moment so to speak – as I photographed that beacon.

The allure of capturing photos of lighthouses began developing that afternoon at Assateague Light and inspired other empty nest travels for Papa and I to view these magnificent structures.

Something about the goodness of a lighthouse, the purpose it serves to keep mankind safe in perilous conditions appealed to me. Shouldn’t we all emulate a lighthouse for our fellow human beings?

“Man must behave like a lighthouse; he must shine day and night for the goodness of every man.” ~Mehmet Murat Ildan

©2020 mamasmeptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: butterfly freedom

They bring us smiles and a little moment of joy when we notice them flitting through the air. Butterflies. Every summer our back yard butterfly bush is full of them as they sip the sweet nectar of the flowering shrub.

As it often does, my mind takes me hopping away on rabbit trails when my eyes view certain images and seeing butterflies is no different. I can’t help but think of an old movie from the early 1970’s entitled Butterflies Are Free.

The film was based on a Broadway play by the same name, but long before that, the famed English author, Charles Dickens, wrote these words in his 1852-53 novel, Bleak House: “I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free. Mankind will surely not deny to Harold Skimpole what it concedes to the butterflies!” 

When watching butterflies float along in the air, they do connote an air of freedom, don’t they?  Those thoughts occur to me as I recall a day trip we ventured on last month.

Just as the calendar page turned over to September, Nana and Papa realized that the hours we normally spend caring for our first-born granddaughter on week days would become very limited. Why?

Little One would trot off to school the day after Labor Day when our local school district decided to open schools for those who wanted to attend. (Choices were made by parents to either send their masked children to school where social distancing would be the norm or continue online learning.)

So to celebrate those last days of our grandchild’s “freedom,” we suggested to our daughter that the four of us take a day trip – a visit to an interactive animal and adventure park in our area. 

Actually, we all needed a day of freedom – a get-away from pandemic life. We needed a day to feel ‘normal.’ A day for fun. A day spent outdoors in bright, warm sunshine.

Our day trip to this 144-acre park where about 60 different species of animals were available to observe, interact with, and feed was just the ticket.

Little One had a ball while her mommy helped her feed some of the animals. She exclaimed over seeing lions, bears, reindeer, giraffes, ostriches, zebras, camels, lemurs, giant tortoises, birds, and more…the animals were such fun to watch and the goats truly tickled her fancy.  

But hands down, one of the most favorite aspects of the day was entering the butterfly house. Different kinds of butterflies winged their way around us, landing on flowers planted inside the structure, and to Little One’s delight, on us!

The giggles were many as butterflies clung to her mommy’s flowered shirt, landed on Nana’s finger, and eventually situated themselves on Little One.

Butterflies remind us how truly wonderful freedom is. How delightful life can be with just a little sunshine, a day spent outdoors in nature, viewing some of the magnificent creatures God created, and spending time with loved ones.

“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.”  ~ Hans Christian Anderson

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tuesday Tour: lighthouse stories

The word lighthouse brings a certain image to mind – at least to my mind.  I picture a tall cylindrical tower perched on a rocky cliff far above a stormy sea. From its very top, a beacon flashes forth guiding, ever guiding seagoing vessels to safety.

However, my mental picture is altered since, by now, Papa and I have observed more than 30 lighthouses in our empty nest travels.  Some of those structures were located ocean-side, but others have stood watch on rivers, lakes, and bays. And some of those lighthouses certainly didn’t fit the description I pictured.

When we traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, and the eastern side of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay a couple of years ago, we noticed three lighthouses, two of which didn’t match that distinct lighthouse representation stowed away in my mind.

After touring nearby Fort McHenry in the morning, our next stop was the Inner Harbor on a hot, steamy, and thunderstorm-filled summer afternoon. Nevertheless, we managed to sightsee in the harbor and decided to end the day by taking a harbor cruise.

We didn’t purposefully intend to visit lighthouses during our trip because the idea of photographing them hadn’t yet appealed to me and we had other sightseeing plans already made. But during the cruise, I spotted what my mind determined was a lighthouse and took a photo of it (pictured above).

Actually, that structure proved to be a replica of the original 30-foot whitewashed brick Lazaretto Point Light, which had been erected in 1831 at the entrance of the Baltimore harbor and demolished in 1926.  The current replica, built using original blueprints of the old lighthouse to maintain accuracy, was constructed in 1985 by a shipping company close to where the original tower existed.  

The fact that the current Lazaretto Point’s a replica may not be that interesting, but some noteworthy anecdotes exist about the old, original lighthouse that once guided ships in and out of the Baltimore harbor. 

Located across from Fort McHenry, the parcel of land where the lighthouse stood was once the site of a quarantine hospital housing immigrants who arrived in the country with contagious diseases.

The word lazaretto, derived from the Italian language, meant such a hospital and so that area became known as Lazaretto Point.  Eventually, the hospital closed its doors, but since the government still owned the land, Lazaretto Point became an ideal place to construct a lighthouse.

Other fascinating facts connect famous writer Edgar Allen Poe to this particular lighthouse. Poe wrote a short story simply titled “The Lighthouse,” which he never finished, and supposedly the story was inspired by the Lazaretto tower.

Also, Poe apparently placed an ad in a local newspaper not long after the lighthouse was completed that claimed someone would fly from the tallest building at the time in the U.S. to Lazaretto Lighthouse on April 1. What actually ensued while a throng of people waited for such an event? It appeared that they had fallen for an April Fool’s Day joke by Baltimore’s native son.

The original lighthouse became the first one situated on the Chesapeake to receive electricity in 1914 but that did not prevent the tower from succumbing to demise. Today the Lazaretto Point Light replica merely represents a part of Baltimore history. While it does contain a light, the structure is not an active navigation aid.

Also while cruising around Baltimore’s harbor, we had a nice view of another structure that didn’t fit the image of lighthouse but actually was such a structure – the Seven Foot Knoll Light.

This squat and unusual looking structure is called a screw-pile lighthouse because it was built on special iron pilings with screws that could be twisted diagonally into the bottom of the bay at a depth of 10 feet or more, which gave the lighthouse stability, especially needed in icy winters.

Seven Foot Knoll was actually the second such lighthouse built on the Chesapeake Bay and the first of its kind erected in Maryland. Constructed in 1855, it carries the distinction of being the oldest surviving screw-pile in that state.

Originally constructed at the mouth of the Patapsco River atop a knoll in the bay called Seven Foot Knoll, this historical, circular structure is made entirely of iron and is noted for its red color.

There’s also a tale associated with this lighthouse. In 1933, one of the lighthouse keepers received a Congressional medal for heroism for single-handedly rescuing a foundering tugboat crew during a raging storm.

However, with no keepers assigned there after becoming automated in 1948, the structure became damaged due to corrosion and vandalism. By 1987, a new navigational aid replaced the lighthouse.

Ownership of the original Seven Foot Knoll then was transferred to the city of Baltimore and the screw-pile relocated by barge the next year to Pier 5 at the city’s Inner Harbor. There it now stands on its own legs as a museum, maintained by the Living Classrooms Foundations.  For an admission fee, visitors may tour it daily from spring until fall and on weekends only in winter.

After leaving Baltimore, Papa and I toured Annapolis and then headed to the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay. One of our destinations was St. Michaels, Maryland where we planned to visit the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.  Little did we know that another screw-pile lighthouse, Hooper Strait Lighthouse, was an exhibit of the museum, and had been relocated from its original location to St. Michaels.

Known as one of only four Chesapeake Bay screw-pile lighthouses still surviving out of 40 that were built in Maryland, Hooper Strait Lighthouse is the second structure that once was situated in Hooper Strait.

The first one, constructed in 1867 to guide boats passing through shallow and dangerous shoals in the mile-wide strait connecting the Chesapeake Bay with Tangier Sound, was destroyed 10 years later by ice. In 1879, the second one, a hexagonal dwelling, designed in a cottage-style and painted white with a black lantern on top, was constructed elsewhere and transported by boat to the site.

Some sad events occurred in this particular lighthouse. As one can imagine, being a lighthouse keeper could be a dangerous job and several of Hooper’s Strait keepers suffered tragedy.

When the original structure was destroyed by ice, the then keeper, frostbitten, had to be rescued. Later, another keeper fell off the lighthouse, drowned, and his body was found drifting in the strait. Still another keeper was found dead in the keeper’s quarters under some mysterious circumstances.

By 1954, however, Hooper Strait Lighthouse was fully automated and no longer required a keeper and as happened so often afterwards, it fell victim to decay and vandalism.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s plans to demolish this screw-pile structure halted when the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum came to its rescue. Eventually, the 42-ton lighthouse was relocated in 1966 from its pilings onto a barge and transported 40 miles to its current location at Navy Point in St. Michaels.

Today the lighthouse is a popular permanent exhibit at the museum, which is now re-opened to the public after being closed due to the pandemic. Only the first floor of the lighthouse is accessible at this time however.

Hopefully in the near future, anther experience once offered will be resumed. That experience included dinner, a lighthouse tour, opportunities to stand watch and fulfil daily chores as a keeper that were typical of a light station during the 19th century, and ended with an overnight stay inside the lighthouse.

The various lighthouses Papa and I have visited each tell us a story. Maybe that’s why I have found viewing, photographing, and learning their history to be so enjoyable.  

However they are designed, whatever materials they’re constructed from, and wherever they stand, whether it’s beside ocean, lake, river, or bay, they serve as a guiding light and offer a look back at some interesting historical stories.

I do hope my readers are finding my Tuesday Tour of lighthouses interesting. I have more pictures stored in my photo cache to share with you in the next few weeks.

I’ll tempt you with this enticement to keep following these posts – the best is yet to come, I’m saving the best for last!

You’ll just have to come back again for…the rest of the story.

“Lighthouses are not just stone, brick, metal, and glass. There’s a human story at every lighthouse; that’s the story I want to tell.” ~Elinor DeWire

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: Just smile

The list would be so very long.

Because of all the many restrictions that have been placed on us due to ongoing fear and paranoia about that nasty virus that somehow became unleashed on our world and created havoc everywhere months ago, so many aspects of our lives have changed.

And if we were to compose a list of those things we miss because of this craziness, it would be longer than a record of what a child wants for Christmas.

What do we miss? Let me count the ways. We miss gathering together with family and friends for all kinds of social events and observances – birthday parties, weddings, bridal and baby showers, picnics and potluck dinners, graduations, even memorial services, and congregating together for just plain fun.

We miss attending worship services in person with our fellow believers, and in some cases, just singing our praises to our God, not just sitting in front of a computer or phone watching online.

We miss visiting our loved ones in care facilities and they miss us desperately. We miss sitting in a hospital waiting room with family praying for a good outcome from a medical emergency.

We miss face-to-face meetings with our doctors, dentists, physical therapists, optometrists, chiropractors. We miss undergoing medical tests and procedures that are imperative to maintain good health.

We miss festivals and fairs, community events, and participatory fundraisers for good causes. We miss attending the theater, the movies, and concerts. We miss supporting our favorite sports in person, particularly watching our own children’s and grandchildren’s athletic events.

We miss enjoying a nice dinner out in a restaurant full of other people instead of eating take-out food in cartons at home or having “car picnics” in our vehicles after going through fast food drive-through joints.

We miss sending our children off to their first day back at school, knowing their teachers will instruct them well and they can play with their friends at recess instead of worrying over whether they’re understanding new concepts via online learning and hearing them cry because they can’t play with their friends while they’re weary of trying to learn from a computer.

We miss sending our young adults off to college in a normal fashion where they can exchange ideas in person and mingle together to make new friends instead of being sequestered in their dorm rooms doing online learning (why pay room and board for that??).

We miss seeing our co-workers in meetings at our physical offices, working alongside them as we converse and brainstorm in person instead of through video conferencing.

We miss shopping just for fun, not a mad dash in and out for just the basics hoping the store shelves aren’t empty. We miss wandering up and down store aisles willy-nilly instead of following the directional arrows and the social distancing areas marked on the floor.

We miss all too many locally owned shops and restaurants who have been forced to close their doors for good.

We miss being able to breathe freely without the hindrance of a mask smothering our noses and mouths, fogging up our glasses, and causing us to feel like a criminal every time we put one on before going out in public.

We miss living a life where we aren’t permanently attached to our little bottles of hand sanitizer, or wipes, or sprays.

We miss a lot! But you know what I imagine we miss the most? The touch of our fellow human beings. We miss shaking hands. We miss warm hugs of greetings. We miss a caring hand upon our shoulders. We miss a pat on the back.

And for me, I miss seeing people’s smiles.

“What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.”~ Joseph Addison

Everywhere I go, I’m surrounded by masked people, for the most part. Those masks hide their expressions from me just as this darn mask, no matter how lively or bright or playful the material is, hides my face from them.

And I hate it. I hate not seeing people smile. I hate the fact that people I pass as we must social distance (!) can’t see me smiling at them. So they don’t respond with the same gesture.

It’s depressing. It’s denigrating. It’s dehumanizing.

It stinks, it makes me angry, yet it makes me even sadder over the state of our humanity right now.

I live in a state where our governor has enforced and keeps imposing draconian measures (just my opinion, you may have yours). Where parents are not permitted to sit in a football stadium to watch their kids play, where restaurants were allowed to open for inside dining, yet could only seat at 25% capacity.

To attempt to stay sane and experience some sense of freedom during the last few months, Papa and I have taken some day-long road trips – away from home just to get away, traveling to outdoor destinations.

We opt for taking picnic lunches along with us, but on one of our journeys on a week day, not a weekend, we found ourselves still a distance away from home at dinner time. 

We located one of our favorite chain restaurants that was open for indoor seating. Donning the dreaded masks, we walked up to the hostess who was stationed outside the restaurant door. She informed us we would have a 45-minute wait.

Not knowing if we could find any other place to eat dinner besides a drive-through fast food place, we gave her our name and cell phone number so she could text us when a table became available for just the two of us. We sat in our car and waited and waited and waited.   Forty-five minutes turned into an hour and then we received the text.

Walking into that usually bustling, busy, and noisy large restaurant which was only filled to 25% capacity at dinner time was odd to say the least. It was so quiet. There were no people seated near us. Entire sections of the restaurant were closed off with only one party in them. Honestly, it felt like the twilight zone – eerie and unusually strange.

Of course, every person inside that restaurant, including all of the wait staff naturally, wore masks until their food arrived. The few folks, even while eating, weren’t talking. Everyone was quiet as if the masks, even after we took them off to eat our meals, had stolen our voices.

Masks certainly had stolen our facial expressions as no one appeared to be smiling. What once was considered a normal, entertaining thing to do – enjoy a meal in a restaurant – was anything but.

But you know what? There was one bright spot in this dismal picture. Our waitress. Even though most of her face was hidden by her mask, she exuded joy. I’m sure she was happy to just be back in employment.

Regardless, her voice and demeanor were sweet and she seemed genuinely pleased to serve us which cheered me up considerably. I took off my mask and smiled at her.

And she smiled back at me. How do I know that? She had her own mask still solidly covering her nose and mouth and chin. She smiled with her eyes! Her eyes – I could see her smile by looking into her eyes.

So if there’s one word of encouragement I can give to everyone during this most trying and difficult time – one word to help us through this, one word to make not just ourselves feel better but everyone around us, masked or not – it’s this, SMILE.

Smile not just with your mouth because another person can’t see that behind your mask. Smile with your entire self. Smile from your heart so it reaches your eyes. And I guarantee someone else will see your smiling eyes and smile back at you.

“Use your smile to change the world; don’t let the world change your smile.” ~ Chinese Proverb

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com