As a child I loved to visit the lighthouse in Cape May, New Jersey. It seemed to tower into the sky, practically touching the moon. In fact, on July 20, 1969, after walking in the shadow of that lighthouse looking for Cape May diamonds (ocean-tumbled quartz), my three grandparents, parents, two brothers and I crowded together in a small cabin and, in amazement, watched the broadcast of the Apollo 12 moon-landing on a little black and white television.
The room was lit only by the TV and the beacon of the lighthouse as Neil Armstrong took those small but giant steps on behalf of us all. Perhaps this is why I continue to think of lighthouses as projectors of awesome possibilities.
Each light house is a depository of significant stories and tales of service, though perhaps not as historically ground-breaking as the moon walk. Yet, as you climb their spiral staircases to the tower watch or lantern rooms, it only takes a little imagination to get a feel for what it was like for the early light-tenders. That was my experience this past week on the Oregon coast. Built between 1870 and 1896, these lighthouses are located on prominent headlands near bays and ports that supported commercial fishing and shipping, including the gold rush and lumber routes.
Most of these structures were made from local bricks, and each took a unique form. There are nine surviving lighthouses on the Oregon Coast whose oil-fueled lights were all converted to automated beacons in the 1960-80’s. Lighthouses like the one at Cape Blanco near Point Orford was originally only approachable via the sea. So the light-tending family would often not have relief or fresh supplies for six months at a time. What stamina! After camping for just 6 days, with flush toilets, I was ready to call it quits and head home.
Lighthouses and the rugged coastlines are, both literally and metaphorically, bastions of strength. They have taken the beatings of waves and wild weather and still provided a life line to those in danger. This is a symbol that is universally meaningful. When death tolls mount in Gaza, commercial planes are downed by terrorists in the Ukraine, protests grow over tens of thousands of children seeking asylum at our southern boarders, we want – and need – beacons of light providing signals of guidance and hope.
Maybe the lighthouses are also reminders that people, much like us, are responsible for keeping rays of light shining so that those in peril might finally make their way to safer conditions and a welcomed shore!
My images this week are meant to bring you a glimpse of the beauty of the Oregon lighthouses and their surrounding shorelines as well as challenge you to think of the ways you will be a shining light of hope and healing. Our small steps and acts just might be translated into something monumental.
(Images – Cape Blanco Lighthouse, Shore Acres Coastline, Yaquina Head -Newport).