Lighthouse

Lighthouses are used to mark dangerous coastlines, hazardous shoals and reefs, safe entries to harbors and can also assist in navigation. Once widely used, the number of operational lighthouses has declined due to the expense of maintenance and replacement by modern navigational aids.

A lighthouse is a tower designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses or, in older times, from a fire and used as an aid to navigation.

These interpretations of the lighthouse are far too literal for my purposes. The lighthouse that I see is a symbolic one that mirrors reality.

Due to their function as beacons of safety, lighthouses are used as symbols of safety.

Lighthouses are often interpreted in dreams as beacons of truth.

Due to their isolated and often mysterious nature, lighthouses are frequently featured in horror or suspense films, and adventure video games.

The lighthouse is a symbol and is used in many ways in writing.

Steadfast, serene, immovable, the same,
Year after year, through all the silent night
Burns on forevermore that quenchless flame,
Shines on that inextinguishable light!
Excerpt from:
“The Lighthouse” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, circa 1848

Candle on the Water, by Helen Reddy, from the Disney movie Pete’s Dragon, is the most popular of all the lighthouse songs. The lighthouse is used to symbolize a never dying hope and guidance.

I’ll be your candle on the water,
my love for you will always burn.
I know you’re lost and drifting
but the clouds are lifting.
Don’t give up, you have somewhere to turn.

I’ll be your candle on the water,
’till ev’ry wave is warm and bright.
My soul is there beside you,
let this candle guide you.
Soon you’ll see a golden stream of light.

A cold and friendless tide has found you,
don’t let the stormy darkness pull you down.
I’ll paint a ray of hope around you,
circling in the air,
lighted by a prayer.

I’ll be your candle on the water,
this flame inside of me will grow.
Keep holding on, you’ll make it,
here’s my hand so take it.
Look for me, reaching out to show,
as sure as rivers flow,
I’ll never let you go.
I’ll never let you go.
I’ll never let you go.

The lighthouse in my writing is my own romanticized symbol and vision of what a lighthouse is and what it means to each of us. The fog shrouded vision of just an outline in the distance peeking up over the horizon muted by time and stored deep within my mind.

Lighthouses are symbols of Faith, Hope, and Love. The lonely wife of a seaman who stands on the widow walk overlooking the sea waiting for a husbands’ return. The Lighthouse in the distance reassures her of its faithful light providing hope of his safe return. Likewise, when the husband first sights the faithful light overseeing the harbor, he also has hope of safely sailing home. The mariner of my childhood spoiling the vision and This a far too romanticized vision for my gritty raw and unpolished writing style.

The lighthouse I envision is the lighthouse that marks the rocks and serves as the symbol to distinguish that imaginary line between smooth sailing and imminent death.

My views of lighthouses are obviously swayed and skewed by my upbringing. St. George Reef Light is my lighthouse. I grew up in Crescent City and on a clear day down at the beach; I could look out to the north and see the outline of the lighthouse six miles off-shore. A distant and mysterious lighthouse warning people to stay away. Saint George Reef is the modern name, Dragon Rocks was the original name for the coastline. Stay away.

Saint George Light is a rare wave-washed sentinel where the ocean hits from all sides, its beacon and fog signal warn ships of the nearby treacherous rocks and reefs. The light’s location was selected because the area had a history of serious maritime accidents and its construction was a direct result of the wreck in 1865 of the Brother Jonathan, 215 lives were lost. However, this site, battered by stormy waters, presented challenges to the designer as well as hazardous conditions for construction workers and, later, for light keepers.

Duty at St. George Reef was among the most difficult of any station, due to its remote location and being surrounded by unpredictable, treacherous seas. Sixteen people died during its construction and operation, dozens resigned or sought transfer, and a few even suffered mental breakdowns. Families were not allowed at the station. The tower was cold and inhospitable. Storms were frequent. Keepers were rotated – on for several weeks, then off for several weeks. Relief only arrived when the weather allowed. Keepers could be stranded on the station for extended periods of time during storms. For example, one group of keepers was stranded in 1937 for 59 days. Miraculously, the two men survived.

My light, the most expensive ever built in the United States. My light in the harshest of all locations. My light the home of great suffering and sacrifice. My light built upon a small rock in the middle of the ocean. A rock that waves would crash over in every storm. A rock so dangerous as to make it approachable only in calm seas. There are no calm seas off Point Saint George; the roughest ocean on all of the west coast of the United States.

My light was built with a landing platform fifty feet above the water surface and a boom to lift the light tenders boat up onto the landing platform. Every year waves crash over the landing platform during storms. The fifty feet was not high enough to make it safe above the waves of the storm. The stories seem exaggerated and people can’t imagine fifty foot seas, but they are real and they are frequent at my light. In 1952, a large storm pounded my light with ferocity and seas not often seen by mankind. The light room sitting 150 feet above the water was pounded by waves and the inch thick glass was blown out of the room. Salt water filling the light room and running down the stairs of the tower soaking the inside of the lighthouse. The ocean in its own mocking way striking back against the light.

The light to me symbolized that everything beyond the light was safe and everything on my side of the light was dangerous and unfit for man. The light symbolized that pain and suffering mankind could endure to insure that others would not wander into the dangers of the rocky coast. On a stormy day, you could not see the light. On a clear calm day the light stood tall for all to see. My light always there and yet never visible in your times of need.

The light is there to guide you through treacherous seas and ensure your safety. The light marks the way to the safety of the harbor. The harbor where storms can be safely endured. Look to the light and it will show you the way. Safe passage can be provided. Believe in the light and you will not suffer the fates of all that have gone before you. The light built upon the blood of our fathers.

My light is not a bright one and it has suffered greatly through many years of trial and travail. The light is not pretty or pristine like the light you always imagined you would follow. My light is placed at the roughest spot in the entire world and the light begets much suffering and sacrifice. The light is there for only a small handful of wayward mariners that have come to know me.

The light is old and weathered and not on the path that anyone would follow. The light is far from the shore and can only be seen when you know where to look. If you find yourself on the wrong side of the light it is too late for you. When you stumble upon that old symbol that looks so abandoned and worthless you better take heed. For the light rarely shines anymore.

The old man and the sea tells a tale of great import. Listen to the howl of the winds and know that the great sea will never be tamed. A healthy dose of respect is required. Listen to those winds and respect that water, but most of all follow that light for she is the true path. My apologies if I have taken a path so close as to be confused with John 8:12.

Nobody really knows
Where theyre supposed to go
Hiding behind a wall
Afraid that theyll lose it all
But its alright
Just follow the light
Excerpt from Follow the light by Travis

A lighthouse for those few poker players that cross my path and find themselves on the right side of the light.

Was the light shining bright for you?

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One Response to “Lighthouse”

  1. jon olson Says:

    Nice bit of prose Vic. I would never confuse your light with the one described in John 8:12. Although you have definitely exposed me to lights, they were not expressly Biblical in nature. I have appreciated your input and even taken your advice from time to time. Look forward to reading some of your other blogs.

    Call me sometime 916-201-7482.

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