When Dawn Breaks Beyond The Lighthouse

By Harvey Kay • November 9, 2015

When dawn breaks beyond the horizon over a shimmering sea, casting first light upon a lighthouse, the rays of light appear, to me, to be the hand of God.

For more than thirty years lighthouses have fascinated me. I have travelled along the east coast of the North America from Peggy’s Cove Light in Nova Scotia to the tip of Key West to stand at the base of these lighthouses and be fascinated by the height and history and their connection to the sea and seafarers.

I have studied the individual histories and learned about Fresnel Lenses, the color and significance of the lanterns and the different patterns and timing sequences of the flashing light. Every one is different both in the timing sequence and the bold stripes and colors of the tower itself. The flashing is to guide ships at night at sea, or those mariners too far out to make out the stripes on the Lighthouse Tower itself. The various painted patterns are to visually identify the Lighthouse to those mariners so they know what lighthouse they are looking at and be guided past rocky and dangerous shoals. Each one is painted with a different pattern.

I have photographed these lights, as lighthouses are referred to, and keep the pictures as a reminder of my travels. I have stood on top of the rocks of Monhegan Island where there are possible Viking carvings in the rocks, and have looked out over the pounding sea below. It never ceases to amaze me the majesty and history of these great buildings that guide mariners on their passages home. I am nourished in their presence.

Some lighthouses are short stumps of buildings, while others rise 18 stories high. Some are of brick while others are of steel. Some are square, round or look like nothing more than scaffolding in the middle of the sea, built upon a rocky reef. In some ways they are like people. Some are short of stature and others are tall. But, it is not their height that matters; it is the light inside of them and what they do to guide mariners home to safety. Whether a Lighthouse is tall or short, it is the light that illuminates the passage on the sea and serves as a guide home to safe harbor.

The stories of Lighthouse keepers who heroically braved monstrous storms to keep the light burning are countless and every lighthouse has a story to tell. Ida Lewis was known as a national hero for her life saving successes and her efforts to keep the light burning at the top of Lime Rock Light, no matter how bad the storms might me. There are even stories of lighthouse dogs, Spot, the Lighthouse Dog of Owl’s Head Light and Sailor of Wood Island Light. Both dogs are crediting with saving the lives of mariners by barking and ringing the mariners bell to guide the ships and sailors to safety. Some inner spirit inhabits these men, women and creatures of the earth that commands them to serve as a guide.

Lighthouses may be made of brick and stone or wood and steel, but they are imbued with and held together by tradition and hope. The spirit of Lighthouses’ exists to guide those in peril home to safe harbor. Those who operate them glow with their own internal radiance, as many of the wonderful people I been privileged to be with this past year.

I never forget, or take for granted, the lighthouses that have guided me on my life’s journeys and passages.


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