My sister told me that she and her husband are planning a trip to Lake Michigan, to get some quality beach time in, and to "see some lighthouses." She added, "I know I always used to whine and complain when mom and dad used to drag us around to see so many lighthouses. I thought it was so lame. But now that I'm an adult I really like lighthouses. They're so pretty."
Indeed, us three Howard kids were taken to see a lot of lighthouses. So many in fact that my other sister had us all shaken when she fell down a few of the spiral steps in the middle of one. My childhood memory somehow made the accident into a rolling descent down several turns, but I know from her minor bruises that it couldn't have been much more than a small misstep.
Lighthouses are beautiful, although most are no longer functional, having been replaced by computerized lighting systems for navigation. But their mystique lives on, captured in countless images and films. In fact, I happened to catch a bit of the Sabrina remake this weekend, and there's a touching scene in which Harrison Ford wonders to his love interest what a life as a solitary lightkeeper would be like.
My parents took me and my sisters on some great family vacations over the years. We always drove, in order to save money on five plane tickets, and I've seen 45 or 46 states, plus about five Canadian provinces. We did see a lot of lighthouses, as well as spectacular beaches, deep forests, mountain vistas, humid wetlands and craggy cliffs. I believe all that early exposure to nature, especially through camping, helped propel my interest in environmental affairs. I also think it helped round out my sisters' educations and development as kind, thoughtful people.
These days my sisters and I are all busy with our urban lives and careers, but we still take time now and then to get out in nature. Or visit the occasional lighthouse. Mom was right, they aren't so boring after all.
This next lighthouse below sits on an island off Norwalk, Connecticut, where I lived for years. The Norwalk Islands have seen there share of history, from Native American habitation to strategic points in the Revolutionary War, hiding places for bootleggers and home to an exclusive club for New York's elite. Now most of them are protected as wildlife sanctuaries, especially for birds, and the once-venerable oyster beds are beginning to show new signs of life.
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