Sunday, August 7, 2016


The first known lighthouse was built by the early Egyptians in 285 B.C., standing at 440 feet tall for over 1,500 years and serving as a beacon to bring travelers at sea home to the port city of Alexandria, Egypt. Throughout the ensuing centuries, lighthouses continued to be used to provide seafarers safe travel until the late 20th century.

Electric beacons have replaced the traditional lighthouse, removing the need for the light keeper, the actual person who watched over the gas beacon and reflecting mirrors. Many of the lighthouses have been abandoned or revitalized as tourist attractions.

I can recall climbing to the top of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse at the Outer Banks in North Carolina, a state I called home for over twenty years. It should go without saying that the view is incredibly breathtaking. For me, it afforded an opportunity to be reflective on exactly where I was in life, of places where I had traversed stormy oceans or floated on calm seas while looking for a different shore on which to dock my boat, always hoping there was a friendly soul in the lighthouse to guide me and welcome me there.

I suppose this is one way to look at life. We are all on the oceans of the world, navigating the best we can, visiting fascinating places, making new friends, and hopefully charting our courses as we do so that our boats can return to ports we have visited in the past.

While I did not actually travel to a lighthouse this summer, I can say that I am grateful for recent experiences returning to "lighthouses" of the past while enjoying those of the present.

Back when I was a student at Central Catholic High School, I acquired my first job at Oglebay Park's Good Zoo where I worked cleaning up buildings, spinning cotton candy, and driving the train with some of the most memorable folk to ever pet a llama or wrap a hot dog. My good friend Jodi is moving from Maryland to South Carolina this summer and wanted to gather the "zoo crew" together for the first time in thirty years. So Sonja, Jill, Lynn, Jodi, and I gathered at Generations to reminisce about old times and to catch up on the past thirty years. This group was my heart and soul as I navigated some turbulent times as a teenage knucklehead. 

I travel to North Carolina to see my son Robert and his family a couple times a year, and this summer was no exception. While visiting with them, I try to catch up with old friends and colleagues from my time teaching at Ralph L. Fike High School. As much as I would like to see everyone, I have come to accept that I simply cannot do that and am satisfied visiting with as many of those friends during the summer as I can. This year I enjoyed enchiladas at El Tapitio with my dear friend Felissa, a wonderful teacher with whom I had taught twenty years. I also ate some great Southern breakfast biscuits with Susan and visited my friend J.L.'s new home as she explained how she was going to remodel the place.

Here in West Virginia, where I currently dock my boat, I enjoyed two weddings of friends and colleagues, Betsy and Jamie, who have become part of my safe harbor at CCHS in Wheeling. It was a wonderful experience to gather together with my current group of friends while still feeling the love and joy of those friends and family from my past.

Life is transient; the current is constantly changing. Jodi and I talked endlessly about her moving to South Carolina (way too soon after we had just rekindled our friendship after so many years apart). My friend and colleague at CCHS Heather has moved to Florida with her husband, leaving a void in many lives here. My niece's boyfriend Michael has moved down to Florida to begin his post-graduate career as an assistant college basketball coach. Students who are still near and dear in my heart are taking their own paths to their future, beginning college this fall. As much as I wish life could stay the same, I have come to accept the fluidity of relationships. 

I read a book a couple of years ago called The Light Between the Oceans by M.L. Steadman because the cover and title captured my attention. Is it not enticing? There is a wonderful section in the book about the importance of "lighthouses" in our lives. 

"There are times when the ocean is not the ocean - not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon. It hurls itself at the island, sending spray right over the top of the lighthouse, biting pieces off the cliff. And the sound is a roaring of a beast whose anger knows no limits. Those are the nights the light is needed most."

As we grow older, we discover how much our lives change over time, that the "oceans" we sail can become quite turbulent more often than not. It is during those times of distress, fear, and uncertainty that we tend to forget the lighthouses from which we have received guidance through the dark. It is during those times we need to remember the strength, the love, and the light that our friends and family, both past and present, have provided us. It is during those times that we need to remember that the lighthouses are still there and occasionally return to them.

I know this may sound corny, but I am grateful I had the opportunity to spend time with so many guiding lights throughout my life during one summer.

left to right: Sonja, Jill, (Lynn's husband) Rick. Lynn, Jodi, and I
My Zoo Crew Lighthouses 
upper left to right to bottom: Felissa, Kathy, and Kim
Some North Carolina Lighthouses
Emily and Robert with Justin and Kaylee
My North Carolina Lighthouses
My CCHS Lighthouses

Emily and Michael
My Family and TOPPER Lighthouse

Works Consulted

The Lighthouse Preservation Society. Lighthouse Preservation Society, n.d. Web. 07 
          Aug. 2016. 

"M.L. Stedman." Simon & Schuster. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Aug. 2016. 

Stedman, M. L. The Light between the Oceans. Australia: Vintage, 2012. Print.


  1. Another great read! It hit really close to home as I am having some trouble dealing with the changing tides...We will get there. Also, how about that book just appeared on my recommended list on Amazon?! Thanks for the shoutout.

    1. Thanks, Betsy. You will enjoy the very well written book.

  2. Aj, your blog is so totally life that it took my breath away. It is wonderful to think back over my own lighthouses in the past 75 years and feel joy at them. Thank you for writing so well what you feel and what you have felt. God bless you. Lynn

    1. Oh, Lynn. I am glad you found it enjoyable and helped you recall your own lighthouses.