Monday, October 3, 2016

The Girl Who Grew up Liking Lighthouses

Jessica with the Seattle skyline behind her.

My family likes to joke about our kids and grandkids inheriting certain genes. There's the farming gene (I spent part of my childhood on a dairy farm and then on a small rural homestead), the cat-adoring gene (we've lost count of the number of cats we've adopted and loved), the vagabond gene (which makes us wander and travel), the must eat ice cream gene (self-explanatory), and the OCD gene that demands everything be organized, "just so," and shipshape. Last, there's the lighthouse gene...which is the subject of this blog

While my son likes lighthouses and always takes pictures of them for me, my daughter, Jessica, is the kid who loves lighthouses and the one who definitely inherited the lighthouse gene. She has traveled with me on research trips, taken many photos I've used in my books and publications, created lots of lighthouse-themed artwork, and is an active volunteer at a lighthouse near her home in the Puget Sound area. Last year, she designed and fabricated an exhibit about her beloved local lighthouse. She had my help with the content, but the exhibit was really hers. I was really proud of her work, enough that I want to give her a presence in this blog, as this week is her birthday. (Another gene she inherited is the birthday celebration gene, which causes us to go nuts for our birthdays and celebrate for days on end!)

A Jack-o-Lantern Jessica carved for me of Yaquina Head Lighthouse.

As you'll see in the photos, text, video, and articles, ahead, this kid really goes for lighthouses!

The following is a curator's statement she wrote for the exhibit she did for Point Robinson Lighthouse. (Her text is in italics.) After the statement you'll find a video that gives an overview of the 100th birthday of Point Robinson Lighthouse and features Jessica showing parts of the exhibit.

My family started visiting lighthouses before I can remember.  My father was in the Navy and my young parents were stationed on the coast of Maine when I was born. Undoubtedly, this is where my mother’s fascination with lighthouses took hold.  My dad’s career moved us from port to port and gave my mom plenty of material to fuel her lighthouse fever. 

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, March 1976

Jessica won "Most Creative" for her lighthouse Halloween costume at New London Mall, Connecticut in 1976. She was three! On the left, Mom put the finishing touches on the homemade, cardboard lighthouse. At right, Jessica paraded in the mall with other kids.

The lighthouses I first remember visiting had keepers; dungaree-clad Coast Guard personnel.  By the seventies, much of the lightkeepers’ work had been automated, but the Coast Guard was still manning the stations.  Hence, I remember immaculate grounds, polished brass, whitewashed fences, red roofs, and friendly resident keepers.

We first visited Cape Neddick "Nubble" Lighthouse in the mid-1980s.
A decade later, our lighthouse visits had a different flavor.  The Coast Guard keepers were removed from several of the stations.  Vandalism and neglect were the result.  Without the hospitality of the Coast Guard, access to the lighthouses became challenging.   We walked long access roads, slipped around gates, and snuck through fences to find the object of our hunt dilapidated and defaced.  Mom had turned her fascination into her vocation.  She had become an author, and lighthouses were her subject.  Her work, naturally, turned towards preservation.

The kids on the long walk to Kaena Point Light on Oahu's NW tip. We found the lighthouse deteriorated and covered in  nasty graffiti. Someone has even spray-painted the beacon. At Makapu'u Point Lighthouse (below), the keepers' homes had been vandalized and there was a bullet hole in the priceless hyper-radial lens.

Jessica and her younger brother, Scott, at Makapu'u Lighthouse, Hawai'i in  February 1984.

By the nineties, our lighthouse sojourns had changed again as communities and non-profit groups were stepping up to save these historic sites.  The lighthouses were getting new keepers.  Unique relationships between volunteer groups and governmental agencies were formed to keep the lights in public hands and fund the work of preservation.  Light stations became parks, museums, and guest accommodations.  Not all of America’s lighthouses were so fortunate.  Several were sold into private hands while others fell victim to erosion and simply tumbled into the sea.

Jessica painted lighthouses on kids arms and faces at Montauk Lighthouse, Long Island, NY in June 1990 during one of my book signings.

Jessica at Fisgard Lighthouse in 1999.

Jessica excitedly spotted St. George Reef Lighthouse ahead during a helicopter trip to the lighthouse in 2006.
Jessica prepared lunch in one of the keepers' dwellings at Point Robinson Lighthouse, WA for a 2005 tour group---salmon chowder, fresh bread, coffee and tea, and gingerbread lighthouse cookies.
Photo by Bruce Robie.

Jessica played with the lighthouse dog at Ft. Gratiot Lighthouse, Michigan in 1997.

Some traditions get passed on with the lighthouse gene! Jessica modeled a lightkeeper's jacket at Point Iroquois Lighthouse, Michigan in 1997. I modeled one in 1986 at Bodie Lighthouse in North Carolina.

Why save a lighthouse?

Point Robinson Lighthouse, Vashon-Maury Island, Washington

The shoreline at Point Robinson is mapped with advancing navigation aids—a testament to 100-years of human ingenuity and commerce.  A century ago, mariners relied on kerosene lanterns and foghorns.  Today, I watch ships’ movement in Dubai from my cell phone.  We altered the topography at the point by sluicing a hillside to fill a wetland.  Today, we hold an annual festival to understand the fragile and unique ecosystem that exists at Point Robinson.  Like all historic sites, Point Robinson serves as a lens through which we can view our collective past.  Preservation provides a fundamental link to our culture and legacies and, through that understanding, we have greater influence over our future.  

Coast Guard aerial image of Point Robinson Light Station.

I could add many more photos and kudos to this blog entry. After all, who doesn't love a daughter absolutely and unconditionally?

It feels wonderful to see my daughter among active lighthouse preservationists. Her talents and passion are being put to good use. She is the volunteer food vendor for all summer events at Point Robinson Lighthouse, and she does work for the U.S. Lighthouse Society as well.

As mentioned above, last year she designed and fabricated an exhibit about Point Robinson Lighthouse for its 100th birthday. I was so proud of her effort and the finished product! Take a look...she was interviewed last summer in this video from Voice of Vashon.

Video tour of Point Robinson Lighthouse Centennial Celebration  

Also, there's an article about the exhibit.

Happy Birthday, Jessica
From, Proud Mama

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