You already know that San Juan Island is perhaps my favorite place on earth, and the California poppies that grow wild at Cattle Point are just one of the many reasons why. I actually started this sketch on an earlier trip, and came back to this spot exactly one year later to finish it. And it’s a good thing I did, because after the super-wet winter we had on the West Coast, I’ve never seen quite this many poppies in bloom before. After I finished the sketch, I just sat there on the hillside for another half hour or so, not wanting to break the spell of such a perfect moment.
When Mary-Alice and I drove across Texas together last year, we knew our stop for this night would be somewhere around Houston. Neither of us fancied slogging through an enormous, unfamiliar city at rush hour, so from the passenger seat I pulled out the map to see if I couldn’t find an alternative. What I found was a lonely road that hugged the Gulf coast, then ended in a ferry to Galveston. Sold. (Also, as it turned out, best idea ever. That road was gorgeous!) Since we made the decision on the fly, I had no idea what we might find en route. So rounding a curve to encouter a 180-foot lighthouse looming suddenly above us in the purple dusk was not just an arresting sight—it was unforgettable.
Lime Kiln Point is one of Washington’s best state parks. For one thing, it’s on my favorite island (and since I love all of Washington’s islands with a mad passion, that’s saying something). For another, it’s got a great lighthouse—which is something for which I’ll always come running. Best of all, if you happen to be there at the right time of year, or are just insanely lucky, you’ll be treated to an extra surprise. Don’t see what I mean? Look again, closely, at the sketch, and you’ll get what I’m angling at…
Of course, it’s possible to get that edge-of-the-earth feeling even smack in the middle of the continent. It’s all just a matter of where you stand.
Okay, so the title of this post is not an accident. Apparently this lighthouse actually was a guiding light—on the soap opera of the same name, that is. But I’ll have to take Wikipedia’s word for that one, because vintage soap operas aren’t really my cup of tea.
Vintage lighthouses, on the other hand, are exactly my cup of tea.
And when I found out I was standing inside the oldest working beacon in America? Well, I paid extra close attention.
Sandy Hook Light celebrated its 250th anniversary this weekend. I couldn’t be there for the festivities, but the Tailor and I spent a day at Sandy Hook a few years ago, and I did these sketches then. It was a flawless summer day—not the kind of weather you need a lighthouse for, but certainly the conditions that would show off its best features.
I have never yet managed to visit Heceta Head in anything other than a raging gale. (Thank goodness for the car overlook where I could park and sketch in comfort while the Pacific threw bathtubs of icy spray at my windows…)
But then again—what better way to see firsthand exactly what lighthouses are for?
As a lifelong landlubber, I don’t often get to see lighthouses from the side they’re designed to face. So as you can probably imagine, not only was I gleefully waving back at the folks on the breakwater—I was also practically hanging off the side of the boat to get a better look at the beacon.
You already know I’ll drive hours and hours out of my way for roadside attractions, but I’ve also been known to make some ridiculous detours and extra-long pit stops for lighthouses. As a result, I have a lot of sketchbook drawings similar to this one. I could probably keep this blog going for half a year on lighthouses alone, but then you’d be well justified in jumping ship on me. So I had to make some tough choices this week. In the end, I let geography be my…er…guiding light (sorry): this week we’ll be making “stops” on the Atlantic coast, the Pacific coast, and right in between, on one of the Great Lakes.
I’ll start in the east today, with the only lighthouse that was guaranteed a spot this week. Maine’s Nubble Light has a special place in my heart because I used to come here with my grandfather, who loved lighthouses more than anyone I’ve ever known. He never seemed to mind the tourists that would descend here (or if he did, he never let me see it)—after all, the view is so spectacular it’s well worth braving a crowd.
Still, though, it’s even better if you can manage to have the place to yourself for a little while. On this day Cape Neddick played host to myself, the Tailor and my mother—and not a soul else.
Well…maybe one other soul—or at the very least, a memory. In a way, these sketches are a tribute to the man who gave me a love of lighthouses.