After my seafaring career had concluded, and when the children were still quite young, we often went to the seashore to admire the ocean. We had a number of favorite locations that were reasonably close to our house, to my parents’ house, or to my in-laws’ house. Several of these spots contained lighthouses, and in the seasons of the warmer weather, we visited them regularly.
As a mate aboard ship, I had always viewed lighthouses as strictly utilitarian objects, although admittedly, many of them looked quite attractive architecturally. But I was using them for navigational, not artistic, purposes, and so I gave their aesthetic appeal little attention.
Miss Patty held another view, however. While recognizing the lighthouses as important navigational beacons, she also saw them as emblematic in a metaphysical and spiritual way. For as they shone their lights through the nocturnal darkness to guide seamen on their voyages, they represented the supernal “light that shineth in [spiritual] darkness” (John 1:5) to guide all people everywhere on their voyages through life. By displaying artificial illumination of impressive intensity visible for many miles at sea, they represented “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). In this sense, one might say that they were “sent to bear witness of that Light” (John 1:8).
In the daylight hours, the lighthouses’ distinctive appearance—tall and slender and often white, the traditional color of purity—caused them to stand out clearly from their surroundings as beacons for passing ships. They served the same purpose both day and night; only the method changed. We visited these lighthouses in both daylight and darkness, although admittedly more often in daylight with small children. But day or night, their metaphorical value and spiritual significance remained undiminished. They always bore mute testimony of “the true Light.”
These lighthouses were usually situated in secluded places, far from the madding crowds of summer tourists. This serene atmosphere enhanced their spiritual value, and we spent many happy hours quietly imbibing the combined ambiance of the sea, the shoreline, and the lighthouses. They were precious times.