Today is Ascension Day. It is the day marked by Christians that Jesus ascended into Heaven 40 days after His resurrection, which is celebrated annually as Easter. For 40 days thereafter, Jesus walked and talked with his disciples until he was taken into the clouds.
There are plenty of clouds in this iconic setting, the Portland Head Lighthouse on Cape Elizabeth near Portland, Maine. It’s hard not to take a beautiful shot at this historic site, a scene often portrayed on many calendars over the years.
Ships at sea in part depend on lighthouses to keep their bearings. I envisioned the lighthouse’s beacon flashing in the overcast evening as a symbol to all of this sacred event.
“Portland Head Lighthouse and Ascension Day” is my Photo of the Week.
My wife and I share a mutual love for travel. To explore and learn together about new locations, people, and their mores substantially enriches our married life.
Adding family and friends into our forays gives us even greater joy. Our son recently moved to upstate New York, which gave us the perfect excuse to visit him and the Rochester area for the first time.
Nathan had moved to Rochester for a new job opportunity. He was effusive about the natural beauty and the many cultural and culinary opportunities that the city and surrounding area afforded.
Even before our flight from Virginia had landed, we saw what Nathan meant. The side-by-side Finger Lakes became elongated mirrors, beautifully reflecting the morning sunshine. That sight alone refreshed our spirits since rain persisted in Virginia.
The plane’s final approach to the airport took us right over downtown Rochester, a metropolitan area of a million folks. I caught a brief glimpse of a lovely waterfall in the heart of the center city.
Nathan picked us up, and we headed straight to his new apartment, a considerable downsize from his old Dutch colonial Ohio home. We immediately shared his satisfaction with his housing selection. He had bright and spacious living quarters in a stately Victorian that had been converted to accommodate several apartments.
His new digs are ideally situated among other splendid old homes on tree-lined streets and boulevards. His place affords many amenities. It’s near downtown, trendy eateries, renowned museums, and art galleries. Nathan had chosen well.
Another personal plus for us was that retired friends from Ohio live just a mile away from our son. We caught up with them over brunch the next morning.
Of course, Nathan wanted us to experience a sense of his new stomping grounds. So off we went, walking and driving to area attractions over our long-weekend stay. The moderately rolling landscape dotted with mixed woodlots and ravines carved by ancient streams felt like home, both Ohio and Virginia.
We packed a lot in during our short stay. We toured the art gallery, wandered through an old mansion and accompanying gardens, dined at locally-owned and operated restaurants, discovered lighthouses, felt the cool north breeze off Lake Ontario, and sampled delicious home-made ice cream more than once. We admired the cityscape view from Cobb’s Hill and watched the autumnal equinox sunset from atop a skyscraper.
Windows and ferns.
The garden from the upstairs.
I found familiarity driving up Mt. Hope Avenue to Mt. Hope Cemetery. I had served 21 years as principal at Mt. Hope Elementary School in Mt. Hope, Ohio. More importantly, we toured the historic cemetery that holds the graves of social pioneers Frederick Douglas and Susan B. Anthony.
Though I had never been there, it felt like I had. The old cemetery was established on glacial kame and kettle topography. It was the same glacier that formed the similar rolling hill and valley landscape of Holmes County, Ohio where Neva and I had built our homes, cultivated our marriage, raised our son and daughter, and fulfilled our careers.
Of course, we had to find those downtown waterfalls, too. Soon we stood on the Pont De Rennes footbridge admiring High Falls with the cityscape as its backdrop, and all the sights and sounds of a busy 21st-century city. I absorbed all that I could, ecstatic for our son.
Like most travelers, I greatly enjoy exploring new haunts and all they have to offer. When the excursion involves family and friends, the trip becomes even that more meaningful.
In my dreams, this is how I pictured retirement. Only, this particular day wasn’t a dream. It was a blissful reality. From sunup to sundown and beyond, the day had been uplifting in every way.
After considerable effort, the sun finally broke through the usual cloudbank that persists over the Atlantic Ocean’s Gulf Stream. I embraced dawn’s golden glow that shimmered in the quiet sea from the horizon to the shore.
I photographed the sunrise, and after a simple breakfast, we said our goodbyes to friends who had been visiting for a few days. They needed to return to their new home in North Carolina to finish settling in.
Then it was off to tour Amelia Island’s historic lighthouse with friends from Millersburg, Ohio, Carl and Judy. Their daughter was a student in my wife’s very first kindergarten class. The couple had secured a condo one floor above us for a month.
We were more than happy to show them the island. They enjoyed similar perks of the barrier island. The Amelia Island Lighthouse was just one of them.
The guided tour was so full that another van had to be used to shuttle the visitors to the sheltered icon. The all white lighthouse with a black top stands nearly hidden on a bluff in a residential neighborhood three-quarters of a mile west of the ocean beyond the beach, beyond the towering sand dunes, and beyond Egans Creek Greenway.
At night, the nautical light flashes its salient signal above the live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, across the dormant, brown reeds of the salt marsh, across the protected dunes at Ft. Clinch State Park, across rooftops of condominiums and beach houses, and finally the beach itself. The lighthouse beacon brings personal surety to seafarers relying on impersonal electronic guidance.
After the lighthouse history lesson, we gawked up the monument’s spiraling granite steps and snapped a few photos. We headed for an early lunch at a local eatery that boasted offering the best burgers on the island. Their milkshakes are pretty good, too, especially when consumed amid congenial company while sitting outside in the warming winter sun. This was Florida after all.
We strolled the streets of this historic town with our friends, viewing its quaint cottages, stately mansions, and inviting bed and breakfasts. Wherever we walked, people were out working, raking dried leaves and fallen palm frawns, scraping peeling paint, patching roofs. When you live in a tropical climate, property repair is non-stop.
We relaxed in the laziness of the afternoon and took in the sunset down by the river in front of the bocce ball court. The pesky no-see-ums, gnat-sized insects that you can’t see but feel their fierce bites, couldn’t deter our enjoyment of the orange and gold, pink and blue living art exhibit.
After a light supper, Neva and I completed the fulfilling day with a quiet evening together watching college basketball on television. She multi-tasks with jigsaw and crossword puzzles while I just enjoy the game.
You don’t have to be retired or be in some exotic locale to have similar experiences. Only look all around you. Examine the place where you are. Listen to the people you are with.
Work or play, engage in the activities at hand. Appreciate, absorb, inhale, touch, and improve your particular environment wherever you may be, whatever your life circumstances.
Why? Because. Every now and then, everyone needs a day like this day.
The Marblehead Lighthouse, Marblehead, OH is one of my favorite places to linger. Winter, summer, spring or fall, it doesn’t matter. I love to linger on the lighthouse grounds, enjoying the view, the passing boats, the birds, and the folks I meet there. Most of all, however, I just like to sit on the hard limestone outcroppings and look at the lighthouse. Last evening, I visited my old friend after a day of birding along the Lake Erie shore in northwest OH.
I arrived at the lighthouse near sunset. As soon as I drove into the nearly empty parking lot, my face lit up. As the sun neared the western horizon, it broke through a layer of clouds. A soothing golden light magnificently illuminated the top of the lighthouse. I thought it rather poetic that the natural light bathed the source of the artificial beacon that the historic lighthouse would soon produce.