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Vacation 1957. Devil’s Elbow State Park beach near Florence, Oregon. We’d been to the Sea Lion Caves with all it’s wonderful sea lion aromas (!). It was a pretty cool place to visit even though it did stink to high heaven. You could get a pretty up close peek at those majestic  animals. And as you stood and looked out from the cave north up the coastline, in the distance you could see Heceta Head Lighthouse.


heveta head 4Though the lighthouse, one of the most photographed in the U.S., was only 1.2 miles from the caves, we wouldn’t stop and see it that day. My dad thought it would be more fun for us to go wading on the beach in a cove about halfway between the caves and the lighthouse. I’m not sure how the park actuallyDevil's elbow rock got it’s name. It covers a large area of Oregon. But just off the cove at the beach where we stopped is a large rock sticking out of the ocean that looks for all the world like an elbow. Maybe?

That afternoon the surf was rough and the waves were pretty high, but none-the-less, wade we did. And all was well until I had waded quite a few yards from the beach and a wave half again my height knocked me flat on the beach. There couldn’t have been more than a foot or so of water covering me and I could feel the ground beneath my back, but for the life of me I couldn’t tell which way was up!

elbow beach

We were on the beach in the bottom right corner of the picture.

As I lay there praying for someone to come get me (and as a Sunday School kid my prayer was VERY fervent) something caught my eye. Off to the left I could see the light from Heceta Head Lighthouse, and everything I’d ever heard about Jesus being my light came crashing into my memory. I think that’s the day I fell in love with lighthouses, and maybe even Jesus. And I knew everything was going to be alright.

All turned out well. Dad was able to pull me out of the water before I walked into the light for good (!) and I appeared none the worse for the wear. Later, however, we found the pressure from the water had ruptured my left ear drum. I now have positional vertigo in that ear, and to this day if I get my head under water I STILL can’t tell which way is up. Wouldn’t be hard for me to drown in the bloomin’ bathtub! o_O

But my love affair with Jesus and lighthouses continues. I was sharing with Derek Lee of The Frothy Filosofer in a comment the other day that my buddy Amy and I ran away to the east coast in 2000 and stayed in a lighthouse on Chesapeake Bay. In an effort to fulfill one of the things on her bucket list, we sat out on the dock in the moonlight and tried to smoke a cigar. Small problem. Not being familiar with cigars, we had no idea you had to clip the end off to get the suckers to light properly! Consequently cigar smoking in the moonlight at a lighthouse is STILL on her bucket list! But at least NOW we have one of those cigar clipper thingies! 😀 Someday…

In the meantime, no matter how dark things get in my life, I will always follow that light…

View of the lighthouse from the Sea Lion Caves.


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Writing 101 Day 18

A map as your muse

With maps, we tell tales about ourselves and the places we come from, that we miss, that we’ve reshaped in our minds. We use maps to identify and explore locations and points in between, to track movements, and to make sense of our lives — past and present.

Today, let a map be your muse. Select an area anywhere in the world on Google Maps (or your preferred online map tool), or a section on a paper map, and use this as inspiration for your post. Some ideas:

  • Tell us about your connection to this place. If you’ve never been there, why did you choose it?
  • Pen a poem inspired by the area’s topography.
  • Write a piece of memoir in the form of directions from point A to point B, in which each item reveals something about you or the area, like in Anna Fonte’s “How to Get There.
  • Use this geographic map as a model for a mental and more imaginary map, like this map of the lyrical essay from Nina Gaby.
  • Switch to Street View and write a story based on what you see.
  • Write an essay set in this location, like Dinty Moore’s Google Maps piece, “Mr. Plimpton’s Revenge.”

If possible, include a photograph of your paper map or a screenshot of the online map or view in your post.