I grew up not far from two. I have travelled out of my way to see and photograph dozens of them. One wall of my office is covered with framed images of them. I have a shelf filled with miniatures of some of my favorites. Friends mail me postcards of lighthouses they've seen and give me stamps, books, and all manner of nicknack related to lighthouses. I've even given lectures on lighthouses.
It may not sound like it, but I am selective. Having grown up near the ocean, I have a preference for the large "landfall" lights, especially those of the east coast. And yes, size matters. The earth is curved, and the taller the lighthouse, the further out to sea you can be and still see it - important if you're about to bump into North America (make "landfall") or, for example, the dangerous shoals which extend about ten miles into the Atlantic from Cape Hatteras.
The Cape Hatteras Light lamp is 192 feet above the ground and 210 feet above sea level. At that height it is easily visible from 20 nautical miles (23 miles) in clear conditions although its official range is 24 nautical miles. In exceptional conditions, the claim is that it has been seen from 51 nautical miles out. I'm skeptical, but it is still my favorite lighthouse. Of course, I watched them move it a half mile inland just over a decade ago, and that makes it a hard act to follow. There is a lot to admire. The structure is the tallest light in the US and the 23rd tallest in the world.
Over the past few weeks I have been posting favorite photographs I've taken on visits to lighthouse, a pattern I'll continue until I'm out of favorites. See the Light For The Navigator series.
But ... that's not what it's all about. It's the symbolism of a lighthouse that I love. There it stands, alone and resolute, as a beacon of help for souls in perilous circumstance. Isn't that what we all want when we're feeling lost or in danger or searching for salvation - something or someone to show us the way, to remind us that there are places and spaces of security waiting for us?
I respect its ability to weather all manner of storm, and I like that its height draws our vision upward into the skies, another reminder to hold our head up in spite of unpleasant times that may try to pull it down.
I like lighthouses, but I positively love the inspiration they offer.