As a teen moving from rural Kentucky, to Miami, Florida I felt a bit overwhelmed. I longed for the sound of the wind rustling through the cornfields, the heavily wooded countryside, and the rolling hills dotted with cattle and freshly rolled bales of hay. I needed a place of solitude – a place where I could think my thoughts and just enjoy natural beauty. A place where earth and sky met without any concrete in between. That’s when I discovered the Cape Florida Lighthouse on Key Biscayne. For the next three years if it was Saturday, I was there. I would be in the surf floating on a black inner tube, sitting on a beach towel in the shadow of the lighthouse, or nestled in the shade of the Australian Pines with my portable Royal typewriter working on a story.
Cape Florida Lighthouse
On the evening of September 22, 1995, I was no longer living near the Cape Florida Lighthouse. I could not stand at the edge of the surf , nor feel the quieting of my restless spirit that I had experienced there in the shade of the pines. My world was falling apart.
Inconsolable Grief Overwhelmed Me
More than 100 years ago two men, Horatio G. Spafford and Philip P. Bliss wrote the song, “It Is Well With My Soul.” On the evening of September 22, 1995, it wasn’t well…and for several weeks following, it wasn’t well. I was reeling – couldn’t seem to get my feet on stable ground. Each time I emotionally felt that I was standing, a new wave shifted my foundation and I was once again unsteady. The only words that cried out repeatedly in my soul were just the few at the beginning, “when sorrows like sea billows roll.” Mom had been struck by a car – she had died.
Two dear friends from our church, Nancy and Martha, hated to see me so unsteady in my faith, and unleashed from my mooring. Knowing that I had a great love for the ocean, anything nautical, and in particular, lighthouses, they came to my home one afternoon with a special gift. Before I opened it, they explained their sadness at my unrequited heartache, and decided that maybe something nautical would bring me joy.
Cape Florida Lighthouse
I opened the gift… and became silent. No words would form themselves. The silence became awkward. In the absence of my response, they began pointing out the waves at the base of the lighthouse and explained that maybe I’d be able to pretend I was hearing the surf. They didn’t know that this particular lighthouse was THE lighthouse where I had spent most of my free time in Miami Florida as a teenager – swimming, writing, and praying for God’s will in my life.
This was THE lighthouse where I wrote the poem, “My Wooded Shore.” This was THE lighthouse that my Mom and sisters had discovered by whacking a trail through undergrowth with a machete. THE lighthouse, that had stood sentinel above me as I grew to trust the Lord with EVERY part of my life. This was the Cape Florida Lighthouse.
When I was a teen, this ventilator that had once sat atop the lighthouse was nearly hidden among the overgrowth of the tropical plants on Key Biscayne. It was not fenced at that time. The original Keepers House was destroyed by Indians and war burnings, but a replica has now been placed on that sight.
I Returned to Cape Florida, Chasing Memories
In 2006 I returned to Cape Florida Lighthouse only to discover many changes. These changes at first distressed me because I was chasing my memories. I was looking for the weather-worn red, crumbly bricks of the lighthouse. I wanted to sit in the dense Australian Pine Forest and capture those emotions from my years as a teen. I wanted to capture once again the essence of “My Wooded Shore.” But Hurricane Andrew had taken away my place of memories. Where once stood a burned out, decaying lighthouse, there now stood a proud, restored, and glistening white structure.
As a teen, I could only look at the light from the exterior and gaze up into the charred and decaying interior. It was sheer joy to visit the restoration and actually be able to climb the stairs and enjoy the view from the top. Tours are available five days a week. There is a small charge. Because it is located within the Bill Baggs State Park there is also an entrance fee for the park.
God’s Beacon Of Light Just When I Needed It Most
The 300 mm Fresnel Lens Can Be Seen Up To 18 Miles Out At Sea
On that day in 1995 when I had been so terribly despondent, just any lighthouse would have been a nice gift, but not just any lighthouse would have been the beacon of light to guide me back to my safe harbor. The Fresnel lens of this lighthouse, though seen up to 18 miles out at sea, was no rival for the tiny miniature figurine placed in my hand by my two concerned friends. The light that shone from their hearts into mine was eternal, and far reaching. This particular lighthouse had come to me as a token of love, and was like a personal message from Gods loving hands.
I see this little figurine and am reminded that if God puts a thought in my mind, however strange it may seem, I should respond. Perhaps there is someone who just needs to feel the love of God through the instrument of a friends gift, a call, a card, or a visit. I hope I will respond like Nancy and Martha did, because not just any lighthouse will do.
Has there been a time when Gods hands have surrounded you because a friend reached out with a heart of love? Did you ever visit Cape Florida Lighthouse before the renovations? I’d love to hear your story.
(Cape Florida Light is also called El Farito Lighthouse)