A Tale of Two Lights
By Krishtia Lindgren
For Christmas this year, my husband gave me a good quality 35mm camera, one worth getting out of bed in the wee hours of a frigid January morning to drive out to Montauk and photograph the sunrise. I hadn’t been up this early in awhile and sadly, I’d forgotten how rewarding it is. Truth be told, it was my brother who inspired me to go. He’s a talented photographer and was planning to spend the day after New Years getting some shots of Montauk at daybreak. I’m always down for a good adventure and I knew it would be a great opportunity to use my brand new toy. Though a sunrise was reason enough to go, we had also heard reports of harbor seals on the rocks off the end of the Seal Haulout Trail in Block Island Sound. My husband and my big, brown dog were also feeling up for a road trip, so the four of us packed up our truck in the wintry frost and headed East into the darkness.
We first catch a glimpse of a seasonally vacant Memory Motel about an hour before sunrise. Montauk and its inhabitants lie dormant as we pass the traffic circle and continue straightaway downMontauk Highway. We arrive atMontauk Pointamid deer and dedicated surfers beginning to stir in the pre-dawn light. Salty air seeps through the exposed skin on my face. Today, Mother Nature kindly blesses us with soft winds. Dignified and noble, stands the lighthouse upon the hill. I briefly take notice of the light atop it. But what I am enchanted by is a dimmer, demure light about one hundred feet below the famed one. A lamp glowing softly in one of the lighthouse windows. “Someone lives there?” I quietly think to myself. Beyond the bounds of possibility says the cynic in me. “A lighthouse keeper?” My nostalgic heart skips a beat at the thought.
A lighthouse keeper is really there quietly watching over a two hundred year old beacon still guiding mariners in our modern world of GPS and iPhones.
I am grateful for things like this in life. That automation and technology did not replace the lighthouse keeper and her gigantic blackNewfoundlandis one redeeming point in the plus column for the human race. Awestruck, I stand there in the parking lot for quite some time imagining the interior space in which she lives. A perfectly frayed quilt strewn across a rocking chair next to an old, wooden table with a book or two and that softly glowing lamp upon it. Beside it, her dog cozily curled up on an oval-shaped, braided rug. Perhaps a pot of coffee brewing in a homey, no-frills kitchen. Faded black and white photographs of past lighthouse keepers hanging on the walls of the hallway.
Inspired before the sun even comes up, we walk Paumanok Path down to Turtle Cove just West of the fabled lighthouse. Quiet solitude gives way to the roaring waves of the Atlantic crashing into shore. The sunrise does not disappoint, it never does. The seals are awesome too. Later that day, we head back into town for pancakes, though I won’t say where. The debate over the better of the two pancake proprietors in town is a heated one that I prefer to watch from afar. Besides, we get a better taste of Montauk’s quirky, rural flavor watching a portly pot-bellied pig take his belly-dragging morning walk downS. Etna Ave. This makes for some great photographs though the most haunting image of the day is still that lamp in the window. I never photographed it, I never even thought to. It remains etched in my mind, a romantic beacon of hope. Hope for a new day’s sunrise, a new year’s promise. Hope that some simple good things don’t go away in time.