The following are reflective thoughts by a modern day “Keeper” at Race Point Light Station. Herb Kinney, the author of these heartfelt words, has dedicated them to the keepers – past, present and future, who through their care and commitment, have preserved Race Point Light Station. And also to their guests who will pass on the many memories, experiences, fun, and aspirations of this very special place.
Prologue to “I Love This Place”
I am sitting at my desk. It is six weeks into our COVID-19 lock down. It is hard to believe that less than six months ago I was memorializing my thoughts by completing the draft of this piece on the Race Point Lighthouse (RPL). COVID-19 has closed the RPL for this upcoming season. Cape Cod faces a very uncertain summer, and most importantly so many are suffering either from the physical horrors of this pandemic or the economic chaos it has created. How quickly life can radically change!
More so than usual, the “Thoughts of a Keeper” becomes the wonderful memories of times past. Our recollection of Race Point becomes a great comfort as we move forward. This plague will pass; life will return to normal. We keepers will do what keepers do and return to Race Point Light Station. Our guests will come again to create new experiences in “This Place We All Love.” Wonderful new memories are yet to be made.
As we read this piece, it is my hope that we all look forward towards better times to come. We are blessed in so many ways. Our purpose, to make sure the Lighthouse remains available for all to enjoy, has not changed. So sit back, allow imagination to carry you to this special place, let your best memories and aspirations help transform you to the future that lies ahead, and look forward to a time when we may all return to Race Point and appreciate this “Little Piece of Heaven That We All Love.” – Herb Kinney, May 13, 2020
I Love This Place! – Thoughts of a Keeper, Race Point Light Station
I love this place.
I gaze out the window,
The beach grass sways in the wind,
The landscape is bathed in sunlight,
Everywhere I look is postcard perfect for summer fun and beauty!
But this scene belies reality – it is November.
The wind is raw, the air is cold, but I am warm inside this house.
My memory goes back to summer.
Grandchildren playing in the sand and surf,
Seals on dinner patrol just off the beach,
Frisbees flying from hand to hand,
Whales spouting offshore,
Warm sand between my toes as I walk the beach.
How fun is summer at the Lighthouse!
November is no less for those who love this place.
This house is our fortress against the elements,
She stands against wind, rain, storm, and gale.
She is insulated with brick and mortar,
She does not groan with the wind,
Inside we are cozy and warm.
Here she stands as a steadfast sentinel,
Duty bound – facing the elements for almost 150 years.
She has sheltered her inhabitants,
Her light has guided imperiled mariners past the Race in all types of weather,
She has inspired artists and writers from all over the world.
Now is our time to enjoy her special form of love and her wonderful beauty,
A welcome time to read, settle in, and be at peace.
Evening has come.
We watch the sun as it settles on the western horizon,
Its parting rays paint the clouds with pinks and purples.
I salute in my heart as Taps overtakes my imagination,
I lower the flag reverently,
I am proud as I take her in my hands for safe keeping until the dawn,
Day is done – what a day it has been.
Another beautiful day at the Lighthouse.
It is now night.
I go out on the front porch and gaze across the dune to the waters beyond,
In summer I can sit on this porch for hours.
I observe the lights across the water.
I now reflect on what has past,
In my youth I would look out across Lake Erie in the same way,
There I found peace and put in order,
The many threads of my life and the future that would come.
The peace that comes over me here is the same.
The night is cold, I shall not stay long,
In summer, the guests might have a fire on the beach – not tonight,
I retreat into the warmth of our fortress.
How fortunate are we to be at this place we love!
I hug my wife and sit down to share time together in the living room.
As keepers we have met many wonderful and interesting guests,
How delightful it is to share this special place with them!
Tonight, we are alone – unusual but very special.
We prepare dinner together – seafood we purchased in Provincetown earlier.
Somehow out here it tastes even more special than usual.
We breathe in the salt air that permeates this house,
The building wind and surf play their muffled symphony outside,
We smile knowingly at each other.
Tonight, we shall sleep soundly,
We love this place!
The morning dawns cloudy and cold.
Looking out the window there is no illusion that summer remains.
The winds have not calmed, and the surf pounds against the shore.
It is low tide and the expanse of beach is exposed,
Ours are the only footprints on the beach this morning.
The wind tears at my face and I pull my hat down further,
My wife can still walk forever; I am more limited.
The air is fresh, and the perpetual rhythm of the surf dominates.
The mist from a breaking wave spritzes my being,
I taste the salt on my lips,
I feel blessed even though I shall soon retreat to the warmth of our fortress.
I am to the whirlwind as each grain of sand is to this beach.
I am seemingly insignificant, but I am alive and vital,
I can breathe, I think,
I see, I hear.
I smell these phenomenal scents around me,
I remember and I aspire.
I am humbled by what surrounds me.
How lucky am I to know this life!
How proud am I to be able to contribute!
How fortunate am I to so often find happiness such as I find here!
This place is now a part of me as I am of it.
Later we shall take the Suburbans across the sand dunes toward civilization.
A new group of guests are coming in,
I smile in anticipation of their exuberant excitement.
Their first view of the Lighthouse as it peaks through the dunes,
What adventures lay ahead,
They are the reason we are here.
They give purpose to our efforts to preserve this place.
What will they be like? I wonder.
First, I must stop by the dump, do errands, and do what Keepers must do.
Tonight, we have a full house.
Three couples who have never previously met.
After dinner we find ourselves congregating around the kitchen table.
Each group of guests is different,
We feel comfortable with this group’s warm greetings to join them.
Perhaps the evening will end in a game of Yahtzee,
Perhaps someone will produce a bottle of port or an apple pie,
Perhaps we will solve the problems of the world in serious, interesting discussion,
Perhaps we will just have pleasant conversation,
Or perhaps we will entertain the story of Race Point Light Station,
Whatever the activity the evening is suddenly very late, and we retire.
This is the mission of this place – to see that our guests enjoy themselves,
This is our mission – to see that our guests experience and enjoy Race Point,
This wonderful infection heals the soul and warms the heart
A new day has dawned – sunny and clear.
The winds have calmed; the heavy surf subsided,
Enjoy it now for the forecast projects a major change,
Heavy weather is coming!
The guests are again around the kitchen table, finishing their morning coffee.
On the beach the quiet ebb tide has left a scene strewn with treasure,
There are shells everywhere, stones with wonderful shapes and colors,
There are feathers from sea birds, starfish, and all manner of miscellany.
We find a whale rib and scattered bones expelled from the depths,
One of the guests takes the rib and lashes it to the front porch – it is fitting!
Further down the beach,
We find two ship planks joined together by wooden pegs,
These are old – I wonder about their history.
Everywhere we find pieces of plastic, Dacron rope, and lobster pot buoys,
We put them in a bag for disposal.
A small act of defiance against a sea of un-degradable waste,
How careless we can be with all that surrounds us.
By the water is the practically intact skeleton of a seal,
It has been cleaned by small fish and sea life.
How intricate it is! It is amazing.
I am impressed.
This is truly the work of The Master Craftsman.
And yet this animal that once foraged in the sea,
Has now fed a whole community of fish, birds, and other creatures.
A seal pod congregates just offshore – it goes on despite its previous loss,
The circle of life is obvious here,
And so, it goes, on and on throughout the ages.
The surf continues to quietly lap the shore.
It is the afternoon of a new day; the storm arrived last night and continues.
A significant leak becomes obvious in the kitchen,
The driving rain of the storm has penetrated the fortress,
The citadel needs repair.
Yes, this house which shelters us from the elements,
Whose towering light protects mariners by piercing the darkness,
Whose love has created so much emotion within us,
Now needs our love and care to help her remain strong.
Her needs will be met, the repairs made, and the fortress will be maintained.
The keepers will do their many jobs.
Many hands and ideas will lead to continued success,
This place will be preserved and remain strong,
God willing and the sea don’t rise (nor the gale reach its porch),
She will pass down to those who have yet to experience her.
No sunset this evening. The storm moves on. I sleep well.
Night passes. Time cycles. I feel myself surrendering to it.
The rising sun crowns the morning with its brilliant rays,
A passing schooner is illuminated as her white sails cut through blue sea and sky,
Whale Watch boats pass back and forth packed with tourists full of excitement.
The tide ebbs and flows. We experience the passing day,
The setting sun paints the evening sky with divine artistry.
The stars fill the clear sky with a million sparkling lights – Orion is rising!
The moon enchants the night as it rises over Provincetown.
Hyperbole dominates the scene, even though the wind is cold. Winter is near.
Each day is a new experience.
My unread books dwindle and my pen flourishes,
Every day I make my rounds,
I check the fortress for any imperfection. She is strong.
My wife does her daily magic that makes this special place spectacular,
How does she do it? I call her “Martha Stewart.”
I can clean all day and not equate to what she can do in 30 minutes,
Thank goodness she also handles the paperwork and the Gift Shop.
I sing a song of sand and sea
Of sun and surf and breeze
I sing a song of Family fun
And memories made for everyone.
I sing a song of brilliant light
That pierces through the stormy night
It calls to sailors, imperiled at sea
“Come home to safety; follow me.”
I sing a song of Keeper’s past
For you, their duty stands steadfast.
They sang this song of sand and sea.
Their legacy now lives in me.
I quietly lower the flag at sunset.
I enthusiastically raise it again in the morning.
Old Glory catches the breeze and spreads out to display her proud colors.
In the summer I make the grandchildren stand at attention – hand on heart.
This morning a few gulls watch respectfully at attention from the fortress roof,
I chuckle at the thought of a Herring Gull fly-by to punctuate the occasion.
Every day we walk the beach and check-out new treasures that we find.
New guests come and go; they are delightful.
Hikers trudge across the dunes.
Coming from all over the world, our fortress is their beacon.
I proudly take them up to the light room in the tower – they are enthralled,
They determine to return; perhaps, someday they will.
Will this special place be here to greet them?
My mind wanders to the future,
What lies ahead for this place?
She has stood for years, but the sea is relentless.
Every year the dunes are smaller,
Every year the surf is closer,
She was once reclaimed from decay and deterioration,
Eventually the surf may become her final enemy.
Who will stand up and protect her when that time comes?
We shall all do what we can.
Until that time should arrive, let us continue to preserve this “Piece of Heaven.”
Let our actions and our memories inspire others to love this place,
May others enjoy “Heaven” as we have, creating new memories to pass-on,
Let coming generations receive from us the legacy we have preserved.
May this precious place never be lost to time.
Today is a sad day.
Our time here is coming to a close,
Our duties as keepers for this assignment will soon end,
We do the final cleaning with our guests,
We pack our vehicles and prepare to leave.
After final pictures on the front porch, we all climb into the Suburbans.
I turn the key and we are off across the sand headed towards home.
The conversation is usually “Oo’s” and “Ah’s,”
Tributes to a spectacular stay at this very special place.
I look in the mirror as Race Point Light Station fades in the distance.
Yes, this is a very special place
I know I will be back.
How can I ever get this sand out of my shoes?
Why would I even want to try?
How could I ever succeed in such a futile endeavor?
The sand has found a place in my heart.
I Love This Place
– H.B. Kinney, Keeper, November 2019