lighthouses, ghosts, and hunting on Chesapeake Bay

A “threefer”.

No land blocks or slows the gales that move rapidly across the Pacific Ocean and slam into the coastal hills of northern California in winter.  These storms from the tropics, especially in El Nino years (as in 1982-3 and 1997-8) pack very strong winds and drop much rain on the coastal areas and inland valleys, and pile up the snow (measured in feet, not inches) in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  The gusting winds drive the rain hard against windows.  Umbrellas can be abruptly ripped from one’s hands.  Small children can become frightened.  (Adults are concerned with potential wind and storm damage to their homes.)

Lighthouses

It is in storms, that lighthouses are even more critical to the safety of ships at sea.  Today, most lighthouses are automated requiring only periodic maintenance and are not manned.  But for hundreds of years these lonely outposts were tended by keepers and their families.  As many lighthouses are located far from towns or even on small offshore islands, these individuals lived lonely lives (before modern communications like telephones or portable radios).  It was a difficult life for many and proved too much for some.  There are stories and legends of keepers going mad and murdering their families and/or killing themselves.  Some of these stories involve ghosts of the mad, or of their victims.

Lighthouse is from http://www.lighthouseinn-ct.com/ (an interesting site to visit)

 

 

Old lighthouse (below) is by minnesota.publicradio.org  A Lake Superior site?

 

Here is a well written book worth reading if you enjoy both ghosts and lighthouses.  The pic is from Amazon.com

 

Ghosts

There are different kinds of ghost stories.  The fictional ones, many of which were written in the late 1800s and early 1900s, are amusing and entertaining to read.  There are also accounts of the sightings of ghosts, such as in spiritualist circles where mediumistic seances were conducted (late 1800s and early 1900s, contemporaneous with the writing of many fictional ghost stories).  As well, many individuals have claimed to have seen a “ghost”.  As claimed ghost sightings occur in most, if not all, cultures, and have occurred through many centuries of history, one wonders what actually is happening here.

It seems plausible that these individuals really are seeing something.  (We are much less skeptical of ghost sightings than we are of claimed alien abductions which really are at the very frontiers of belief.)  From what little I know of the occult, there is the idea of the so-called etheric double.  This is an energy that remains for a time in the familiar surroundings of a deceased person and has the appearance of that person.  We think this is what the people are seeing when they see ghosts.

This etheric double is not the soul, atman, spiritual monad, or consciousness of the deceased individual.  That has moved on and is no longer earth-bound.  It is said that if one dies a sudden, unexpected and/or violent death, then this energy is more intense and can last for years or even decades before eventually dissipating.  Ghosts have been seen near historical battlefields where soldiers died violent deaths.  Other sudden, violent deaths that come quickly to mind include murders, suicides, executions, fatal automobile or plane crashes, and flood victims who have drowned.

One thing that does not help any serious inquiry into this phenomena is the activity of pranksters and hoaxers.  Several years back, I did an internet search on ghost photographs and found a number of examples of rather juvenile or sophomoric faked photos.  The idea behind trying to capture ghosts on photographic film is that if some  phenomena is being seen by the human eye (i.e. is stimulating the optic nerve and is thus in the visible range of the electromagnetic spectrum) then it ought to show up in photographs.  Many of us have by accident double exposed films while taking pictures.  That is one silly hoax that pranksters try to pass off as ghosts being caught on film.  Another ploy is to go out to a cemetery on a moonlit night and set off a smoking firework near a gravestone.  Photos can be taken in quick succession of the wispy grayish blue smoke at various points of expansion.  A hoaxer then uploads to the internet one or more of these photos and asserts that “ecto-plasm” was materializing out of the air.  (We do not recommend this activity.  More respect should be shown to the dead and cemeteries respected.)

Hunting on Chesapeake Bay

This is, from memory, an account of a hunting outing in early January, 1980 on Maryland’s eastern shore.  The yearly migration patterns of several species of geese have them flying south along the eastern portion of North America in the months of October through January.  Lesser Canadian geese generally range from 6 to 8 pounds (larger than a chicken but smaller than a turkey) and have a somewhat gamey or wild flavor to them.

Not to worry, water fowl hunters in the USA do not put the smallest of dents into the population of geese and ducks.  Outdoorsmen are not environmentalists (nor vegetarians), but they are conservationists.  When buying meat at the super market, do any of us consider what all was involved in bringing that meat to market?!

The area of the hunting is called Fishing Bay.  It is a salt water marsh that is a transition zone from the open waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the solid ground of the bay’s eastern shore.  (The towns of Salisbury and Easton are passed through on the way to the check in station.  Eastern Maryland is really only known for Ocean City, an Atlantic coast summer resort area.)  A small forest of mature trees borders the parking lot and must be traversed on the way to the fixed hunting blinds (constructed by state fish and game employees).

After leaving the Washington suburbs in the wee hours of the morning and then driving over the long bridge over the bay, we eventually reach the parking lot still in the dark with not much time until sunrise.  It is cold, calm and thankfully dry.  The temperature is about +8 or 9 degrees F (about -13 Centigrade for metric folks).  This is not as cold as a January morning in Russia, Scandinavia or Canada is.  Even the US cities of Rochester, Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis are much colder.  Even so, when you will be sitting still on a wooden bench in a thatched blind (with plywood floor) inches above ice-covered water, it is uncomfortable.

After donning our waders, strapping on our back packs (containing what will quickly be a frozen lunch, and ammunition), we unsheath our guns.  These are the 12 gauge shotguns from Remington.  These have the 3 inch chambers and the 30 inch long barrels.  The 2 3/4 inch shells would just not bring down geese.  We close up the car and walk with flashlights to the forest in silence.  A few other hunters have done the same and are already in the forest.

Shortly after, while barely into the forest, we encounter ice-covered water.  The ice is about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick and not very strong.  One must be careful as the ice will break underfoot in some places.  The water is not more than a couple of feet deep here, but a jagged piece of ice might possibly perforate one’s waders.  The beginnings of predawn twilight are upon us as we continue through what really is more of a mangrove swamp than a forest.  The ice “highway” actually is a blessing.  Slogging through this area normally involves frequent fighting against clinging, suctioning mud under one’s feet and could really be used in late summer for training and conditioning of NFL or college running backs.

After several minutes, perhaps ten, we exit the forest into a treeless marsh in the brightening twilight. Shooting can start with the sunrise, so we are anxious to make good time to our assigned blind.  Ahead of us on the path, we see a few small areas of freshly broken ice.  Earlier hunters making for more distant blinds must have broken through.

We get to the assigned 3 person blind.  After taking off our packs, we load up the guns and take our seats.  As geese can fly over us from any direction, we each take up parts of the sky to watch.  The cold, which was not so pressing on our consciousness while walking, is now difficult to ignore.

The sun breaks above the horizon in the distance.  It is mostly clear and calm.  A beautiful sight to behold.  Silence.  Everything is calm, pure.  How many sunrises since the Earth formed?  How many that man has witnessed?  You forget the concerns of the world at times like these.

No birds are flying.  We wait, mostly in silence, with our thoughts.

After a while, my thoughts turn to fellow students and friends.  It is difficult not to think that they are smarter or at least more sane than me.  No doubt, they all are at this moment sleeping comfortably in a warm bed on this Saturday morning.  This train of thought leads me to consider if there is not a deep seated masochism in my character or psyche.  My hands and feet are feeling (hurting) the cold as the body’s extremities always do.  The thought crosses my mind that, when the Spring semester starts in 2 weeks, walking across the large, spread out campus in College Park for an 8:00 a.m. class, even in a pesky wind with windchill, will not be so bad.

No birds to be seen.  Is it that they are lazy this morning and not flying yet?  Or, is it that with the cold nights since mid December the geese have moved on to the Carolinas and milder temperatures?

The stillness, calm, and the waiting continues.

(Since this outing, I have read many accounts of Antarctic and Arctic explorers, and am convinced that they do suffer from a certain masochism with what they endured – knowing in advance how miserable and cold their experiences would be.)

There were no birds that day.  It appeared that most of the birds were smarter than us and had left in the prior few weeks for warmer habitats.  Yet, we did get some geese earlier in that 1979 – 1980 hunting season on the Chesapeake Bay.

By late morning, after a few times of standing up and moving the legs and arms, we reversed our steps and made our way back to the parking lot.  Our efforts were in vain, but not wholly so.  As there is an intangible here.  The outing itself had some lessons for us.  For me, at the time, the lesson was: not again will I go out and sit outside in such temperatures.  But, looking back on it, the cold has been forgotten, and the beauty and the silence and the peace of that uncomfortable January morning are remembered not unfondly.

Blog site changes

We have recently added some additional “widgets” to the sidebar on the blog site, and since mid September it has had a new theme (background).  If you have not stopped by the site in a few months, you may want to check it out.  It looks much better than in the summer with the earlier background.  As well, you can search by category for earlier essays that may be of interest to you.  Best wishes to all!

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