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  • Writer's pictureDave Pidgeon

The lighthouse mantra

The Bodie Island Light Station is reflected in calm marsh water

LOCATION: Bodie Island Light Station, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, N.C.

THE EQUIPMENT: Canon 5D Mark IV | EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM | Peak Design aluminum travel tripod

GPS: 35°49'11.478" N 75°33'45.1656" W

THE STORY: I never knew where the concept of mantras came from.

Not until a few years ago when, as life contorted in such a way as to reboot just about everything, I needed one.

Mantras traditionally are sacred sounds or phrases repeated to calm the mind during meditation. They've grown culturally, though, beyond meditation to help guide our thoughts and actions through both the best and worst of times in our lives.

They can be a symbol and words, representative of sacred beliefs, a piling in the water to moor our hearts and souls, whether that water is as calm as a bay on a June evening or tempestuous from a storm at sea.

Mantras can keep us grounded in our words, thoughts, and actions.

When I first arrived in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. - a solo trip to the Outer Banks I designed for the purposes of healing old wounds, fostering closure to empty spaces of the heart, and the creation of new memories - I walked a short path through the dunes expecting to photograph a nearby fishing pier.

But then the clouds, which had stubbornly refused to move on from the barrier islands, slipped away, allowing an early evening sun and royal blue patches of sky to peak through, and I felt an inner call to the symbol of my mantra.

I quickly retreated back to my Jeep SUV and sped southward to the Bodie Island Light Station.

First illuminated in 1872, the 150-foot high, elegantly striped lighthouse can be seen rising above the quiet marshes and pine woods of Cape Hatteras for miles.

I adopted it as the symbol of my mantra at the start of the divorce. Something right away back then told me I needed to remain in my integrity through the whole gut-wrenching chapter, to do my best to not shrink in acquiescence or rise in fury, but instead to stand tall for what I believe to be sacred.

The lighthouse embodied so much of that belief. Imagine all the hurricanes it has endured. Imagine all the days baking in unremitting summer sun or standing sentinel under the unfolding drama of the constellations at night.

More than 150 years and there it stands on its own sacred ground as it always has with remarkable structural integrity.

But the lighthouse means more to me.

From my oldest friends to my newest acquaintances, from my supportive parents to my young children, I learned just how sacred everyone's journey is.

And how worthy they are of empathy, compassion, support, friendship, and love. I learned how through actions and words I can be a beacon for them on their own journey, a lantern to illuminate that worthiness that sometimes they may not feel themselves.

I found the right spot on a boardwalk through the marsh, set up my tripod, and with each press of the shutter release cable, said thank you to enduring symbol that has guided me through to this time of renewal.

Dave Pidgeon is a seasoned writer and photographer. He lives with his three sons in Lancaster, Pa.


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