I don’t understand why people like lighthouses and lobster boats—a plea for enlightenment!

In a few weeks I’m moving to the coast of Maine, and I have a problem. I don’t understand something vital to the culture: the appeal of lighthouses and lobster boats.

I need some serious education here because these are iconic symbols. But when I see a lighthouse I think, “What a rickety old building. I guess it’s clever to build it round, but why didn’t they build it into a square shape? And why is it still here?”

Image result for maryland lighthouses

Umm, ok. So it’s a round tower. Why should I like this?

I went through a lighthouse on the mid-Atlantic coast with some relatives a few years ago, and as we left the falling-apart, mildewy structure, I commented, “Someone should just knock this down and improve the view.”

You would have thought that I suggested cutting up the Declaration of Independence to use it as toilet paper.

That “ruining the view” attitude is also my problem when it comes to lobster boats. They’re rusty, look perpetually 60 years old, and get in the way of seeing the water and trees around. But there’s some romantic mystique that I’m missing, because people have photos and paintings of lobster boats everywhere, and some folks even decorate with buoys and lobster traps.

Image result for lobster boats in maine

I can’t see the scenery for the boats!

I feel like Ben Wyatt in “Parks and Rec,” discovering that everyone in Pawnee is enamored with a miniature horse named Lil’ Sebastian. But he doesn’t get it. “It’s just a small horse,” he points out, and everyone glares at him.

Image result for ben wyatt lil sebastian

To me, the lobster boats would be like seeing a long-haul vehicle in front of the majestic Tetons. Get that vehicle out of the shot!

Image result for tetons long haul truck

Or visiting a lighthouse is like going to tour a motor home instead of looking at the Rocky Mountains behind it. Why are we looking at this?

Image result for mobile home rocky mountains

We value what our culture trains us to value, which is why I love the mountains and Yellowstone and the rugged, wild west. A relative from the east coast, however, once went through Yellowstone and came back with this shocking evaluation: “Three days of just bison, hot water, and no TV? I’ve had enough of that dullness to last me a lifetime.”

Oh! Blasphemy!

Then again, this was the person who took me through the lighthouse and thought it was the greatest thing for a hundred miles around.

And I thought it was . . . dull.

You can see that I have a problem—the coast isn’t my culture and I don’t yet know how to appreciate it. I’ve tried researching this, but the assumption is that everyone already knows why lighthouses and lobster boats are appealing.

I want to learn. My parents learned how to embrace their new culture of the wild west after they immigrated from Germany. They learned to love barbecues, pioneers, deserts, and even said “Howdy” on occasion, and meant it!

So I’m issuing a plea: Explain to me the charm, lore, and love of lighthouses and lobster boats. Why are they appealing? Why should I get excited when my dear husband says we’re going to visit them?

Teach me to love the culture of my new home.

8 thoughts on “I don’t understand why people like lighthouses and lobster boats—a plea for enlightenment!

  1. I’m from NC. As far back as I can remember we spent every summer for my dad’s one week a year vacation in the outer banks. We drive for hours and hours and arrived at night. Even though my dad had worked all day, drove most of the night, he took the time to put up our “tent” (yes I do mean tent) and then we went to bed until sunrise where my mom would cook breakfast on a Coleman stove and my dad, sister and I would walk to the beach. My dad would surf fish all day and then go to a pier and my mom and dad would fish most of the night. And for whatevger reason we were always on the lookout for dolphins and boats. We always got excited to be the one to see them first. My sister and I were left to our own accord and we made friends and had adventures every day. The highlight of our day sometimes was to dig for sand fiddlers for my dad to use to fish with. Yes we thought it was wonderful. Every year my mom would take us to see all the lighthouses and hear the stories of ghost and pirates and shipwrecks. My favorite was of Blackbeard. Even though we did this every year we always enjoyed hopping on the ferry to go to Ocracoke Island. We stopped going when my mom and dad divorced. So to me lighthouses and beaches and boats make me think of a happier freer time of life. I cant remember a trip that wasn’t filled with great times. Sometimes it was just my sister and I on the beach except for men fishing and we never fought. Maybe that’s why my parents loved it because it was the only time their children got along. Both of my parents are now gone and my sister lives in California. I don’t know if my sister remembers our times as I do but I always have to smile whenever reminded of them. Thank you for your story to give me a good memory today.


    • Oh, I love this! It’s the stories, isn’t it? The stories your mom shared about the lighthouses, then the stories that arose from your memories and the parts you choose to remember (and blessedly you remember the best parts!). That’s what makes it all! Great perspectives.


  2. Trish,
    Welcome to Washington County. The land of blueberries, lobster, lighthouses and rusty lobster boats. It is difficult for one who has not been raised here to understand the love of these certain objects…but you are spot on when you identify that it is a representation of a way of life and culture for us here in Down East Maine. It represents the history of many families who earn their living from the sea, now, and generations prior. I am a teacher at Washington Academy in East Machias Maine. When i’m not teaching, I run a lobster boat out of Bucks Harbor Maine. The freedom of being on the sea and seeing the world from a different perspective other than from the shore is an amazing feeling for some. The reason lighthouses are round is so when the water hit them on storms and high seas… it would go around them and cause minimal damage to the building. Lighthouses are a comforting sight to those of us that work on the water. When we see them and their light, we know we are almost home after a long hard day. I hope when you arrive you enjoy all that our area has to offer. We are the poorest county in revenue…but the richest county in landscape and history.


    • Thanks for you explanation! I needed a local to answer that, definitely. My husband also works at WA–you probably recognize the last name.


      • Trish. I suggest you learn the value of this area–from battles to lighthouses to lobster boats to local people–learn their value and learn how to appreciate all of these things, in silence. Have some forethought. Have some respect. Then blog. Then speak.

        Kathy Garcelon


      • That’s what I’ve been trying to do. If you read my blog, you’ll see that I’ve experienced people who don’t understand that which I love, and I also want to emulate my parents’ example of learning to embrace their “foreign” land.
        I wrote this as an earnest plea to be given understanding and perspective, which a few people have graciously done.
        I’m trying to learn, I’m asking to be taught!

        Tell me, please–what do these iconic symbols mean to you? I’ve researched what they mean to the state and history, but what do you, personally, feel about lighthouses and lobster boats and even the battles? (The first naval battle of the Revolution occurred in front of my house!)


  3. So I sat pondering… Why would I love a lighthouse? I cannot speak for lobster boats being from Michigan. Is it nostalgia? Is it an endearing characteristic of a place we love? Maybe it’s in the learning and living that we come to love?
    It could be like a mother loving a homely child… We stand back and wonder what to say, scratching our heads and trying to smile, wondering what she sees.
    For me a lighthouse is a symbol of a place I love. Beaches, sand, crystal clear water, sailboats, “The Great Lakes State”. Much like an American flag I suppose.


    • I think you make an excellent point–it’s what we’re USED to loving, the place that it represents. So far, those symbols don’t represent anything for me, but perhaps in time they will.
      (Homely child . . . snicker, snicker!)


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