Monday, November 15, 2010

What are the Odds?

Edgartown Light at Dawn, 2010 (Click to see Larger)

As a researcher, I’m usually your man in probabilities. (Yes, I do have a life. It’s not like I’m an actuary.) But sometimes the odds still surprise me.

My mother’s recovery in the hospital continues. The fog of post-operative confusion is slowly clearing. She was moved the other night from a cardiac care unit to a room on the orthopedic wing in the newest part of a hospital. The rooms are nice here. There’s no question that you’re still in a hospital. But compared to the rooms she was in last week, this orthopedic room is downright luxurious. It’s bright and spacious. Soft woods are used to contain storage and hide some of the grislier mechanics of hospital infrastructure.

But that’s not the reason I’m writing this. What I’m writing about is the lighthouse on the wall.

We live by the Atlantic Ocean. There are lighthouses everywhere around here. They dot the coast just about anywhere there’s an inlet or where obstacles to navigation aren’t easily visible. Our city’s official logo includes an illustration of the lighthouse at Cape Henry (commissioned during George Washington’s presidency). Every other seafood restaurant has pictures of lighthouses illustrating the menu and hanging on the wall. Lighthouses once marked the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay. They guided sailors up and down the bay and into and out of the rivers, ponds and marshes than feed the bay. (Today, of course, it’s all GPS.)

Any one of these would have been the expected sight were you to hear that a hospital room in Virginia Beach had a picture of a lighthouse on the wall. But that isn’t the case in my mother’s room. The painting on her wall isn’t even a Virginia lighthouse. Nor is it one of the famous tall lighthouses of the Outers Banks of North Carolina, just to our south, nor one of the squat screw-pile lighthouses you see up the Chesapeake Bay. It’s not even a cliché picture of Nubble Light, or any of the other iconic lighthouses of the New England coast.

No, the lighthouse featured in the painting in my mother’s room is none other than the Edgartown Light, the stubby little lighthouse that guards the entrance to Edgartown harbor and Katama Bay on the island of Martha’s Vineyard.

Although it seems an eternity ago now, I was standing at the Edgartown Light barely a month ago. I walked by it and sometimes sat on its steps every morning and most afternoons for a week. We’ve been going to the Vineyard since the mid-1970s. So it’s possible, even likely, that I’ve take more pictures of the Edgartown Light than any other single object I’ve ever photographed. (All three of the photos shown here, plus fifty more like them, were taken in early October.)

There’s even a painting of the Edgartown Light by Amanda Kavanagh (based on one of my photos) on the wall of my office.

So how about those odds?

The painting on the wall of my mother’s hospital room is a really bad giclée copy of a painting by Ray Ellis called Henry’s Walk. It’s named for the late Henry Beetle Hough, longtime owner and editor of the Vineyard Gazette, one of the finest weekly newspapers you could read. Henry and his bride Betty came to the Vineyard in the 1920s after his father gave him the Gazette as a wedding present.

I had the pleasure of knowing Henry in the last years of his life. I worked in newspapers when I first met him and never tired of hearing his stories about the Gazette.

Henry loved to walk and was a regular sight walking alone in the woods and along the shoreline of Edgartown with his dog. (He had a succession of collies through the years, all of them named Graham.)

Edgartown Light at Dawn 12, 2010

I don’t think of Henry as having been a sentimental person. But it gives me some comfort to know that Ray’s painting of Henry’s Walk looks down my mother, whose only remark about this bit of synchronicity is, “I wish you’d stop going on about that damned lighthouse and come over here and tell me what they’re going to do about this broken leg of mine.”

I could be wrong. But I'm going to take it as a sign of recovery.

Edgartown Light Sunny Morning, 2010


  1. What a sweet story! I hope your mother is going to be OK- and yes, what a coincidence about the lighthouse.
    I love the guy who calls every dog he has Graham.
    Would that not be confusing if he buries them and every headstone reads " Graham" "Graham" Graham" and "Graham" !! ( although the dates would be different !).

  2. Glad she has been upgraded Chris...and that your lighthouse is watching over her.

    I guess you feel about that lighthouse the same way I feel about the strip metal dump on the Gowanus canal. I probably shouldn't dwell too much on that observation.

  3. Hahaahaaaaaa! Your mother sounds like a riot. And that lighthouse sounds beautiful, stubby or not. That comment makes me think she sounds like she's rallying. Hope so!

  4. So glad to hear that your mother is improving! Enjoy every moment you have with her.

  5. You're right, what are the odds. Definitely a sign. Good thoughts being sent to your mother.

  6. Glad to hear your mom is recovering enough to give you a hard time. Sometimes that's just what mothers have to do. As far as the odds, who's to say. Lately the coincidences just seem to keep on coming.

    What were the odds of our moving from VB to a little town in the Blue Ridge and the first thing our new family doctor asked when I met him was "Where did you get the Chic's Beach hat? I grew up in Ocean Park!" His parents live about 2 miles from my mom.

  7. Yes, what are the odds? And your mother's crankiness is probably a good sign.