I would imagine that many music lovers think of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” when they hear a foghorn blow. That’s an after thought for me. You don’t hear foghorns from where I’m from. As a matter of fact, that’s often what we say when our stomachs turn over. Either that or “there’s a rumble in the Bronx”. It’s totally classless, but among the ladies that I grew up with, well frankly, we laugh like 8 year old boys when one of us makes the horn sound, signifying that the last morsel that they ingested into their body is proving to be regrettable. So, it’s reasonable, albeit embarrassing, that the first time I hear a foghorn while visiting a coastal town each summer, I chuckle. It’s childish, not very lady like, and 100% true. Tonight was a very foggy night in Nantucket, so the first thing that I thought of was my girl’s back home who are undoubtedly hiding under rocks filled with embarrassment right now.
Once that moment passes, I begin to love the sound of a foghorn in a more grown up and slightly complex way. The noise reverberates in my mind sweetly brining back memories of my parents sharing a love of lighthouses, the ocean and dreaming of living by the sea. My father loved talking with my brother about what it was like to live on the sea before modern times. They geeked out on every tall ship we boarded on family vacations leaving me to be nothing more than an innocent bystander and from time to time, a willing student of history. It is only now that I wonder if my brother remembers those conversations with my father and how together my parents were determined to teach us both to be well-rounded people by exposing us to some pretty amazing things. It was on these same trips that my eye was trained for photography. We learned about light and composition by seeing, feeling and listening. We’d taking turns with the loan camera shooting lighthouse, waves and seals and for me a whole boatload of things that didn’t make sense to anyone until the film was developed and they could see my point of view for themselves. I have always understood my parent’s preoccupation with the water and life around it. I sometimes wonder if this is because they taught us to love and respect it or if this love is merely an instinctual one.
Either way, it’s oddly brilliant to think that with all of the technology that we now have, in parts of the world we still signal boats that land is ahead with light and warn mariners of potential hazards with the “simple” sounds of these mighty horns. With an admittedly guilty smile on my face, I wonder what it is like to be in the buildings where the foghorns are mounted when they go off. One thing is for sure I have no intention of finding out first hand.