Morphing Miscou Beach

It was really different this time and I’m still not sure if I like all the changes. We hadn’t been to Miscou in two years and arrived on a hot, windy August day to find that the lighthouse site had been developed as a tourist destination. Pros and cons, pros and cons, I thought. But the island would surprise me again. 

The massive lighthouse itself had been refurbished and was open to the public. It was now possible to pay $5.00 and climb the 96 stairs to the light and observation deck of this giant and experience a god’s eye view of the shimmering island. It’s pretty high and you have to climb through a hatch to get to the open air of the deck. So high that I only stayed out there a few minutes before vertigo drove me back inside to grip the handrail and nestle beside the huge glass lens of the light.

But I was glad I went up. I was determined not to let arthritic knees stop me. I wanted to experience the reawakening of this colossus with the giant orb. The lighthouse has been reanimated and that is good. He is the watcher and protector.

The gift shop/snack bar was another new addition. Tastefully constructed and sided with wooden shingles, it offered souvenir knick-knacks (not so tasteful), ice cream and take-out food. It seemed like a popular spot and I told myself that all of this was good for the local economy — really there isn’t much else on this island of 800 souls. Nothing original about the shop, though. It did not reflect the soul of this place.

view from the lighthouse at Miscou Beach

Our first pilgrimage to Miscou

The first time we came to Miscou Beach there wasn’t anything there except the lighthouse and it seemed as if we had discovered it. The sparkling water, beautiful stones, rhythmic frothy surf and salty air delighted and heightened our senses. It made us want to fill our lungs with the wild wind. It was magical and sacred and it had a presence. It didn’t need any gift shop or scurrying tourists.  We now call our almost yearly trip to Miscou a pilgrimage and we mean it.

Which brings me to the third new structure there, still under construction. Looks like it will be a small chapel. OK, I thought, something to inspire reverence. I walked over, took a peek inside and experienced something uncanny. I heard music. It sounded like an organ, then voices singing, then chanting like the kind that Gregorian or Tibetan monks do with low, resonating tones. It was beautiful. 

The chanting of the wind

The wind at Miscou is relentless and it took me a few minutes to figure out that it was the wind blowing through the steel scaffolding that was making these eerie sounds.  Still, it seemed as if the island’s spirit was singing to me.

Then I remembered something called Aeolian Harps developed by the Ancient Greeks. I Googled it when we got home. Aeolius is the god of the wind and the protector of an island. His harp is an instrument played by the wind. It is a wooden box with a sounding board and strings stretched across two bridges. It is placed in a partially opened window so the wind can blow through. 

The character of the sound depends on the material that the strings are made of and also their length and thickness.  They can be tuned to various notes or pitches. The nature of the wind and the resonating body also influence the music.

Curiously, An Aeolian harp plays only harmonic frequencies.  With so many disturbing and disruptive sounds in our modern environments, these sounds can be like a balm to our jangled senses. 

Wikipedia says about the harps: “Their vibrant timbres produce an etheric, almost mystical music that many people find alludes to higher realms”.  Ahhhhhhh, so the spirit of Miscou did speak to me.

I am now in the process of composing a letter to Miscou Tourism suggesting they build some structures, some “Miscouian Harps” to give the wind, one of Miscou’s most dominant features, a voice to sing, a voice to carry us to higher realms.

woman in a large room of a wooden lighthouse