In the England of my dreams, I often find that I return to the country in search of a lighthouse that I was always intent on seeing, but I never did, though some dreams insinuate a return to a specific place. This lighthouse doesn’t have a name, but no matter what happens in the rest of the dream, I never am able to get to it.
Like Ahab’s white whale, I travel through Bury St. Edmunds and London looking to find my way to the coast. While neither of these cities sit on the sea, something in some of the dreams implies that I can find the lighthouse from there. Instead of a lighthouse, though, I find castles and cathedrals instead.
When I left the United Kingdom on July 8, 1996, I had been in country 5.5 years both in and after my time in the Air Force. At the time, I was looking to spend my life in the relationship that I was in with the British gal who defined my final two years in England. Life's events happened, so both of our worlds went different directions. Thus, I returned home after about 6 additional months in country after I got out of the military.
At the time, a part of us thought I would return soon afterward, but the truth was that this goal was impossible since the money was gone, and financially, I would have been poor in no time at all since I had no marketable skills to sell in Britain.
Nevertheless, in certain dreams, which have occurred over 2+ decades, I go back to the country looking to find this protective coastline structure with its beam blasting out to the ships at sea, as if it is calling, “Come home! You are safe here!”
“The rocks on the coast are no obstacle. Neither is the fog or the waves. I am the lighthouse keeper. I will protect you. I will be your guide through the storm.”
The ocean gives way, acknowledging the supremacy of the giant tower.
Over 22 years, I have been with many people from back in the days that I lived in England. This includes my ex-girlfriend, who is even aware of me trying to find the lighthouse in the dreams that she appeared in.
Through it all, I have wandered many of the same streets that made up my adopted British home that was on Southgate Stree in Bury St. Edmunds. Nevertheless, I haven’t found this mysterious structure. Even if I set out to find it with friends and my wife, who I am vacationing with, we never go to this mysterious place.
Looking through my pictures of England to determine what this might be, I came upon a lighthouse on the chalk rocks of the Isle of Wight. While we never walked down to see it, it appeared magnificently at the end of the Needles. I also come upon the lighthouse at Orford Ness, but that too plays second fiddle to the castle in the town. In many ways, that stands thin and tall like a lighthouse, but that’s not what I’m looking for either.
On the lone trip where my former girlfriend and I vacationed in America, we saw the lighthouse at Chincoteague. While beautifully impressive, it reflects more about the American history of my now than it does that endless search.
So what is it? Where is this place, and what does it represent? What can I gain from a return to England that includes it, when I have walked through the surreal world of sleep to find every single one of those faces in my past (as well as a few misplaced Americans)?
If it is just a lighthouse, then I have seen them up and down the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts. I have climbed to the top and stared out at the boats in the harbor. What is in this mysterious structure that is so special and different?
Somewhere along this sandbar, there is an answer. I’m not quite sure what it is, but the waters around it never seem tumultuous. They just roll back and forth with the tides. Nevertheless, my slumber will call me again in the near future and taunt me with the answer I never obtain.
I wrote most of this a few weeks ago for a lighthouse magazine article that always felt more personal than literary, so I kept it for this day.
Last night, the thoughts I felt about the lighthouse and its symbolism made me realize how people past and present were with me while looking for the lighthouse, but not in the message of the lighthouse. If the message of the lighthouse was one of safety and destiny, then going back to England in search of that provides neither. The relationship in the past is now two marriages 3,500 miles apart from one another. Both are happy, and both are destiny.
The two of us were taught many life lessons to find our respective spouses and purposes in life. We've gained those things, we've made peace with our place in one another's lives, and we support one another in continuing to find great things in life. Here, I became a teacher, writer, Parkinson's warrior, historian, photographer, and better husband because of my time there and with her. Knowing that keeps me from going back to find something I didn't see or learn along the way, though I'd like to see more of England and Europe.
Like last night when I had this dream again, I didn't go back to the lighthouse. I'm not sure who I was with or what I had seen, but I remember specifically stating, "Once again, I didn't see the lighthouse," insinuating that I wasn't even looking for it.
All the same, on this 22nd anniversary of leaving my other homeland, I give you lots of photos of the Bury St. Edmunds of my dreams. If you're so inclined, you can see my Britpop memories CD list at the bottom of the page. It burns into 4 CDs.
Below this is CONSTABLE COUNTRY
Below this is COLCHESTER
Below this is WEETING CASTLE
Below this is LAVENHAM
Below this is THE FENS
Below this is ICKWORTH
Below this is PETERBOROUGH
1. Surfin USM by Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine
2. Don't Look Back in Anger by Oasis
3. Parklife by Blur
4. Car Song by Elastica
5. Swallow by Sleeper
6. My Favorite Dress by the Wedding Present
7. The Drowners by Suede
8. Sorted for E's and Whizz by Pulp
9. Showgirl by The Auteurs
10. Welcome to the Cheap Seats by The Wonderstuff
11. There She Goes by The La's
12. What You Do to Me by Teenage Fanclub
13. Haunted by You by Gene
14. Waterfall by Stone Roses
15. This is How It Feels by Inspiral Carpets
16. Find the Answer Within by The Boo Radleys
17. Join the Human Race by Kingmaker
18. Sheriff Fatman by Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine
19. Grey Cell Green by Ned's Atomic Dustbin
20. Sunshine Smile by Adorable
21. Loose Fit by Happy Mondays
22. Live Forever (acoustic) by Oasis
23. Happen to Die (unedited) by The Charlatans
24. Wake up Boo by The Boo Radleys
25. The Size of a Cow by The Wonderstuff
26. The Day We Caught the Train by The Ocean Color Scene
27. Kinky Afro by Happy Mondays
28. It's On by Flowered Up
29. Chemical World by Blur
30. Something Changed by Pulp
31. The Two of Us by Suede
32. Olympian by Gene
33. All Right by Supergrass
34. Don't Stop by Stone Roses
35. Stutter by Elastica
36. Happy by Ned's Atomic Dustbin
37. High as a Kite by Kingmaker
38. Brassneck by The Wedding Present
39. Idiot Brother by The Auteurs
40. I Wanna Be Adored by Stone Roses
41. God's Cop by Happy Mondays
42. Shakermaker by Oasis
43. Nothing to Be Done by Teenage Fanclub
44. Kennedy by The Wedding Present
45. Don't Let Me Down Gently by The Wonderstuff
46. White Shirt by The Charlatans
47. She Comes in the Fall by Inspiral Carpets
48. New French Girlfriend by The Auteurs
49. Common People by Pulp
50. Shopper's Paradise by Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine
51. Maniac by Sensitize
52. Where's Me Jumper by Sultans of Ping F.C.
53. Wonderwall by Mike Flowers Pops
54. Creep by Radiohead
55. For Tomorrow by Blur
56. Sleep Well Tonight by Gene
57. I am the Resurrection by Stone Roses
58. Movin on Up by Primal Scream
59. What Time is Love by The KLF
60. Disco 2000 by Pulp
61. Unbelievable by EMF
62. Dizzy by Vic Reeves and the Wonderstuff
63. Veronica by Sultans of Ping F.C.
64. Coffee and TV by Blur
65. High as Monkeys by Boo Radleys
66. She Bangs the Drums by Stone Roses
67. Sleeping with Ghosts by Placebo
68. Beautiful Ones by Suede
69. Atomic by Sleeper
70. Trash by Suede
71. Junk Shop Clothes by The Autuers
72. Just When You're Thinking Things Over by The Charlatans
73. Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft by The Wedding Present
74. Until You Find Out by Ned's Atomic Dustbin
75. Acquiesce by Oasis
76. Wake up and Scratch Me by Sultans of Ping F.C.
If you want another 4 to make an even 80 song digital list...
77. Untitled Love Song by Moose
78. Christine by House of Love
79. Right Here, Right Now by Jesus Jones
80. 36° by Placebo