Winter, 1907. You live in Clifden in western Ireland, and your favorite way to spend the rare clear-skied evening (after a hard day of farming or herding or shopkeeping) is to walk up the hill to the monument. The sunsets are gorgeous over the Atlantic ocean, and as dusk falls you can look south to see a man-made lightning show. Sparks dance over eight huge wooden masts marking a rectangle 1,000 feet long by 200 wide. The masts support 52 wires lengthwise across the top, which fan down at one end into a single wire connected to a mysterious building.…
August, 2017: the sun is shining on the edge of North America, but the foghorn still cries its warning to the clouded sea. Two paired blasts per 60 seconds; a signature to identify location by sound. In the dark, you need to know which horn you’ve heard. This is Cape Race lighthouse, which holds one of the last remaining hyper-radial Fresnel lenses ever made. Perched on the southern coast of Newfoundland, it offers the first sighting of land for ships crossing the Atlantic. Oh, and it’s got nearly 800 pounds of liquid mercury at the top.
February, 2021: Crouched between bushes at the top of a steep hill, listening and watching for activity. First sighting from inside the perimeter: a huge hare, bounding between stacks of scattered concrete beams, beams left like a child’s building blocks to gradually erode and gather moss and become part of the Irish landscape. Alone, then. Hares aren’t known for liking human activity. We scramble down, and in.
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Why the bathrooms?
When I started traveling back in early 2017, a good friend asked me to post something to Instagram each time I arrived in a new place, so she’d know I was safe. “It can be anything” she said. “Just take a picture of the first thing you see.”
The next day I was chatting with my cousin and mentioned this conversation. “If you take a picture of the first thing you see whenever you get to a new place, you’ll be posting a lot of pictures of airport bathrooms” he laughed. “…that’s perfect” I replied. “I’m going to collect pictures of toilets everywhere I go!” And here we are.