It was one of those toss-and-turn nights, so I finally gave up and wandered into the kitchen for a glass of water. Glancing out the back window, I noticed how my colorful backyard solar lights were still glowing in the dark.
They are the kind that segue from blue to red to green and back to blue again at night, fueled only by energy soaked from the sun the day before.
Most of my lights are balls of cracked glass standing on slender metal poles about 26 inches high. Each has a solar receptor attached to the pole. Ive had them at least two years, ever since I saw similar lights in a friends yard. They just seem to bring a bit of magic to an area that, without streetlights, illumination disappears when the sun goes down.
It was in that short glance that I noticed one of the lights was merrily turning colors blue, red, green, blue, red, green just like the others. But this was a light that I hadnt seen operate for a very long time. I had meant to replace it but never got around to it.
There it was, performing for no one in particular. It seemed to be happy standing there, joining its partner, the light to the left that always glowed, showing off its colors and lighting the darkness around it.
I was amazed at its presentation and headed outside in the balmy evening to sit and watch for a few minutes. Its comeback gave me a bit of joy. (This is where some readers will mutter, She needs to get a life.)
Who in our day-to-day routines performs small acts of magic that we may not have the opportunity to see, except by chance?
This summer, I have been sitting in the control booth at the Coaster Theatre, operating the stage lights for the musical, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Its a powerful position to be in: With just one finger, I could put everyone in the dark, or I could press a button labeled go to shine lights on individual performers and on the entire ensemble for the full two-hour performance.
The actors do a terrific job. The audience applauds, goes home, and, hopefully, tells their friends and neighbors what a wonderful musical it is.
There are people in our community who dont often share a spotlight or receive applause. Yet, like my little solar light, they happily expend their energy on brightening the darkness.
They include Molly Edison and her fellow volunteers at the Cannon Beach Food Pantry who collect and distribute food every week to an increasing number of households going without. In March, for instance, 148 households, consisting 468 people, picked up food boxes at the pantry; last year, the number of households hovered between 55 and 72 a month.
Harry Miller and his crew at the South County Food Bank in Seaside can also talk about the increased need. They, too, work tirelessly on behalf of those who come to the crowded, dilapidated building seeking something to feed their families.
CASA Director Ann Lederer and her volunteers shed light on the lives led by children who have become wards of the court. These children are at the mercy of a judicial system that has removed their parents, at least temporarily, and placed them in foster homes.
CASA volunteers are the childrens advocates: They talk to those involved with the child, find services to assist the child; and they recommend to a judge ways that the child can be helped.
These volunteers, who arent allowed to discuss their cases and, as a result, usually go unrecognized, nevertheless may provide the light at a very long tunnel for many of these children.
Every third Sunday, when the Cannon Beach American Legion serves pancakes to locals and visitors, Jean Williams, Jean Furchner and other volunteers pour coffee and serve breakfast, just to collect scholarship money for high school graduates who might not otherwise be able to afford college tuition.
Nancy Teagle and Pat Carey lead teams of Legionnaires at Christmas as they collect names of needy families and prepare food baskets for them. Proceeds from first-Saturday oyster dinners, Monday night hamburgers and many other Legion events help pay for those Legion projects and more.
Not only do those Legion members and all of the Legion volunteers brighten the lives for the locals with tasty meals, good music and lots of laughter, they provide a glimmer of hope for those who may have lost theirs.
Sandy McDowall, Bob Gross, Steve Phillips and other Seaside Rotary Club members continually shine a light on the needs in both the local community and overseas.
Through proceeds from the organizations auction, the club has donated thousands of dollars to local projects, sent kids off to college with more than $15,000 in scholarships annually and enabled high school students to study in other countries for a year.
They also have opened up a world of words to fourth-graders by providing more than 2,500 dictionaries to them since 1995, and the Seaside Rotary has assisted other Rotary clubs in eradicating polio and improving water systems overseas.
Last year, 250 local families including 450 children received Christmas gifts through the Wishing Tree program, co-sponsored by the Rotary, which gathers assistance from numerous community Santas who buy gifts and wrap presents. Their efforts give the holidays a certain magical sparkle.
It constantly amazes me how many little lights we have on the North Coast to illuminate our darkness. Everyone, it seems, volunteers for something to make life a little brighter for someone else, and they do it without shining the spotlight on themselves.
Maybe, like my little solar light that collects its energy from the sun, we gather our desire to help others from all of the lights around us.
Nancy McCarthy is the South County reporter for The Daily Astorian. Her column runs every other week.