Lighthouse Keeping

by Karen Wills

My adored one and I just returned from a fourteen day road trip/excellent adventure. We saw many terrific things as we drove down the Pacific Coast, but I wound up falling in love at first sight with lighthouses. The first was the Haceda Head Lighthouse in Oregon, the perfect combination of beauty and utility. Red and white, appearing at a distance high above the rocky coastline where sea lions bobbed to feed in the waters that crashed in noisy waves around them.

Besides being picturesque, it’s an icon of comfort to the storm tossed, to those literally at sea. It is sturdy and, in spite of the sort of phallic inevitability of the tower, there is something both romantic and maternal in its purpose. It is shelter and light. We marveled at how hard all the lighthouse keepers and their families had to work to keep the beacon from the fresnel lens shining through the nights. It meant staying on watch until morning, keeping logs, maintaining food and repairs, educating children, hosting inspectors who did not give advance notice, and greeting curious visitors.

I think the truest authors try to be both beacons and lighthouse keepers. Writers’ work is to shed light on  what Robinson Jeffers calls “the honor and hardship of being human.” It’s often stormy business. Authors have to build, polish, repair, and maintain the structures that we strive to create. At our best we, too, can combine beauty and utility.

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