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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pointing Out

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to live in a lighthouse? I’ve pondered that thought since discovering The Word from Old Scituate Light, a blog about a family who moved into the keeper’s cottage at the lighthouse one town over. I can hear the young daughter chatting away with a friend. “Where do you live?” “Oh, down at the point.” “Which house?” “The one at the end; you know, the one with the tower attached?” I imagine her response to an English composition assignment: "What makes you special?" as something like, “I may be an regular kid, but there aren't too many people who live in a house like mine.”

Other than a power walk past it with a friend this summer, I hadn’t visited the lighthouse or the jetty lately. So yesterday, after lunch at our one of our favorite home cooking spots, in acknowledgement of the last day before school begins, my daughter and I drove the winding lane around the harbor to the lighthouse. Years ago my husband and I actually climbed the stone tower itself during an open house. Recalling that, I pictured iron steps leading up to a little girl’s circular bedroom, which of course is not the case; the house is attached to the tower, not a part of it.

Respectfully keeping my distance—the cottage is a home after all—imagination was the only thing traveling beyond the “Private Driveway” signs where orange kayaks and a white compact car resided. Finished in weathered grey shingles, bordered by a rock-lined garden blooming with fall mums, the keeper’s cottage stands New England stark and plain. Without the white tower stuck to its side, it would resemble a modest home like any other. Only to the left the teal blue Atlantic somersaults, and out front and to the right, granite jetties point like fingers to the channels and moorings of Scituate Harbor.

Wandering the public area, ankles giving as I picked my way over the sloping sea rock lawn, I mulled what it would be like to wake at dawn, surrounded by water on three sides as the fiery sun heaves itself over the horizon shelf, or, during the adventure of a fierce Nor’easter. I can hear the wind moaning and whistling around corners, the clank of the halyard on the flag pole out back barely audible over the crash of water hitting the jetty. We’ve visited the lighthouse after storms, when rocks and seaweed litter the parking lot behind it. The jetty and tower likely protect the keeper's quarters from the open sea, but there’d be little sleep during the relentless tossing and turning of an angry winter night.

Storms are only part of the story though. Someday, the little girl that lives in the house will be my age. Perhaps she’ll live in Iowa, or Kansas, surrounded by children who have never seen the ocean. Taking a deep breath, she’ll describe the rumble of lobster boats departing at sunup and the shriek of seagulls hanging suspended as they beat their wings against a strong east wind. Closing her eyes, once again she'll listen to rocks that clatter and tumble as the green sea recedes and have to yell to be understood over the boom of the waves. Her nose will wrinkle at the briny smell of seaweed at low tide, strong enough to taste. She'll witness the color of the sun, setting pink below the blackened outlines of the town across the harbor--the utter darkness at night as she peers out to the sea.

Lighthouses obviously mean a lot to me. What living circumstances inspire you?

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