captain's wife

i recently finished reading Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund and loved being lost in that seafaring world. snuggled by the fire with my cats on these cold november nights, i've also been cabin boy, lighthouse keeper, reluctant whaler, ferryboat passenger and captain's wife.

i love the waterways of the early days of America. in the first half of the 19th century traveling overland for long distances was not considered; you traveled by steamboat! soooo romantic. boats and ships provided every possible link to the world outside america, whether industry, communication, transportation or trade. captains were like god on the sea, the rivers, the lakes, the land. 

traveling by water makes sense to me; you are still connected to the earth, the ebb and flow, directed by the connecting powers of land, sky, and human hand. i wish the world would slow down. i wish we still had to plan out days worth of travel by river to visit long distance friends. i would stitch quilts and watch the water along the way. buoyed by water, floating and flowing and rolling with waves, watched by the moon.
i've always been fascinated by stories of women sailing around the world (like Tania Abei, the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo, read Maiden Voyage)

also...women lighthouse keepers. for years, as a kid, that was my dream job. i didn't realize yet that it was already obsolete.

i used to sit in Point Reyes Lighthouse at the little desk and meditate on living there. it is the windiest point along the pacific coastline. you are in a whirlwind of wind and mist and fog and ocean spray. whales may go by, dolphins or pelicans. if you tended the light, you would polish each delicate panel of the Fresnel lens so it could beam its vibrant light twenty four miles out to sea. you would carry milk in wooden buckets from the dairy farm. you would record the sights and sounds into a massive logbook with miniature lines. you would light oil lamps and wind the clockwork and trim the wicks and climb the wooden stairs, crawling against the wind.

it makes me sad that lighthouses are all automated now. a lost life of connection, strength, endurance, vigor and devotion. not surprising that these are values that we are losing sight of on a larger scale.

woman staring at sea here

big oceans in my heart as the seasons change. colder nights mean daydreaming, hibernating, making plans and storing up. 
the words that fill my soul are driftwood, scrimshaw, rigging, shanty, mermaid, gale.


you are speaking my language. isn't this weather the best for drifting off into other worlds? light houses have always interested me, too. we have a very small light house here, if you ever visit up here i'll show you it. it's really tiny and cute. remember in that movie, Pete's Dragon? how Mickey Rooney and his daughter worked the light house? loved that movie. anyway, that book sounds interesting, thanks for sharing!
Bridget said…
Another gorgeous post! As a midwestern gal, I've always found the ocean beautiful yet intimidating in its scale and force. Your heartfelt description of a lighthouse keeper's life might just change my mind, though!

Here in Indiana we had our first snowfall yesterday. Everyone is complaining but me - I love it! I pretend I am a character in Little House on the Prairie, snuggling in for a long, cozy winter. It also brings to mind the last few lines of my very favorite poem by Czesław Miłosz called "Youth". If you don't know it check it out - such wise words!

Stay cozy and keep finding great books for me to read this winter! :-)
Elisheva said…
Beautiful writing, Am by your salty side as you speak here. I am dreaming of water too these days. I look across to America having wished so long to be there, and am now letting it go, the ocean has settled now, I am here. Wising you warmth and you have such a bounty of inspiration and imagination, enough fuel for any winter's journey. Its ate in Ireland,, the wind has finally died down to a breeze about, I can here M snoring: ) time for my dreamland.
And oh how I heartily agree about the speed of things. M often wishes to go to school in a pony and trap, me too!
x E
Milla said…
The sea, the sea. Thanks for letting us drift along. Sometimes I almost forget that I live right by it, actually in it, floating like kelp tethered to its underwater steadfast. There is this almost universal love of lighthouses, they seem to beckon us all, loom large in our imaginations. This is the season for these imaginings, you're so right. Totally making me want to crawl into bed and read a good ocean going book.
Thank you, as always for the inspiration.
Heidi Ann said…
Your posts are always so beautiful, Heather.
I love reading them.
Happy Sails to you, until we meet again........
Teeny said…
The sea for me this season is reflecting sunlight and dancing, and full of laughter and bathing suits and sandy towels and sandy hands clutching melty ice-creams. You paint lovely imagery my friend. So lovely. I could read and read and read on...
Celynne said…
I am so with you! The world seriously does need to slow down. We have all these tasks being automated, taking away the worthwhile and FULFILLING work that people used to do. During my teens, I read a lot of about native traders who used to travel across the north, carrying goods from all over the land in their canoe. I've never seen the ocean, and the idea of being out on it in a boat seems rather frightening to me, but we could all do with some respect for bodies of water and forces of nature.
Missa said…
Everything about this post is LOVELY, especially the image of you as the old-timey lighthouse keeper <3

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