The last stop along the Number 26 bus line lies just on the edge of town, near a cliff ledge looking out over the ocean. If you happen to want to get off here, you have to ring the bell not to stop the bus, but to tell the driver to keep going on. The bus usually doesn’t get this far, as most drivers turn back early, for it’s a stop that hardly even exists at all, and passengers seldom get off.
However, this is where I’m getting off today. As I rang the bell and directed the driver onward to the last stop, looks of confusion or annoyment gaze back at me from the regular commuters of the Number 26 bus, for I’m wasting precious seconds of their days by forcing them along this little detour with me.
As hardly anyone ever takes the bus to or from this obscure place, I notice the driver pause for a second before closing the door behind me as I step down from the bus, as if expecting this odd traveler to notice she’s made a huge mistake and was indeed horribly lost, but instead I confidently walk on down the road, my ealse and satchel swinging behind me. Eventually, the bus driver, satisfied with my apparent, albeit odd, confidence of my surroundings, drags onward, and I notice quite a few curious, and some slightly annoyed, faces looking out the window in my direction. I turn my back to them.
From this stop one can follow an old gravel path that meanders down the cliff side, a treacherous descent of sharp switchbacks going quickly left and right. The climb down is not for the faint of heart, and the climb back up is not for the weak of body. Particularly when one is carrying the weight of all the oil paints, brushes, and the old wooden easel that I’m bringing with me today. As I make my way down, the smell of the ocean grows stronger, and the sound of waves crashing against the rocks grows louder.
Down here, where the waves of the ocean smash against the rocks, it’s a place so turbulent and dynamic that the only constant is the constant change. The land becomes the sea, and the sea eats away at the land. It’s an endless battle waged between the two. It’s a transitional place, where nothing ever stays still for long. It is neither land nor sea nor air. It is none of those things. Yet it is all of them.
It’s a treacherous world between worlds, where the elements collide and grapple with each other for ownership. It’s the frontlines of an ancient war between the ocean and a continent. Where both sides are continually gaining, or in a very literal sense, losing ground. Nothing permanent can exist here for long. Yet, not far out into the sea stands a tall tower shooting out of boulders and rocks, still standing stable and strong, braving the wind and crashing waves for many years. An old lighthouse whose light has long since gone out.
I open and set up my wooden easel, and begin prepping my palette with dark greens and blues and bright white.
The lighthouse stands in the most inhospitable and dangerous place imaginable. Yet, here it assiduously perseveres. The danger is the very reason the lighthouse ever existed here at all. And this is why I love it. It survives, as a tangible, solid thing, in a dangerous intangible world, and it asks for nothing in return but to be seen and noticed.
It’s long ago spinning light winking at ships passing by, saying, “see me, but come no closer.” And there it stood for countless years performing its duty endlessly, as the world around it ebbed and flowed.
There is something so eerily beautiful about the old lighthouse. Its windows are shattered, leaving behind jagged sea glass washed up on shores thousands of miles away. Years of waves have licked away the tower’s paint, revealing the cracked crumbling stone that lays beneath.
One day, or any moment really, even this very moment right now, the lighthouse will crumble and fall into the ocean. It’s job finally being complete. The oceans waves will grind it down until it becomes nothing but sand scattered around the world.
Maybe one day a child thousands of nautical miles away will build a tower molded from a bucket out of the sand of this lighthouse. And when the tide comes in it will wash it away, leaving behind a clean strip of sand in the morning- nothing here can last forever.
My paintbrush slides along the canvas, leaving a big strip of greenish white, the beginnings of a lighthouse. I hope it stands a few minutes longer.