Sojourn at the Lighthouse: Experiencing Life By the Sea
Would you pay money to spend a vacation washing windows, mowing the lawn, weeding, polishing brass and painting objects high above the ground?
Your answer might just be "yes."
"What's the attraction?" writes Elinor DeWire in Sojourn at the Lighthouse. "It's the chance to experience something unique, something as close to being a genuine lighthouse keeper as you can find in the modern world."
Sojourn at the Lighthouse is Elinor's story of her week as a volunteer lightkeeper at the New Dungeness Light Station near Sequim (pronounced skwim) in Washington State.
As she walked in the footsteps of the historic lighthouse keepers, she observed all the sights of living by the water, including seals, eagles and seabirds. She fell asleep each night with the light from the beacon sweeping across her room.
If you have ever imagined yourself living in a lighthouse, Elinor's book is a delightful way to join in that adventure. She weaves together stories about her week there with interesting insights about everyday life for the original lightkeepers.
The romance of the lighthouse is not diminished, but the reader also comes away with a deeper understanding of all the work involved.
Keepers and their families faced many challenges living in an isolated lighthouse. They were subject to the caprices of nature, including battering storms. The dedication of the historical lightkeepers, as well as the present-day volunteers, is inspiring.
The New Dungeness Light Station Association recognized the urgent need to care for the lighthouse after the U.S. Coast Guard withdrew its last Keeper in 1994. Still with an active beacon maintained by the Coast Guard, the rest of the work is carried out by the Association.
They began an innovative program giving volunteer lightkeepers an opportunity to experience a vanished way of life. During their week at the lighthouse, the volunteers provide needed maintenance and let visitors know about its vital history.
In Sojourn at the Lighthouse, Elinor writes, "This extraordinary historic site is one of the best living history uses of a lighthouse in the nation...New Dungeness Light Station is always open and staffed, even on Christmas Day. The light is on in the tower, and the lights are on in the house. The volunteer keepers prefer not be be called vacationers...they aren't on a lark. They see themselves as true lighthouse keepers, on assignment and carrying on an old and cherished tradition...doing something that matters in a modern world."
Lighthouse keeper Edward A. Brooks, head keeper from October 1902 through August 1925.
Sojourn at the Lighthouse is filled with vivid descriptions and a love for preserving something valuable and important. You may just find yourself thinking that mowing lawns and cleaning windows could be a very meaningful and fun way to spend a week, especially when done to the beat of waves and a view of a lighthouse by the sea.
"Lighthouses are, of course, much about the night...At the light station there was a big sky rimmed by water and mountains, forming a dome dappled with stars...the stars and constellations shone gloriously overhead after dark. The loveliest star of all, of course, was the lighthouse beacon, a star for ships to steer by."
From Sojourn at the Lighthouse by Elinor DeWire
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Lighthouse expert Elinor DeWire is the author of over twenty-four books as well as many newspaper and magazine articles. She is also a popular public speaker and workshop organizer. She is currently on the board of directors for the U.S. Lighthouse Society.
Find her interesting blogs about "Lighthouses, Fascinations and the Writing Life" here.
Images courtesy of Elinor DeWire. Used with permission.