The Breakwater Lighthouse was not for the faint of heart. A stone causeway stretched almost a mile to the lighthouse, and the path was as smooth as glass . . . that has just been shattered and glued back together by a toddler. Multiple pieces of granite were patched together in a pattern that left gaps wide enough to swallow a baby hippo, and sojourners were required to navigate in a hopscotch fashion. I stood on the shore peering at the tiny structure in the distance, debating the pros and cons of such an undertaking. Another lone traveler began the quest with only a camera slung over her shoulder, and I found the motivation to take my first step toward this majestic beacon of light. Besides, there was bound to be a gift shop at the other end of this gauntlet that offered a plethora of postcards and tiny lighthouses encased in snow globes. And who could resist snow globes? I committed my feet to the task.
About a quarter of a mile in, I came upon two outgoing tourists. They were pointing at an object to our right, so I did what anyone in my Keds would do: I stopped to rubberneck. It was a seal. The big guy was perched atop a rock, sunning himself and providing a National Geographic moment for the land lovers. He was too far away for a decent picture on my iPhone, and, truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of seals. Sure, baby seals with their dark chocolate eyes and grandpa whiskers are adorable, but they grow up to be noisy, lolling creatures in need of Yankee Candle car fresheners fastened around their necks. A few years ago, I visited Pier 39 in San Fran, and I kept wondering why they would build so many shops within sniffing distance of a garbage dump. But then I rounded a corner and bumped into the ocean. There was no refuse plant nearby, only floating pallets with hundreds of seals stacked like recycled newspapers. And let me tell you, that aroma does a great deal to diminish their cute factor. Aquatic life noted, I soldiered on.
More than half a mile in, a horrible suspicion cracked a door in my mind. Perhaps it was blown into my brain by the same chilling wind that was making my ears ache and flinging my hair into my eyes. Gift shops needed someone to man the cash register, and I seemed to be on the only path to said tourist shop. What person with the sense God gave an armadillo would choose to work in a place that required such a hearty walk to and fro? Was it possible the gift store clerk took a speed boat taxi to work every morning, or maybe, and this was the ill wind creating darkness in the recesses of my psyche, just maybe there were no tiny snow globes at the end of my journey. After forty-five minutes of leap-frogging over God’s jigsaw puzzle, I might not have even one tacky souvenir to show for it. Or a crappy seal photo. These were dark moments, to be sure.
The revelation of truth arrived shortly, and much like the relentless waves crashing against the rocks, reality struck icy cold. No pot of gold existed at the end of the rainbow. No key chains in the shape of Maine, no lobster cookbooks or oven mitts in the shape of claws, and no lighthouse coasters sold at exorbitant prices. I simply had to content myself with a couple of clicks of the lighthouse itself and then burrow on the lee side to give my eardrums a chance to defrost. Once the ringing subsided, I gathered my battered spirits and hoofed it back to shore.
No amount of brisk hopping could keep me warm. In addition to the tirade I was delivering in my head about trying to will gift shops into existence in direct defiance of logic, another sermon was vying for the pulpit on the intelligence behind bringing a jacket along only to leave it in the car. The two lecture series blared away with commercial breaks made by incoming tourists stopping to exclaim, “Oh, look! What’s that out on that rock? Is that a seal? Honey, quick, the camera.”
As soon as I hit the shoreline, the wind died, and I slowed to gaze out over the bay and to marvel over the distance I’d covered. An elderly couple sat nearby on a bench, the wife readjusting her shoes.
“Did you walk the whole thing?” The husband spoke while his wife worked on her Dr. Scholl’s inserts.
“I did. It’s chillier out there than it looks.”
“It looks like a long haul, but I think it’ll be worth it.”
“You know there’s no gift shop out there.” Better to break their hearts now considering they were risking a hip for this endeavor. They should be chewing on calcium supplements right now.
“Gift shop? Of course not. Who told you that?”
I shrugged as if I couldn’t reveal my sources and started to walk away. “Good luck,” I called over my shoulder.
“Oh, hey!” He stood pointing into the distance, camera gently bumping his chest. “Did you see the seal?”
I had indeed.
© 2012 – Traci Carver