The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

05 November 2016

Of Madeline and the lighthouse keeper




Peter LaRoche was a cranky, crabby man. He rarely said a word to anyone, which was probably a good thing because his words would likely not have been kind. 
He manned the light on a slender spit of land where harbour met the sea, and he took that work very seriously. He was meticulous in the completion of his duties. He never squandered time or money. He was methodical and precise in all things. And he was lonely. 
People in town assumed Peter was alone by choice, and cranky by nature. They never thought to listen to his story to find out where he was from or if his heart was whole. Instead, when he entered the store to carefully select his meagre rations, the women doing their own shopping would fall silent around him. The same scene would play out in the hardware store when he’d stock up on nails and kerosene. This would happen week after week. He would row away from the solitude of his lighthouse to endure the silence of aloof townsfolk. 
Until Madeline came. She was hired to take over the public library after old Mr. Robson retired. 
Madeline Smith, librarian, was going to change Rose Passage, but no one would ever expect it from the look of her.  She seemed perfectly librarian-like: quiet, organized, mostly plain, and helpful. If you looked closely, though, you would note a mischievous dimple in her cheek and a glint of red in her hair – and most tellingly of all, she wore purple-framed glasses. 
Miss Smith and Mr LaRoche first crossed paths at Stella’s – a home-style restaurant with rooms to let overhead. Peter was sitting alone for his one-meal-out-a-month that was all he allowed himself. Madeline helped herself to the seat opposite him, and with chin in hand, she twinkled at him, and proceeded to talk his ear off. (She was quiet, yet, but new how to tell a story.) Other diners fully expected Mr LaRoche to scowl or even stomp out, but to their surprise he merely watched her and ate his meal. He didn’t say a word to her but that didn’t stop Madeline from continuing to talk to him whenever she met him at the grocer’s, or passed him in the street. 
The news was quickly shared from neighbour to neighbour the day Mr LaRoche was seen to actually speak to Miss Madeline. They were eating ices under a tree in the square, Madeline idly kicking her legs, watching the clouds while the man talked. What anyone would have given to know what was said!
Gradually, one brave soul after another would extend the lightkeeper a greeting, or offer some remark about the weather, to which Mr LaRoche would respond with a nod and a smile. More and more people registered for library cards with the desire to discover what powers Miss Smith may have, to make the mute speak and the cranky smile. Instead of magic, they discovered Madeline’s natural friendliness and kindness. Somehow they found themselves joining garden clubs and bridge parties with people they never would have spared a thought for before Madeline set them in each other’s path.
Many librarians have a gift for matching a reader to a book, but Madeline’s particular knack was for putting people together. Rose Passage became a town of friendship where not one soul was overlooked or forgotten, for Madeline saw how the quirks and corners in each person would work with those in another.
As for Mr LaRoche? Well, Madeline showed him how his quirks and corners were perfectly suited to hers. Not three months after that day under the tree he asked for her hand in marriage. She twinkled at him, and said yes, of course.

21 June 2016

In which we meet a dragonfly named Ruth

Deep in the woods where sunlight falls in leaf-shaped puddles, there runs a stream over pebbles and rocks. It tumbles over ledges in shallow waterfalls, and lends a joyful soundtrack to life in this hidden glen. To eyes that can see such things, there are signs of activity everywhere. Cleverly arranged stones and branches in the stream hint at little feet crossing the water from one bank to the other. Tidy piles of acorns alongside clusters of mushrooms and branches of dandelions tell a story of bustling, pint-sized morning markets, while toadstools under daisy umbrellas paint a picture of friends sharing lazy cups of tea and the latest news.

Most big people are too busy to notice these signs. Truth be told, few big people even trouble to visit this little village in the woods anymore. It’s too bad, because they are missing something wonderful. Believing in the impossible keeps you young, you see, for without wonder and magic in your life you can’t help but grow old.

It is a truth in life that a sad thing can also be a happy thing; and so, while it is sad that big people are unable to see what you and I know exists on the banks of the stream, for our little village in the woods it is also a good thing, for friends are able to meet under the daisies without fear of being discovered and turned into a day-trip attraction for the bored and curious.

Every village is like a tiny galaxy, with one star around which all the rest travel. The centre star of  galaxy is seldom the brightest or the largest, and the same is true of centre people. They hardly ever look like someone who is capable of keeping everyone else on track in their own orbits, but there is something about them, some deep magnetic pull that they aren't aware they have. They are the kind of person others always come to talk to about their troubles, ask advice of, rely on to fix problems, and trust will know how to solve dilemmas. In our village in the glen, that centre star is a dragonfly named Ruth.

30 May 2016

Bite sized resolve

Ok.  Who am I kidding?  The evidence lies before us in these very pages... I am not a regular contributor to the blogosphere.

Let's make a pact between us, you and me, that as comfortable friends we can pick up where we left off each time we meet as if in the middle of a long-running conversation.

And with that, let us resume,  midstream:



My quiet little corner of the world is no longer so quiet. There are large diggers and earth movers and other big and noisy machines across the road, turning a bucolic empty field into a subdivision. When I got back from holiday a few days ago, I noticed a sign a little further down the road that another empty lot is being turned into more homes.

Part of me longs for peace and isolation. That's a futile dream, isn't it?  Where can you go these days that hasn't been disrupted or is under development?  Progress! Or so they call it.  Where oh where is my lighthouse? I'd be happy to sit at a window overlooking the ocean, and feel the sturdy stones of the structure brace against the storm blowing in.

The Lighthouse is as much a state of mind as it is a longed-for place, so while I'd like to run from the world to seek out my solitude, I'm going to work on writing every day, no matter what else is going on around me.  I've realized that I've neglected the basics (being practice, discipline, and study) hoping that desire and some ability will make it all happen.

Therefore, I hereby resolve that I am going to begin with small steps:
- words on paper, daily
- find some way, either virtually or in real life, to learn and grow as a writer.

Manageable. Bite-sized, even.

Let it begin!

16 May 2016

The chase.

A shadow of shadows slips over the shrub outside the window like a blanket dragged over an unmade bed. It is a reflection of the cloud overhead that chases the sun across the sky.

09 May 2016

A note to Araby

To the very kind person who has been leaving comments throughout The Lighthouse ... in Arabic:

Thank you. I'm so glad you're spending time here, and it's so good of you to take the time to share your thoughts. I can't help but think, though, that as you've at least seen (if not actually read) eight or so posts here, you must have realized that I don't write in Arabic, but am, in fact, English (Dutchlish at a stretch). I've run your comments through Google translate but still can't make sense of it, so I wonder if you might be better off spending your time in another way?

Again, thank you. I wish you well... and somewhere else.

05 May 2016

Oh, the books

I have been reading. And talking. There has been so very much talking.

Dutch family was visiting, so the talking was a curious mixture of Dutch and English. My words haven't quite untangled themselves yet, so they remain a curious mix of Dutch and English (Dutchlish?) When I open my mouth to speak now, I'm not sure what is going to come out so I get tongue tied. Or I speak more slowly and simply to make sure I'm understood. This has to stop soon, because I'm getting looks of sympathy from people who surely are thinking along the lines of, "Oh, the poor girl! Perhaps she has bumped her head?"

The reading has been very welcome as it signals the end of a book drought. Hoorah! A book drought is never pleasant… rather like being on a dinghy in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by salt water and unable to take a drink.  There are so many books in the world, so why is there nothing for me to read? One day I picked up a book and it was exactly the right story at that time. I was utterly drawn in, and when it was over, I found another, then another…

Reading so many stories back-to-back, I’m not always able to untangle myself from one before starting the next. I kept waiting for Esme, from The Bookstore to appear in The Writing class, then when I picked up Season of salt and honey it took me a while to remember it wasn’t the war-time England of The Summer before the war.

That’s one I'd like to tell you about: 'The Summer before the war' by Helen Simonson is a book I've been waiting for since Simonson published her first, 'Major Pettigrew's last stand' in 2010. (I wrote about it here.) Major Pettigrew is a difficult book to describe... it is endearing and charming; a story of manners particular to its time and place. I enjoyed it so much that I passed it on to everyone who would listen to me, and remains at the top of my list whenever I'm asked, "What should I read?" To find a new (or new-to-you) author is a wonderful thing, isn’t it - like stumbling upon an undiscovered country and having a whole new territory to explore. Hester Browne, Marisa de los Santos, and Helen Simonson have brought me such adventures in reading.

So, I had hoped and waited for Simonson to publish another book ever so patiently, but years passed so that I gradually stopped looking for it. (As I had with Annie Barrows after 'The Guernsey literary and potato peel pie society', then this year – at last! - she released ‘The truth according to us’.) And then suddenly, there it was, all unexpected, on the new book shelf looking dreamily enticing in its period-piece way with the girl on a bicycle, red scarf flying behind her. I was intrigued by the title and the book cover ("Don't judge" they say, but a book cover either grabs your interest or it doesn't, don’t you think?) and because I like stories of war time Britain I had high hopes for this one.

I was not disappointed, though total honesty leads me to say it isn’t the gem that Pettigrew is. Like Pettigrew, ‘The Summer before the war’ is a charming tale of manners in the English countryside, but whereas Major Pettigrew is a man uncomfortable with how modern life is changing and wants to hold on to the old ways, Beatrice Nash is well in advance of what is expected of women in 1914: she is educated, well-travelled, capable and independent-minded. She finds herself suddenly relying on the benevolence of distant family, expected to comply with their plans for her. In order to salvage independence and integrity, Beatrice obtains a job in Rye as a Latin teacher, and as we’ve learned from Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple mysteries, life in the small villages of England is far from bland or boring. There is enough intrigue, plotting, gossip, and romance to keep Beatrice busy through the war years and beyond. Also of interest, one of the characters is studying to be a trauma surgeon, and we follow him to the Front, getting some sense of what those conditions were like.

I recommend ‘The Summer before the war’ to anyone who enjoyed Major Pettigrew, was hooked on Downton Abbey, likes stories of English life, or is keen on World War fiction.


I’d like to hear if you’ve discovered a new author, have stumbled on an unexpectedly good book, or finally got your hands on a long-awaited next novel. Leave a comment! In English, please – or even Dutch! (This, to the person leaving me comments in Arabic. I think.)

11 April 2016

Funny bone moments

I'm keeping my eyes open for a job opportunity for Number One Nephew.  In the way of the internet - whose highways are circuitous and tricksy - checking out the local libraries somehow landed me on the Stats Can site, where there are applications for census jobs.

In the "Who should apply" section, they ask for people who "are interested in a job that counts"

Haha!

The government made a funny.


~ * ~

Funny bones at work:

The day of a popular program, a caller asked, "Will there be tickets available when I get there?"
Hmm... using my powerful ability to know everything, I of course know when you are going to arrive.

Patron, "What time does the program begin?"
Me, "The program starts at 10."
Patron, "Oh. What time should I be there?"
Me, "Probably before 10:00."

A young lad of about 10 years old was eager to take part in a stop motion movie workshop but it was very popular and he was on the waiting list. He phoned us himself the day of the program to let us know, "If someone doesn't show up, I can come."
It was very sweet to hear this very young voice in a grown-up situation; I applaud his parents for encouraging him to handle the matter on his own. It tickled my funny bone because of the offer he made: I just wanted to let you know that if someone doesn't show up, I'm available to take their place.


~ * ~

Funny bones with boys

Number Five Nephew calls being barefoot 'in my toes'.  For example, I'll ask him if he wouldn't like to wear his shoes when kicking the ball in the backyard. "No," he'll reply, "I like being in my toes."
Likewise, going shirtless is 'being in my tummy'.
He also has a routine before bed in which he 'jams his toes'.  Toe jam, as you are aware, is the lint and fluffies that collects between your toes. The process of removing it, according to Five, is known as 'jamming' your toes.  "Time to crawl into bed, Five," you'll say. "Ok," he says, "I just have to jam my toes first."