Just before lockdowns started in March of 2020, after my last week at IDEO, I took the California Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco and spent a week in Mendocino County. I stayed in the keeper’s quarters at the Point Arena lighthouse, which is situated alongside the beautiful Stornetta Public Lands, and was lucky to have my trip coincide with a twice-yearly lens tour at the nearby Point Cabrillo lighthouse.
I had planned to meet Molly in La Paz, Mexico the following week, but we cancelled the trip and I headed home, into a year of COVID-19 shutdown and everything that followed. It’s been just over a year, and reflecting back reminds me not only of the beautiful landscapes but the sense of possibility I felt, which has been stunted by this pandemic. I’m hopeful for the return of that feeling in 2021.
Below is my submission to the Point Arena Light Station “150th + 1 Anniversary Writers Invitation” within their “Dear Lighthouse” category.
It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since we met. I suppose the memory is stronger for me, given the circumstances. I had just left my job, a bittersweet choice to spend less time traveling. My trip to see you was a personal interregnum, a space left intentionally blank, a time to look neither forward nor backward. I knew that change was coming, but didn’t understand the scale.
I traveled by train, a long continuous line connecting a Great Lake to a great ocean. From the observation car I watched night blanket the Midwest, and morning sun reveal the Rockies. Snow covered mountain passes gave way to red rock canyons. As we wound around the San Francisco Bay, a cruise ship was seeking permission to dock, its passengers infected with the novel coronavirus. We didn’t yet call it a pandemic, just a scary story set in other countries.
You, of course, know about the calm before the storm.
As I drove up the coast to meet you, I managed to stay in the present, immersing myself in the beauty of your neighbors. I hiked rugged coastlines. I napped beneath redwood trees. When I checked into your keeper’s quarters, I was thrilled to learn that I could see your light from my window. I watched you work as the vibrant sunset faded to monochrome.
How many countless people have you guided home safely? As the storm of infection swelled, and the fog of danger thickened, I knew that our time together was short. The future was rushing towards us, and I needed to be home.
It helps though, to know that you’re there.Your steadfast presence on the peninsula, the predictable cadence of your light. A year is a long time to be adrift.