“You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.” ― Oprah Winfrey
Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a modest little lighthouse who lived on a cliff between the redwoods and the sea. Her job was to sit and to shine on the fishing boats in Trinidad Bay. She was not the tallest or the grandest or the oldest lighthouse in America or even in California. She didn’t care one bit. Her heart and mind were on her job and she loved her work. Shining a wee bit of light into the dark for the boats seeking shelter in the harbor was her calling, her purpose, her joy. She knew each boat by name. She watched with deep affection their comings and goings over the years. She thought of their precious cargo, the goodness they carried to their families’ tables, their catch, gifts from the waters of life. She knew this work was not about her but about something much bigger ~ the sea, the stars, the darkness, the light, and the mysteries of Mother Earth. Mostly, she just shone because she was happy. She felt needed and she felt connected to everything.
One day in 2012, as she was gazing at the stars, she had a peculiar vision. She saw herself in ancient Rome on the Tiger River. She was the lighthouse of the lost port city of Portus, responsible for keeping pirates and marauders at bay!
It was only a moment, but it was breathtakingly real. In this new light of consciousness she realized that she would not always be in this spot, standing so peacefully looking at this safe harbor. Rome had crumbled. The very earth beneath her now often rumbled and shook, after all. And hadn’t she watched more than one parent standing on the shore, scattering ashes of a beloved child upon the rocks, sending stardust back to the source of all creation? After her vision, she was more grateful than ever to be so firmly stationed ~ for now ~ in a place where she had important work. This made her feel good about herself and good about life.
“Over the years, you have made me look at things differently through the connections you made from what we were reading to our lives today. I will always remember you, Madame Case, when I see some crazy coincidence and in my head I will hear, “J’adore les coincidences!” Another memory I will always keep of you is your love of mistakes. Maybe that love will help me to be more daring and not so worried about having everything right.”
The lighthouse was accustomed to welcoming visitors. She was happy when humans and their dogs stood beside her to share her beautiful view of the bay and “her” dear boats. (She knew they weren’t really hers, but because she guided and protected them as best she could, her heart insisted on calling them “my little boats.”) Then, one day ~ only a few yesterdays ago ~ she began to feel that something was not right. A few too many earthquakes had taken their toll. A few too many storms over the decades, no doubt. The ground beneath her firm foundation had shifted and gradually, steadily eroded. She could feel it; some strange pull downwards. A call to leap into the sea, to surrender to the waves. So, when the experts arrived to inform each other of the news, she wasn’t really surprised.
“Words cannot express the wonderful impact you have had on my life. I feel so blessed to have had the privilege of you being my French teacher for three years. I have felt more deeply connected to you than any other teacher I have had. There is so much beauty in the way you teach, whether it be through the genuine kindness of your smile or the deep intellectual meanings behind your lessons, it is all beautiful to me. When we were asked to answer the question, ‘What is most important in existence?’ I came to the conclusion that one most have a colorful spirit. A spirit of love, connection, balance, openness, and a spirit that is always willing to grow. You are a reflection of what I find to be most important in existence. You have a spirit of such beautiful radiant colors, and for that, I admire you beyond words. For that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
They moved her to a “safe” location. Milo and I visited her just yesterday. It’s obvious; she is no longer in danger of crashing onto the jagged rocks, breaking into bits, washing out to sea. Now she sits forlorn at the end of a parking lot, no longer able to see her little boats or her peaceful harbor. Crime scene tape encircles her. Suburban houses stare down in pity at her plight. Visitors still show up but they don’t stay long. She is too sad now. Folks sense it; they don’t want to linger in her shadow. She can no longer point them toward a breathtaking view. Her light no longer shines.
I put my hand against her cool white side and then, because I thought I heard her whispering to me, I leaned in closer. Stony silence. (Perhaps she was feeling too ashamed to speak?) I began to cry. I told her that I was sorry. My salty tears were an offering of thanks for all the joy she brought to me when I was young and foolish and all the peace she brought me the past few years. Then, with my face pressed against her heart, I heard her quietly ask one question. It’s my question too. “What now?”
So, Madame Case, I’ve got this end of the year English assignment where I have to choose a couple teachers from my past and write them a letter and you came to mind, of course. Although French was never my favorite subject, I have never felt more comfortable in any classroom nor have I felt so at ease with any instructor. I feel like you were one of the very few instructors to ever really understand me and my antics. I’ve had teachers who tried to stifle me, teachers who couldn’t handle me, and teachers who tolerated me but never engaged me. You were different. Not only did you tolerate my antics but you enjoyed them! I cannot remember how many times you tried to get me back on task, but had trouble because you were laughing too hard to be serious. I’ve never had that happen with a teacher before or since. Your classroom served as my “home base.” It’s where I felt anchored and safe….