My friend Peter owns an island off the coast of Maine. On it he has erected a most magnificent lighthouse who’s beam illuminates the night sky and pierces the morning fog. He has retreated from city life and finds his solace in the sound of the waters that splash upon the shore of his pine filled kingdom. He has kept danger at bay with the beacon that swirls in measured time atop his lighthouse. It is there that I find myself with him at dusk sharing a glass of wine and letting our conversation be guided by the moody sky. We are high above the rocks that lay below us.
They act as a barrier to anyone who may have a crazy notion of coming to shore unannounced. We use a dingy to take us to and from his sail boat that he has anchored into the water’s depths a few hundred yards off shore. It’s a major undertaking bringing provisions to the island and I’ve learned over time to pare down my belongings so that only one boat trip from the main land to his island is sufficient. My friend has been very patient with me over the years, leaving me on my own to figure out what is truly necessary to bring to his part of the world and what I can comfortably leave behind. When I first started visiting him he would pick me up on the mainland and quietly eye all the bags that I had brought with me for the weekend.
I cringe as I look back on what I thought was “necessary” for my existence. To his credit, he never said a word at that time about my need to have an abundant amount of “things” in my life. Only once did I ever hear him slightly groan from the weight of my Louis Vuittons. But that was then and this is now. I currently pack all that I need in a couple of nylon duffle bags and have learned to expertly sling them over my shoulders as I jump from the dingy onto the shore of his island and make my way up the path to his house. Over the years there’s a weight that has been lifted from me and I travel lighter in all ways now. Less baggage, less stress. I’ve lightened up. Even though I have a standing invitation to come and see Peter any time that I want, I do not visit him on a regular basis. His life and mine are different in so many ways.
As much as I admire him and his reserve, I always seem to leave the island and our visits with more questions than answers and a feeling of being unsettled. In truth, I wonder how he does it, how he stays on this beautiful island all alone. He is a brilliant man with classic good looks, he would be a wonderful love to any woman if he was so inclined. What makes him truly attractive and admirable is his ability to “listen”, a quality that seems long forgotten in this noisy world. Even though he has lived alone for quite some time, it hasn’t made him distant or aloof. He is still so vital and connected through his writing and his reading that I question whether he ever really feels a lack in his life.
He devours spirituality for breakfast, lunch and dinner and can eloquently converse on any topic put before him. He is in his element expounding upon the virtues of a golden, shimmering sunset as he stands perched on the top deck of his lighthouse and glows with childlike enthusiasm as he feeds the hungry, swooping birds that fly above his head at the crack of dawn. He is in cadence with nature all around him, the ebbing and flowing of the waters that lap upon the shore. He seems content, a spiritual being that has disconnected from the material values and pursuits of outside life. But I wonder … I wonder. Why do I always leave with the feeling that I am not doing enough with MY life and that I still need to be with others so that I can bounce my thoughts and ideas off of them and get their input?
I admire Peter so, but I don’t feel that I could ever become so independent that I could forgo human contact. It takes a very strong person to be as he is … or does it? To me, he seems so far above the maddening crowds. So as we are sitting on the banquettes in the round upper deck, high above the waters and listening to the crashing surf below us, I close my eyes and imagine how it must be for him, high atop in his tower and away from the turbulent chaos of the masses, out of reach of the trivial meanderings of human kind.
We are feeling mellow from our second glass of wine and the conversation becomes more fluid with each sip we take. I am propped up against a million soft pillows, feeling a bit like an Arabian princess with the candles glowing and flickering in the gentle breeze while the classical music plays softly in the back ground. It is dark enough now so that I can clearly see the rotating beam from overhead as it floods the darkness with it’s swirling shaft of light. Time and again it comes around, searching out the unknown and announcing that it is safe … safe for travel and exploration.
In it’s silent vigilance it seems to say that there is nothing to fear, someone’s got our back and helping to guide us to safer shores. All very poetic and nurturing. The beam bounces around my head again and finds it’s way back to the beginning of it’s journey. In a fleeting moment I think, this would drive me crazy! … but I just let it go. I find myself asking questions as they pop into my head, not filtering my thoughts but letting them meander where they want to go. Through the years Peter and I have broken down the walls of moral judgement and hesitation between us and can talk freely. It’s one of the things that I cherish about our relationship. We are open and free to be ourselves. “How do you do it?” I finally say to him. “How do you stay here on this island, rarely going back to the main land but still staying sane?”