One if by land, two if by sea. Lighthouses have long personified romantic sensibilities, prospects of discovery, beacons of hope, and the towering calm against the rough and tumble of the sea. You simply cannot help but gaze at a lighthouse. These beautifully weathered and historic structures simultaneously blend in and stand out amongst their surroundings. There’s a magnetic pull that will have you quite literally jumping across rocks in childlike delight, scrambling up slightly less-than-sturdy stone staircases for that picturesque view, and even spending a quarter on timed binocular stools that end up forming rings around your eyes from staring too hard. Or perhaps that was just me, and I’m describing my weekend in Maine gawking at the Portland Head Light. There’s a security to lighthouses, the belief that they are steadfast through whatever storm may follow, that makes me feel inherently safe even when located on teeny edges of rock and grass.
I cannot take credit for this, but I saw a review describing the ‘nautical splendor’ that is Sophie Blackall’s Hello Lighthouse. The phrase is now burrowed in my head as I think about this stunning picture book that utilizes repetitive text as constant amidst the rolling sea illustrations. And though Lauren Wolk’s Beyond the Bright Sea doesn’t have an actual lighthouse, the flickers of fire coming from a remote island draws central protagonist Crow towards the discovery of her past. Olive, in Letters from the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll, puts risk to the test as she works to shine light on the mystery of her sister’s disappearance. And finally, I couldn’t possibly end this post with any other author than the OG of lighthouses, Ms. Virginia Woolf. To The Lighthouse is an observational, existential text that might seem like it’s about the Ramsay family making a day trip, but is actually a commentary on human perception and perspective. Pretty apropos for a lighthouse setting, wouldn’t you say?