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  • JP Terrell

Lighthouses

Updated: Mar 22

I really like lighthouses. Those tall bastions of safety that have been used for well over a century to alert boats of land and any other possible impediment in their path have always fascinated me. I’m not a sailor by any stretch (I get seasick), nor have I ever needed a lighthouse to guide my way to or from a land mass, but whenever I see one out in the wild I feel a little bit safer. My personal favorite is the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, just look at the thing, but any and all lighthouses are great in my book.


For only having a few very specific jobs, lighthouses are pretty versatile. Illuminating the area around them for hundreds of yards, being a marker for travelers of all kinds, and now often being tourist attractions for generations long after their original purpose was completed, it’s not difficult to see how big of an impact lighthouses have had in their lifespan. Even now, as more and more lighthouses are becoming decommissioned and replaced with other light fixtures, radar, and GPS systems, they still stand tall, looking over the area they once patrolled, like an old dog protecting a front lawn years past his prime.


Designwise, lighthouses are unique. Most often built as a cylinder, or a cone-esque shape with any number of sides, structures shaped like lighthouses are few and far between. Piercing the sky from any angle and appearing the same from all sides, no matter how you see a lighthouse you know its purpose. Atop all of these structures resides a light, strong enough to guide the way home for the weary. Some spin, some hold still, but all stay lit for as long as needed.

Inside a lighthouse you will find some way to get up and down. The most modern of lighthouses have small elevators for keepers and tourists to ascend with ease, which is an intriguing sight to behold. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer the lighthouses with hundreds of spiraling steps all the way to the top. Never having to work in a lighthouse I can say that with relative ease, yet the visual of standing in the bottom of a lighthouse and straining your neck to look straight up and see stairs that seemingly go on forever is just too amazing to let go. No matter what, both the oldest and newest lighthouses contain their own ways to travel within, self-contained and effective.

Speaking of keepers, their contribution cannot go unnoticed. As amazing as lighthouses are, without a little help they cannot reach their fullest potential. Having to work at both the highest heights and often in isolation makes keeping a lighthouse a difficult job, but those who are willing to take on such a task get to see the world from a viewpoint that so many others will never have the chance to witness. A great reward to work with as fascinating a tool as a lighthouse.


Existing outside and next to bodies of water, lighthouses take a beating. Waves crash up the sides, storms rage with driving winds and pouring rain, and seasons constantly change from hot to cold to hot once again. With the environment constantly changing around them, lighthouses stand through it all. As long as there is a job to do, the lighthouse will brave the elements for the good of others, often with no recognition or reward, but it doesn’t matter. The lighthouse thrives where it is built.

However, even with everything else that makes lighthouses so great, my favorite thing about lighthouses is relatively simple; whether it be surrounded by a changing landscape or devastating weather or raging wars, a lighthouse knows its purpose. For as long as there are ships sailing, there is a job to be done, and lighthouses will be happy to oblige. Standing stoic in the face of adversity, working until it physically cannot anymore, a lighthouse is consistent, dependable, and strong. When life throws its worst at me, I think of all those guiding lights, and I aim to be a lighthouse. Because no matter what is going on around them, lighthouses always keep shining.


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