"My Father Was the Keeper of the Eddystone Light"
Well, no, actually, he wasn't. (Although he did spend 4 years in the Navy in WW II.) Nor was my mother the mermaid that the keeper courted "one fine night." Nor, while I'm at it, are any of my sibs either a porpoise or a porgie (the offspring of said keeper and mermaid).
It's just an old Weavers' song I grew up with, and it came to mind the other day when I read in the Boston Globe that the lighthouse keeper for the Scituate Light - south of Boston - is retiring, and they're looking for a replacement.
First off, major props to the incumbent lighthouse keeper. Ruth Downton is 77 and she's been keeping the nearly two-hundred year old lighthouse for over 20 years.
In this day and age, the job actually doesn't require all that much effort. The light itself runs on auto-pilot - no more climbing to the top with a pail full of whale oil and trimming a rope wick. Much of the work appears to involve greeting visitors, touring people around the grounds and the lighthouse keeper's cottage, keeping the grounds tidy, and making sure that no one trespasses into the lantern room.
As far as I can tell, the lighthouse keeper actually pays the Scituate Historical Society for the job, renting the keeper's cottage for $900 a month.
Of course, as anyone familiar with the Town of Scituate (sea-side New England quaint and charming at its best; not to mention lots o' rich folk) and/or with ocean front real estate, can pretty much figure out that $900 a month is what we in this neck of the woods call a "bah-gin".
There are many aspects of this job that I find quite alluring.
First off, as a claustro-phile - if that is, indeed, the opposite of a claustrophobe - I would love hanging out in the lighthouse itself. Some might feel confined in those confines. Not me.
Second, although 99.99% of the time I forget that I live on the ocean, I, in fact, love living by the sea.
I love when we're fog bound and it smells briney. I love when I'm walking by the waterfront and I get to say "Tide's out" or "Tide's in."
I like lobsters, and other food stuffs that come from the ocean including, but not limited to, oysters, clams, scallops, swordfish, cod, and halibut.
I love the feel of dune sand under bare feet.
I love walking on the beach and finding sand dollars, shells, and rocks that look really cool and interesting - enough so that you weigh yourself down with them, only to find that when you get them home, and they're dried off, you have to ask yourself just what was so cool and interesting about them.
And I love staring off into the ocean, thinking about just what's out there - and how gutsy my great-grandparents (paternal side) and grandparents (maternal side) were to get on the boat and emigrate. Sure, by then they knew that the earth wasn't flat, but still....
Last week I had a wonderful opportunity to stare out into ocean space when I hiked the Snail Trail in Provincetown with my sister Kath, brother-in-law Rick, niece Caroline, and friend Rita.
With the exception of some no-electricity, no-plumbing artists' shacks off the beaten track (and, I'm told, an occasional four-wheel-drive tour churning through), the Snail Trail, which wends its way through the P'town dunes, pretty nearly resembles what Cape Cod looked like before the Pilgrims stopped by on their way to Plymouth. (If you want to see what it looks like, check out the photos of Alexey Sergeev. Obviously, these are winter shots, but you get the picture. Next time, I'm bringing a camera. Fantastic.)
So, living at Scituate Light and getting to stare out into the ocean is a definite bonus aspect of this job - it would probably even make putting up with pesky tourists and school kids almost worthwhile.
The downside, of course, is that I'm such a city girl, I would likely go nuts in about two weeks time. (Fortunately, I believe that train service was recently extended from Boston to Scituate, so I could get into town with some regularity.)
And then there's the aspect of having to pay someone for a job.
Hmmmmm. I'd have to think about that one.
Not to mention that I don't fit the requirements of being knowledgeable about lighthouses and maritime history.
I like lighthouses and all that - white ones, striped ones. I've visited a few of them - in Portland, Maine, and in Chatham, Massachusetts. I have some notecards I got in Maine with lighthouses on them.
As for maritime history? Well, Mayflower. Wreck of the Hesperus. One if by land, two if by sea. Coffin ships.
And I do know most of the words to "What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor?"
As a quick study, I could probably pick up the rest. (I don't think I'd be much good at tying sailor knots, however.)
Anyway,whatever it pays or doesn't, this does seem like a a job that's even more cool and interesting than all those pebbles I pick up on the beach.