The Lighthouse Guided Me to Shore: My Adventure Coming to Bass Harbor, Maine

The day after I finished finals I had a dream about a lighthouse. When I woke up, having nothing immediate to do for the first time in forever, I decided to look up some lighthouses on the east coast. Maine in particular always struck my fancy, as my Mom is from a tiny island off of Boothbay Harbor called Southport. The Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse immediately stuck out to me as not only notable in its significance and beauty, but in its fairly reserved stature. It is not a million feet tall and painted with red and white stripes. It is sturdy yet humble, nestled into the rock face yet poignant against the crashing sea. I need to see that, I thought. 

I went onto the lighthouse’s website and was brought to a seperate page of the Tremont Historical Society. No internship applications were open but I found the email towards the bottom and sent an artistically crafted, pre-coffee thought out, no expectations whatsoever type of letter and then turned off my phone. Time to brush my teeth and get on with my day, I thought. Yet unlike the tons of other internships, organizations and people I had emailed about summer opportunities before, I got a reply back, within hours. Before I knew it, I was heading to Acadia for the summer, renting a room from the sweetest 75 year old woman, and interning at a small little red building on the “Quiet Side”. 

The first thing I learned while being here is that news spreads fast. Much like the chitter chatter we experience at a historically women’s college, let’s just say it would be a waste of time to keep big secrets around here. I think abstractly I’m known as that girl who likes lighthouses, because when I’m introduced to strangers they seem to already know me. My landlord mentioned one night that I did a good job fixing the scanner that day… who told her that? But in a way that is what attracted me right? This idea of a closed off space where your whole life exists! In my eyes I saw it as a tall white structure in the lighthouse but in reality it was this whole side of the island. But I cannot complain about gossip, because let me tell you it is a true paradise here.

I’ve hiked up iron ladders, up mountains and cliffs, I’ve gone on an impromptu five hours sail around multiple islands (that was supposed to just be my lunch break). I’ve been swimming almost everyday at the beach only known by the locals that has literally the coldest waters. At the Historical Society I’ve gotten to work on projects and dig through boxes of uncategorized information. And perhaps most importantly, I’ve gotten to see the lighthouse. 

I didn’t explore it the second I got here, in fact I waited a week. I wanted to savor my time and see the other things this place had to offer (which I would soon learn are so extensive it would take many lifetimes to conquer). And much like when I first saw that image early in the morning on a foggy humid day in Rhodes North Dorm at Bryn Mawr College, I was awestruck. People around me were taking pictures and peering over the cliffs towards the water. But I found the lighthouse’s presence to be like a lost sister or brother. This idea of a delimited space, dictated by time, routines, and nature, why is it so appealing to me I wonder? Is it because of my time aboard the schooner Shenandoah where I learned to live by the tides, sunshine, and wind? Or is it a post-pandemic reaction– is my relationship with routines in a little area forever skewed towards needing physical boundaries? The unknown towards the health and social boundaries that were plagued in deliminiation during COVID19 are not invisible but purposeful here. The lighthouse keeper has a job to do and I respect that set boundary.

My boss is Ruth Moore’s niece. She lives in the late Moore’s house built by Moore, her partner, and her partner’s father. Ruth Moore is perhaps one of the most famous and most important authors from Maine, and in this whole country. But this island seems to be full of coincidences like that. One day I was on a random hike when I arrived in the most beautiful cove and saw a little sailboat anchored. I took a picture of it through my binoculars thinking how jealous I was of whoever got to live on it. The next day I realized that was the same sailboat I was off for the day! Perhaps though, these aren’t merely coincidences and instead moments that display just how hard I worked to get here. I think about the hours I’ve spent working on my blog, digging through geo-political historical information, my time spent living on a cramped schooner. It is no coincidence that I ended up here, I consider this to be a result that I luckily was able to realize. And for a woman in a time where we are not allowed to grant ourselves credit for our many accomplishments, I must admit, I’m proud of my hard work.

The lighthouse guided me to the shores of a new place I had never been before. In a week’s time I’ve met the most interesting people and gone on so many adventures. I’ve gotten to see the most beautiful sunsets in the world. 

But when I think back to my time here a couple moments stand out to me the most. One day while I was swimming by myself at the local beach I was once again attracted by a seductive light, but this time that of the sun not of a lighthouse:

The sun didn’t actually set when I said it did in my head.

It was just an innocent misunderstanding, an honest mistake.

In reality while it set behind clouds of grays and purples, there was still room beneath for it to breach.

I stood with my feet coated in tiny stones and icy blue water. Seaweed that pops under pressure with crabs that try to nibble at your toes.

The false sun set created a new wave of light that spread over the horizon and a different kind of air was around.

And like the lighthouse that guided me here, the sun around me surrounded me, gave me a hug, and blessed me. For a place full of so many new places and adventures to explore, I feel so at home.

Published by ellakotsen

student at Bryn Mawr College

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