My Puritans ancestors did not approve of embellishments in life, seeing them as a distraction from the goal, God. They didn’t believe one should stop and sniff the roses, because they felt gardens should grow food, not flowers. You needed to think up a good excuse for having roses, such as the fact rose-hips make a tea that keeps people healthy in the winter. Then, once you made petals pragmatic, you might be allowed to mention the Creator made Creation beautiful, as long as you didn’t dawdle and do a lot of sniffing.
As a boy, I was a bit of a Puritan because I didn’t approve of unnecessary embellishments such as wearing a suit and tie, or combing my hair. I’m not sure Puritans would have approved of the invention of a round object I liked known as a “ball”, but I was good at making up excuses, and would have explained I was strengthening my arm so I could defend the garden by throwing rocks at rabbits. Fishing, of course, needs no excuse, because when you fish you are providing food.
As years past I became rather good at avoiding lots of the frivolous things my peers felt were important. I had no need to chase the latest fashion, for I knew that if I just waited long enough blue jeans would eventually come back in style. I had no need for a flashy new car, because I learned it was much cheaper to buy a clunker, and that, if you didn’t need to make payments, you didn’t need to work as much. Puritans might have frowned at my working less, but I would have explained my real job was writing. When they asked me what I was writing, I would have said, “Sermons”. I was writing sermons for a congregation that never came.
It is amazing how much is unnecessary, and how much we are better off not-doing. I myself didn’t really have the goal of becoming a Minimalist; (it just sort of happens if you’d rather write rhyming sermons than work a real job.) Minimalism may also mean you need to live in a poorer neighborhood, but I didn’t much like slums, so mostly I chose to be poor in rural settings. In fact, looking back, I was lucky, for I actually lived in strikingly beautiful places that other people work years to be able to afford. In fact, I was rich, without money.
A funny thing is that there are times I can be sitting full of gratitude for how my life has worked out, and a person will take pity on me, and feel they have to do something about my poverty. They mean well, but are pests. Sometimes they are even right, but still they are pests. For example, sometimes I just don’t feel like eating; I’d rather watch a sunrise; either a real one or one in my brain. Then, plop, someone puts a plate of food in front of me. I would have to be some sort of rat to not express gratitude, but, just between you and me, sometimes I’m annoyed.
I was a bit annoyed when my son informed me his girlfriend’s uncle served breakfasts in the top of an lighthouse, and he had gotten me and my wife a ticket. I mean, really? Breakfast isn’t bother enough already? But I would have to be some sort of rat not to be grateful. So, with a deep but secret sigh, off I went.
After a stroll by the waterfront we approached lighthouse from the waterfront side, which is painted white.
Then we climbed fifty-seven stairs.
And climbed a ladder.
And popped up into the little room where the lens used to be.
Then, after taking care to replace the cover of the trap door so we wouldn’t fall through the hole, we sat down for coffee and muffins before breakfast. (They are waiting for you, piping hot.)
You can arrange any schedule you want, so my wife and I arranged to spend a good long time just sitting and sipping coffee before breakfast, admiring the view and being thoughtful. The only problem was it was a long way down to the bathroom. (I did suggest that, as a man, I could think of a pragmatic alternative, glancing over the rail outside, but my wife shook her head.)
In all we arranged to spend two and a half hours just sitting up there sipping coffee before breakfast. Of course, to keep Puritan ancestors happy, and maybe make sitting up there a tax deduction, I had to look like I was busy conducting research, and I actually was. So was my wife.
The opening to the left of my wife in the above picture is where you crouch down to get outside to a small walkway with an amazing view, where you can do further research, or just marvel at the brilliance of the sun glittering off the Atlantic. (Bring sunglasses). (Leave your fear of heights at home.)
I really do love to drink coffee and do research, and light houses are a fascinating subject.
Back in 1690 Newburyport was the fourth largest city in the colonial USA, but had the most dangerous harbor, and lighthouses hadn’t been invented yet. Ships could wreak within hailing distance of the wharf. Mudflats reached south from the north as rocks reached north from the south.
Here is a short version of a longer post I may write someday about harbors and lighthouses: In the view below, out in the harbor you can see a tall buoy marking the edge of the mud, and a less obvious can-buoy to its right marking the edge of the rocks, (which is why there are no moorings for sailboats further out). A cabin cruiser is puttering out through the needle’s-eye-of-a-channel that sailors once had to thread, without power, without GPS, in fog and shifting winds, in tall ships including clipper ships that could get as long as a football field. Gradually they invented ways to make navigating easier. The short lighthouse you can see in the picture below was to be lined up with the tall one we were roosting in, by ships at sea, so they knew they were in the channel.
I could go on and on, but it was time for breakfast, not research. The waitress had called in sick, so the owner himself brought the meal up.
I know Puritans are all business, but while eating I glanced through the “lighthouse logs”, and read the comments of many people who have eaten breakfast, lunch or dinner up where we now sat. As I read it occurred to me that even Puritans would agree that one of the more difficult businesses in life is the business of getting someone to marry you. Judging from the “lighthouse logs”, apparently this lighthouse is a good place, if you want the answer to be “yes.”
(However my favorite account was completely fictitious, written by some humorist who described how distraught he was that his wife had just been struck by lightning on the walkway outside, but how a beautiful woman he’d met inside was now soothing his grief.)
I’m not sure what Puritans thought of American humorists. I’m not sure they had been invented yet. Lighthouses were still a century in the future. Therefore they likely couldn’t disapprove of me sitting up in a lighthouse, eating waffles and laughing with my wife. And therefore I don’t have to invent excuses. I cannot find the words that adequately describe what a great relief that is to me.
If you can’t find someone to give you a meal up in this lighthouse as a gift, it is a bit pricey. A dinner is $350.00. But that is well worth the price, if you want to get the right person to marry you, or tell the right person how thankful you are, years later.
I’m pretty sure the Puritans approved of thanksgiving.
(The original title of this work was “Breakfast That Stiffens Knees”, [To rhyme with “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”], but that seemed too ungrateful, even for a humorist.)