“Sail on!” it says,
“sail on, ye stately ships!
And with your floating bridge the ocean span; Be mine to guard this light from all eclipse,
Be yours to bring man nearer unto man!”
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Keeper’s Light –
I am the keeper of the light,
housed along this cliff over the sea
all day and all night.
I stand awake and prepared
no matter the storm.
I keep the fire burning
for the ships,
that navigate these waters,
be kept safe
with my guiding light.
– Shawn M. Flot
It is an analogy the lighthouse and the lighthouse keeper has to our own responsibility to keeping our fire burning bright. I am referring to the Agni, or fire of transformation. The strength and sustainability of one’s Agni, determines their longevity and harmony with Life. It is a never-ending process and responsibility to harness the life force, Prana, that drives life forward, to nourish and optimize our brilliant flame of life.
The life force, Prana, is in service to Agni. It acts as the agent that fuels (the life force of the “food” we digest, and winds, or Vayus, the internal winds that move the functions of the body to keep the fire optimally burning for all mind-body functions. The fire digests, transforms, assimilates, and eliminates the “food”. This accounts for all aspects of living as we “digest life” taking in life around us, translate and transform it, eliminate what is not needed and assimilate into our tissues what is needed for sustaining the demands life brings to our mind-body organism. Therefore we must keep our fire burning bright.
Back to the lighthouse – A lighthouse is built on a broad and stable foundation, overlooking the cliffs to the sea. Cylindrical in shape, wide at the base, chimney like structure provides sustainable air, shelter, and height for the guiding light. This beam of light, originally produced by a flame, pierces the night and stormy skies, guiding its travelers by with signals of caution and care.
The foundation, or home, for the light and the lighthouse keeper is essential in providing a sustainable guiding light to the ships that pass. The importance of fire, and keeping the fire burning optimally for illuminating the dark and stormy seas was essential for guidance. A sturdy, grounded structure housed a light that centered from the top of the lighthouse.
The light, the flame, was unconditionally cared for by the lighthouse keeper. His job did not sleep, to keep the fire burning brilliant and illuminate the seas for travelers by. In addition, the lighthouse keeper had to maintain the glass that housed the light, both from the inside and out. Risking life and limb he would climb out on the railed walkway, often in strong storms to wipe the glass clean of sea spray and rain.
Keeping the fire optimally burning to prevent smoking or melting the glass, required diligence with the draft that cylindrically travelled from the base of the house to the top. With venting, the keeper dialed the vents to adequatically control the winds that fed the fire. A daunting task with the ever changing winds on the sea’s edge.
Another aspect of a brilliant fire was the fuel, often carried 100-200 stairs from where it was kept in warmed steal drums. In the early years, before kerosene and electricity, the warm steel drums housed animal fats, rendered from pigs mostly. Rendering fat to fuel was a long term process involving many steps and special tanks to heat and not burn the fat. Many resources and time were consumed in the production of fuel. Sounds like a metaphor to our own digestive process.
And finally the care of the wick – monitoring the height of the wick off the oil, the dryness of the wick and it’s relative position with the glass were crucial variables in maintaining the flame for a brilliant light.
One can see the lightkeeper’s role was “very demanding, not for the weak at heart, or soul” as one historian puts it. Whatever it took to keep the fire burning bright – to be a guiding light for travelers by.
Please see Anatomy of a Lighthouse for structural explaination of a lighthouse.