In Virginia Woolf’s life-changing novel, To the Lighthouse, the lighthouse itself – as a geographical, artistic, creative space or idea, is of course never reached. It’s dreamed about, talked about, planned for and Lily Briscoe thinks what it would mean to paint it – but it remains, deliberately, out of reach of the words’ extraordinary ebb and flow. The lighthouse is summoned into imagination but it isn’t owned or held. So I do recognize that as a place of destination, the ‘lighthouse,’ however signified, is by definition never arrived at; indeed it would be a reductive notion to think that such a thing could be achieved. However, I do want to say that when I come up the sandy, salty path that leads out onto the headland to the Griffiths Island lighthouse, my heart lifts in a way I can barely describe. This is a place where, for me, happiness arises, a place of re-centring, where it seems particularly easy to be present, simply, to smell the air, to follow the sea birds skimming the waves. Such an embodied engagement with a place, its powerful ‘here-ness,’ operates as a conduit – not for some transcendent meaning or elsewhereness, but as an experience of being fully awake, body, senses, mind, unfolding in the now. A portal to right here. A gift.
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