In the years since my last Lighthouse Digest article my world has changed. I was still at Eshaness Lighthouse on the Shetland Islands in Scotland when I wrote the last time for Lighthouse Digest. I loved my lighthouse home, developed some wonderful friends, adored walking in the heather covered hills, and watching the sea creatures.
One important rule in Shetland when hiking in the hills is to look where you’re walking. If you want to look around come to a complete stop and then glance around. One morning I was walking down to watch the seals sunning their tummies on the Bruddens rocks when crossing a small burn (creek), I stopped watching my feet for just a second as a group of dolphins swam by just off shore. My foot slipped on a wet rock. I wrenched my back trying not to fall. The lighthouse was out of sight and I was hidden from any area where someone might see me. I had to get myself back to the lighthouse but how? A couple of times I had crawled back home when caught in severe storms where I could not stand. Maybe I could get down to my knees? I tried but it was torture so I aborted that idea. After many awkward attempts if I took tiny steps and dragged one leg I could make shaky forward progress. It seemed like hours passed before the lighthouse came in view. I must have been an ugly spectacle to the tourists as I came in sight. Immediately one of them came to my rescue and helped me to the lighthouse. There were few times in the years we lived at Eshaness I was thankful for tourists and this was definitely one.
Safe in the lighthouse I called Susan, the local National Health Service General Practitioner. Once she arrived she examined me and then drove me to the hospital 45 minutes away. The x-rays showed no bone damage so my injury was diagnosed as a severe back sprain. Susan and the neighbors kept track of me and assisted as best they could. All I wanted to do was get home to get my back fixed. It seemed like forever until I was able to make the long airline trip home.
With physical therapy I got pretty mobile again. Friends began to debate about the wisdom of my going back to the lighthouse by myself and maybe we should sell the property. My husband was still working for the university so he could not go with me for my summers there. Many household activities at Eshaness like spinning wool, listening to music, cooking and writing kept me busy during bad weather but I had learned to cope with the isolation by exploring and enjoying the beauty of the outdoor surroundings. Accepting that I’d have to give up wandering the hills while at Eshaness was beyond my understanding. Stubbornly I ignored the debate about my returning alone until I injured my back a couple more times and finally agreed.
Then my husband had a great idea. If we sold the lighthouse to the Shetland Amenity Trust we could return once a year for a month as part of the sales agreement. Bless the Shetland Amenity Trust! That is exactly what happened. We can return to Eshaness for a month as long as we live. We no longer own it but when we arrive it is still home. Signing the papers I realized we were saying goodbye to being lighthouse owners and would become visitors. That was a very sad time for me but it could have been worse. When we come over the hill and see Eshaness standing at the top of the cliffs I know how lucky we are.
Going through losing our lighthouse made me even more aware of what the lighthouse keepers we met while looking for our Scottish lighthouse were going through during automation. They could never return.
A Hollywood producer who read one of my books contacted me about writing a screenplay about lighthouse living and the keepers. I was interested because it was story needing telling and I had started an unfinished book entitled “Keepers No More” which was exactly what he wanted. At the time I was involved in a difficult book contract that I had to finish so I put him off. It took three years to finish the book contract. When I finally tried to get back to the producer he had disappeared which is not unusual in the motion picture business I have been told. So, thinking since I have written 25 published books it could not be too much different to write a screenplay.
How wrong I was! It was totally like learning how to write all over again. But with a lot of help, I wrote “Keepers” a fictitious drama about lighthouse keepers.
“Keepers” is a drama but has an important mission. People need to become aware that lighthouse keepers were unsung heroes. Worldwide the keepers were first responders in many maritime emergencies and their tending of the lighthouses kept more accidents from happening. They were guardians of the shoreline but very few people knew they did it or how.
I’ll never forget the day how on my way to signing the Eshaness sale documents when I shut lighthouse’s heavy door and locked it my sadness was overwhelming. Local friends had somehow known how hard it would be and volunteered to accompany me. I will always be thankful for their support.
The memory of that door locking made me realize doors are everyday things that can impact in our lives. You open a door and outside lies unknowns which could be positive or negative. But unless you exit through the door and you’ll never know what is out there. When you close the door you are saying goodbye to what lies within maybe for a few minutes or forever. After the door shuts you still have all the memories of what made you so happy there. Doors are both an exit and an entrance. I found this definition in the dictionary that says it best: “Doors are any gateway marking an entrance or exit from one place or experience to another.”
I exited as the owner of Eshaness Lighthouse and found waiting outside the adventure of moving lighthouse keepers all over the world from unsung heroes to the position of respect that is long overdue.
Now to find a lighthouse location for the film. . .
To be continued.
*Sharma Krauskopf is a popular author with 25 books in print and was the editor and lead writer of Scottish Radiance, an internet magazine about all things Scottish. We are pleased to have her once again join the Lighthouse Digest team.
This story appeared in the
Jul/Aug 2014 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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