In brilliant sunshine began a perilous voyage. As we cast off, little did we know that mother Nature had decided to let the sun bask on the market square while shrouding the archipelago in thick mist. Soon the sea smoke rolled in and wrapped our little boat in a blanket of nothingness. No sound, no horizon, no nothing except for white stillness.
According to the charts, somewhere near us was a smattering of rocks breaking the waves. Perhaps starboard? Port? Who knows, even sufficiently deep under us fortunate souls? We wound down the engines and let the ship glide, hoping to discover our destination. Anguish, what does one do when the gadgets point to a few meters ahead but there is nothing but whiteness in sight? Hoooooonnnk the captain called with the horn, hoping for a yip, a yell, a hello, over here!
Indeed, over there it emerged from the shroud: Söderskär islet, all alone in the world between Finland and Estonia.
Once upon a time not so long ago a mariner pilot, the lighthouse master, the lighthouse guard, and their families called Söderskär home. Tempests, swells, and scorching sunlight were the bountiful bonus on the job – and off the job. Life was rough and lonely until some years ago when the light was finally extinguished forever. What once swept the horizon with a bright beam turned into a dark tower looming in the moonlight, the ghost hand that waves homebound ships welcome.
And suddenly dark towers and a gray white world were wiped away by the June winds and all that was left was a brilliant blue. On a beautiful day even a lightless lighthouse can come to life.
I stood by the lantern and looked over the cobalt vastness. Virgina Woolf’s poor heroine never made it to the lighthouse. Tove Jansson’s moomin family did complete the voyage, and spent a summer discovering themselves and the world beyond the known. At a lighthouse islet there is no escaping reality, no fleeing from the now whether it is sunshine, storm, or snow. Close your eyes and try to dream but the sea is always on the other side of your eyelids. Everything changes but the sea is constant.
“Moominpappa leaned forward and stared sternly at the fuming sea. ‘There’s something you don’t seem to understand,’ he said. ‘It’s your job to look after this island. You should protect and comfort it instead of behaving as you do. Do your understand?’
Moominpappa listened, but the sea made no answer.”
(From Tove Jansson’s Moominpappa at sea)
(Söderskär, Porvoo archipelago, Finland; July 2014)