To the Lighthouse: as an artist-in-residence

To the Lighthouse

Nobbys Breakwall

The sky threatened rain and the walk along the breakwater to the lighthouse, lugging all the things I’d need for the day including my computer, suddenly seemed a lot longer.

Nobbys Lighthouse is on an island in the mouth of the Hunter River, named Whibayganba by First Nations Peoples, and was established in its present form in 1854. A causeway joins it to the mainland. Walking on the breakwater means you’re walking on shipwrecks, convict labour, Awakabal dreaming, a long past.

LighthouseArts director, Karen, unlocked the gate for us Tuesday artists-in-residence (writers, a photographer, musicians) and drove all our paraphernalia up the hill in a little golf cart.

Looking South

It’s a 360 degree view from up there!

East: wide sky and open ocean to the horizon.

North: a sand stretch of coastline and distant hills, the remains of a volcano.

West: a busy harbour and port.

South: the inner city of Newcastle and the Cathedral looking down on it from the hill.

I was a little worried I’d be too distracted by the view to write much.

My studio looked west over the harbour and also onto the courtyard and Nobbys Head Light. The studios are the rooms in two cottages that used to house the lighthouse keeper and workers. The creatives each have a room and every studio has a different view. A writer who looks over a white painted brick wall and out to the sea and sky told me it makes her think she’s in Greece.

The view onto the harbour from my desk
Nobbys Head Light

I started writing. From my desk I saw the dark clouds clear and I kept writing. The air was still and warm, and the only sounds were the waves breaking on the beach below, faint guitars, and the occasional F35 from Williamtown Air Base. I continued to write.

There’s a strange feeling up there that’s hard to put into words. It’s like being cossetted under a warm doona and at the same time floating free in the universe. I know they’re diametrically opposed positions, but one thing they have in common is that neither are concerned about time. There’s only the present. Perhaps it’s what some people call ‘being in the flow’, or others call meditation. Whatever you call it, the closest I can come to describing it is that infinite space where there’s no separation between being in the world and being in the writing. That’s the magic. Maybe you will have a better go at describing it. Let me know.

What writer doesn’t dream of discussing life, the universe and writing with other creative people? The ranges and experiences of the artists I met in the common areas were awe-inspiring. Everyone had a real respect and understanding for the creative practice and the need for quiet and privacy. A true blessing.

While I didn’t keep time, others had to, so at 4pm I reluctantly packed up and walked back down the hill, along the breakwater and into my life.

Until next Tuesday.

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2 Responses to To the Lighthouse: as an artist-in-residence

  1. dianathrelfo says:

    Karen, your account of your day at the Lighthouse gave me a nice warm sense of what it must feel like. Very impressed that you weren’t distracted by the amazing view from the studio window; I think that I probably would have been.

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