“Lily stepped back to get her canvas – so – into perspective. It was an odd road to be walking, this of painting. Out and out one went, further and further, until at last one seemed to be on a narrow plank, perfectly alone, over the sea.”To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
Since I’ve started my residency up here at the lighthouse, I’ve been rereading To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. I don’t really need an excuse, it’s in my top ten books, along with Marion Halligan’s Spidercup and Laurence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet.
I took one of those ‘thinking walks’ writers tend to favour: setting myself a question about a writing problem, then leaving it to meander through my mind solving itself, while I walked, observing everything and nothing around me.
For a while I stood here with the lighthouse behind me and the vast empty ocean in front. But then I noticed the sea wasn’t empty. Container ships that looked like tiny caterpillars were balancing along the rim of the sea. And closer there was the whitewash that inconsiderately gave away the secret hiding place of reefs. And the water was all shades of blue and green with lines drawn by currents, tide, sand and depth.
I walked further around the lighthouse and looked out along the narrow breakwater. Three tug boats waited at the mouth of the harbour for a coal ship. Waited for it to come to them.
When at last it came, the sailors threw down ropes and the tugs grabbed hold and fastened them tight.
I was already writing at my desk when the boats passed my window, the tugs escorting the ship down the narrow channel and into its berth, as I steered a clear path through the problem in my novel.