Last Friday, I took advantage of the beautiful weather and a day off work and went hiking at Lighthouse Park in West Van. I had never been before and it was a great way to spend a sunny afternoon in February. My friend and I ate our picnic lunches on a large outcropping of rock that gave a fantastic view of the city (minus the tankers).
Reading about the duties of the lighthouse keeper on a nearby plaque reminded me of the book The Light Between Oceans that I read with my book club last year and which stirred up some very strong reactions in me.
The main character, Tom Sherbourne, takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock in Australia, bringing his new wife Isabel with him. Like most lighthouse keepers, Tom and Isabel don’t have much interaction with the outside world. They live on a remote island. Years later, after Isabel has suffered two miscarriages and one stillbirth, she finds a baby girl, alive, in a boat that has washed up onshore with a dead man in it. Of course Isabel wants to keep the baby (whom she names Lucy) and feels it is God’s providence, but Tom isn’t convinced. He wants to report the man and baby immediately, but eventually concedes to his pleading wife. Their decision has devastating consequences when they return to the mainland. The story is a modern tragedy, and brought up some good discussion in our book club about what’s right and wrong, especially when there’s children involved. It was interesting to hear the different perspectives, especially between the ladies who were moms and those of us who weren’t. That’s all I’ll say about it, other than I was pleasantly surprised at the interesting plot and moral complexity of the book.
For those of you interested in history, Captain George Vancouver named this site Point Atkinson after one of his friends. The lighthouse was built in 1875 on 65 hectares of forested land, which served as a source of fuel for its steam-powered foghorn. The current hexagonal lighthouse was erected in 1912. During WWII, the lighthouse was installed with search lights and used for surveillance, looking out for enemy submarines or ships sailing into Burrard Inlet. The Department of National Defence set up barracks behind the lighthouse where soldiers stayed. This building used to be the men’s dining hall, now called Phyl Munday Nature House: