For Kate Arpano ~ March 13, 2009 – January 14, 2016 ~ always shining
The lighthouse keeper walked the borders of his island in a drizzling rain that smudged the edges of the world. The path he chose was crooked, spiked with rocks and sea-slick, but the keeper never stumbled. He knew the circuit well, had traveled it so often that his dreams would bring him here, the wave pulse like a heartbeat and salt rime on his tongue.
Still, he took his time, a wise precaution since the coast was humped and jagged like the boulder teeth of giants. From there, the land rose up in crumpled hills all seamed with grey rock. The only structure was the lighthouse rising in the north, its wide beam sweeping arcs across the ocean, warning ships to keep their distance. But he was not here for that light.
There! He saw a flicker deep inside a crevice where two blocks of granite leaned together. He knelt and cupped the small, translucent flame, radiant, in his palm. She was dazzling, luminous, stronger than the rain or wind or darkness. Still, he kept her close.
Soon enough, he reached the lighthouse, toed the kitchen door and slipped into a room so full of brilliance that it shimmered. Gold flames shone through sea glass votives. They covered every surface, from the floor up to the ceiling.
“Welcome,” said the keeper, as he gently set the newest light into a cup. He shucked his dripping coat off and poured a mug of coffee as the tower’s cats arrived from every nook and corner. There were too many cats to count, and too many lights to number, but arithmetic was not his job, and he had dwelt with the impossible for so very many years that its magic was a comfort.
In any case, the lighthouse amiably expanded to accommodate both cats and lights, as needed. Shelves appeared from nowhere. New rooms opened up. The flames arrived at odd hours and in unusual places, but the keeper always found them. After all, each small but splendid glimmer was the remnant of a life — not the body, nor the soul, but the good done on this earth, the generosity and warmth.
Take the newest flame, for instance. He could see she was a marvel, a miracle, in fact. Her starlight pirouetted, trailing sparks of purple-pink. The keeper caught at glimpses: a smile that never faded, laughter, hugs and music. Magic tricks and mischief. Flowers, games, and rainbows. Jokes. An iron will and easy temper. There was nothing small about her. And, oh, how she was loved!
“You are strong,” the keeper said, and he set her in a place of honor. He would watch the blessings of her light. He would see them ripple outwards, chasing shadows, bringing grace. Boundless joy swelled all around her. The keeper laughed, “To be sure, you’ll like the cats.” And the flame leaped like a bird song, unwavering and fierce.
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