by Katherine Gotthardt for my mother-in-law It came to me how beloved our lighthouses are, not just those pillars of hope for those lost at sea, but those seeking footing amid any pressing darkness. One morning I lost balance in the family room, having ignored the lamps and overheads, thinking I was still young enough to make my way in these familiar places. And then it happened— toe stubbed against the errant laundry basket, cruel in its broken-handled plasticness. I was sure I was bleeding, and when I reached to find out, that headrush and tumble….I barely remember what happened next. What opened my eyes hours (or minutes?) later had to have been a miracle: shard of early morning sun parkouring off the edge of the picture frame, into my realization that this was the lighthouse painting gifted after your passing. How that cool, white cylinder surrounded by stormy waters had beamed its way into my brain fog, I cannot say. But I do know memories came in like the tide: the tiny, sculpted lighthouses you kept on the fireplace mantle, how they stood like guardians, and that time I took a cheap wooden cutting board and painted a lighthouse for my father, putting to good use every tactic you’d shown me to bring my brush strokes alive. Color and texture felt so real then, like nothing else even existed. And when I gave it to my father, several layers later, he was awed I had any talent at all. He’d always said I couldn’t draw a straight line. That art was not my gift. Last time I visited, I saw it on his wall, that almost apparition of ephemeral inspiration, beam cutting fog in two, separating out those who survive and those doomed to be tossed in the water’s agitation. I remind myself which of those I am, how blessed I have been with lighthouses, and how the hurts we garner stumbling around in the abject messiness of life heal only when we allow them to. Thank you, Mother, for every lighthouse you ever gave me, for every little thing illuminate. You taught me the mystery of pigment and safety. How we all can create the indelible.