It s been a rum old life so far. And all things considered, a pretty active one. For in our collective 125-plus years we ve played many parts, as Stratford Will might say.
We ve been sales clerks and office workers, Yellow Page salesmen and switchboard operators, speech therapists and interpreters. We ve worked on TV crews and race car teams, been corporate executives and assistant pursars, college newspaper editors, and international marketers.
We ve taught the multihandicapped, the budding travel agent, and the wannabe traveler, written on every subject under the sun, lived and worked in four countries on two different continents. We ve been hired, laid off, and hired again. And for more than two decades we ve run home-based businesses in communications and travel.
And now, we re going to be lighthouse keepers!
For one week next August if all goes according to plan and the lakes don t rise we re scheduled to move into the Grand Traverse Bay Lighthouse at the tip of the Leelenau Peninsula, where, for the privilege of working our butts off from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., we ll each pay $175!
It s not exactly a sinecure. But something a little different, we re sure you ll agree.
Our main responsibilities, according to the assignment sheets already received, call for us to meet n greet visitors, show them around the 150-year-old lighthouse cum museum, work in the adjoining gift shop, and do odd jobs as required.
Reading between the lines, this also means sweeping floors and sidewalks, mowing grass and weeding, painting buildings and removing trash all tasks for which our previous experiences seem to have made us eminently qualified!
We ll have to be in excellent health, however, able to climb steep stairs and work long hours. As members of a four-person volunteer team, we ll also be assisted and supervised by a full-time park coordinator, and, of course, the ghosts of lighthouse keepers past.
For all that, we get to chat with park visitors campers, bikers, hikers, RVers, and such and live in an authentic Great Lakes lighthouse (albeit officially retired), with terrific views out over Old Mission Peninsula, the Fox and Manitou Islands. We ll get two half-days off a week, a souvenir T-shirt perhaps, and absolutely killer sunrises and sunsets.
To make sure we are really up to the job and could actually manage to live in a confined space for seven days without recourse to pets, TV, or alcoholic beverages (this is a state park, after all) we stopped by the Grand Traverse Lighthouse a couple of weeks ago for a personal look-see and a heart-to-heart talk with the current inmates.
They seemed to be a happy and healthy lot. They were also pleased to show us around their charming, artifactual museum, explain the en-suite sleeping arrangements, and show us a kitchen rigged for simple meals and the well-stocked souvenir shop with its computer on the fritz.
We left confident we could do the job, excited by the possibilities, and loaded down with books on Great Lakes lore.
Our interest in the Leelenau Peninsula, and the lighthouse project in particular, began last year during a visit with longtime friends who have a small house on Lake Michigan near the village of Northport.
We fell instantly in love with the area: its unspoiled natural beauty, cherry orchards, wineries, the laid-back cultural and artistic buzz that pervades, and, of course, the magnificence of Lake Michigan.
To get a jump on our education, our friends took us for an in-depth exploration, including Leland for an art fair and wine and food festival, and Sutton s Bay for its art galleries, antique stores, and wine tasting.
There were roadside food stands and funky bookstores to investigate. We met a guy they knew who had 10,000 different pop bottles in his pole barn and sold antique apples.
In Northport, we sat in a pocket park by the marina watching the ships come in, while a band played old pops and we ate our bread and cheese and drank Chardonnay from a local winery.
To further expand our knowledge, we also started hiking parts of the Lake Michigan shoreline. From the gated Northpoint community, past our lighthouse also known as the Cat s Head Light, along the sand dunes of Leelenau State Park, and down to Christmas Cove.
It s no easy matter following a shoreline where no trail exists and when keeping close to the lake means tromping ankle deep through zebra mussels and crab claws, green algae, and Petoskey stones.
But the numerous hidden bays, almost Caribbean in nature, the staggering sea views, and the knowledge that we were just an easy day s drive from our home in Ohio made us realize how very lucky we are to have the Great Lakes on our doorstep
So, see you at the lighthouse. Ciao!
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