“I keep my century-old wedding ring…in a small wooden box the majority of the time. My hands are immersed in dirt, dough or diesel far too often to risk damaging them. I buff them up and wear them when we head Outside for holidays or I go out to work as a writer.”
The phrase is buried deep in West Coast author Caroline Woodward’s newest book, but it sums up the past few years of her life quite succinctly.
Light Years: Memoir of a Modern Lighthouse Keeper is a descriptive, well written tome of Woodward’s time as a lighthouse keeper on the West Coast. She currently lives with her husband, photographer and fellow lightkeeper Jeff George, on Lennard Island Lightstation, visible from Tofino. People from the West Coast will recognize many of the places she writes about.
She has worked at nearly a dozen lightstations since 2008, learning unexpected skills like estimating the altitude and coverage of clouds up to 2,500 feet or learning to give daily weather reports to Coast Guard radio.
She has worked at Nootka, Estevan Point, Pachena Point, Entrance Island, Chrome Island, Chatham Point, Cape Scott and Quatsino/Kains Island.
Woodward fell into the lighthouse life through curiosity: she met a relief lighthouse keeper on a ferry on the way to Alert Bay and struck up a conversation with him. Several weeks later her husband received his first assignment, on Egg Island, and their life was transformed.
When she realized she could move to a remote island to devote herself to her true passion, there was no turning back.
“Lennard Island is my favourite because of the many beautiful flower beds, a lily pond and hedges of fuchsia and honeysuckle amidst the salal, planted by lightkeepers decades before us,” she said.
“On reasonably calm days—with no danger of fog—it is possible to kayak around the Clayoquot Sound islands nearby and to see wonderful wildlife like the annual March migration of over 23,000 gray whales to Alaska and many migrating birds as well.”
Woodward will be signing books at Curious Coho Books and hosting a slideshow at Char’s Landing on Thursday, Oct. 22.