I can never resist a lighthouse. As soon as I see a tower on the horizon, I say to my husband, "We have to stop!"
I think it's a conditioned response, based on childhood afternoons working on jigsaw puzzles. The very image of a lighthouse triggers memories. I imagine myself snapping pieces together at a card table in front of my parents' picture window, and I half expect my mother to appear with an afterschool snack of cookies and milk.
The fresnel lens combines the science of the prism with the beauty of the stained glass window. At one lighthouse, the guide let a bunch of us tourists climb to the very top and stand right next to a working fresnel lens, so close I could have touched the glass surfaces, if I hadn't been given strict orders not to. "The lens was made in Paris, " said the tour guide. "It's irreplaceable. They don't make them any more." I barely even glanced out the window at the view because I was so busy studying the many surfaces of shiny glass that reflected back the sunlight, the clouds, and the colors of my clothing.
As we climbed back down the winding tower staircase, I tried to imagine myself climbing them on a dark stormy night to make sure the warning beacon was still functioning. I'm not sure I can picture myself as a lighthouse keeper -- the job seems more suited to a hermit than an extrovert like me -- but I can totally picture myself turning into one of those cheery old ladies who gives enthusiastic tours of lighthouses.