Emma and I climbed a lighthouse last night.
You should do that.
Let me back up.
We had to drop Devin off at recorder practice (yes, that’s a thing) at an elementary school about 30 minutes away from our house. Rather than drive back home only to turn around and make the same trip an hour later, I decided to hang out in the area for a while.
Unfortunately, the immediate area consisted of an Applebee’s, a Wal-Mart and numerous strip malls.
I checked Whrrl and Foursquare for any nearby suggestions. That’s how I found out about the Wal-Mart. In lieu of a better idea, I drove towards the ocean. I’ve never failed to find inspiration when I’m near the ocean.
As we drove over the bridge that spans the inner coastal waterway, I saw signs for the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, something I’d heard about for a couple of years but had never had the opportunity to see for myself. I flipped on my blinker and began to follow the signs.
Twenty minutes later, Emma and I found ourselves at the base of a beautiful red lighthouse that was surrounded by old brick buildings and wrought iron fencing.
It was nearly 5:00 on a Thursday evening, but I was surprised to see the gift shop seemed to be open. I only think of lighthouses being open on Saturdays and Sundays or during school field trips. I forget, sometimes, how much of the world is still open to visitors during hours traditionally set aside for work.
Emma and I stepped into the gift shop and exchanged $6 for two neon pink bracelets that would grant us admission to the lighthouse and the surrounding exhibits housed in the brick buildings.
“You ready to do this?” I asked.
“Yes!” Emma hollered over her shoulder as she took off down the brick paver path ahead of me.
The two of us climbed over 200 steps to reach the top of Florida’s tallest lighthouse. We took our time navigating the metal spiral staircase and held on to the black lacquered railing for added security.
We could feel the cold wind leaking into the lighthouse even before we reached the top, but we weren’t prepared for what greeted us as we stepped off the last step. The wind was fierce, and Emma quickly stepped back inside to steady herself. After a few deep breaths and reassurance from me that she was not, in fact, going to be blown off the top, we headed back onto the widows walk.
The view shocked me. I have climbed a lighthouse one other time, and by definition you should expect to see water on one side. But this particular lighthouse is surrounded by ocean and beach and inlet and so many different incarnations of water and land mixing, all in one 360 view. It was breathtaking.
It was also cold, so Emma and I headed down after about 10 minutes at the top.
As we navigated the 203 steps back down, it occurred to me that I could have waited in the car for Devin. I could have packed up my laptop and taken Emma to a nearby McDonald’s to pass the time with work and french fries.
But we climbed a lighthouse.
I kept thinking that this was why we were going through the trouble of taking a year off to travel. These silly little experiences, shared with my kids, are at the core of what makes me happy. The something new. The exploring with my daughter. The moving our bodies away from a screen and over real stairs and pathways. These are the things that make my heart sing.
But back to telling you what to do.
I don’t know if you live in a place where lighthouses are prominent. I don’t know if ocean views or long climbs make your heart go pitter patter. I don’t know if you have a daughter who likes to explore or a son who has recorder practice.
But I do know that there are big chunks of the world open all week long.
I know that there is time for connecting to be found outside of Saturdays and Sundays.
I know that there are places near your home where you can buy moments of happiness for less than $10.
I know there is something around the corner that you haven’t discovered yet.
Go thou out and find them.
And remember to take a few minutes to enjoy the view when you do.