I've been the keeper of the lighthouse since my thirtieth year. The eldest son of my family has been the lightkeeper since the time of the father of my grandfather's grandfather's grandfather. That sounds a great many years, but the lighthouse has been here far longer.
I came to my post early. Most of us become lightkeeper about the time most men retire, but my father's illness took him young. Because of that I have done my duty longer than most of my predecessors, a full five and forty years.
My long tenure as lightkeeper nears an end. I'll send for my son soon and he will take my place. Before I leave here, though, I have three duties I must perform. Tradition says I must stay a year with my son as he learns the life of the lightkeeper, and that I will certainly do.
The second duty involves the library. The lighthouse offers little to leaven the solitary existence of the lightkeeper but the library. It is a remarkable one, ancient as the lighthouse and large, over five thousand volumes. I vowed in my first days here to read them all. I am near to completing that and I feel my life would have an enormous failure in it should I not complete my task. I have less than fifty volumes to go.
My last duty is both public and a secret. As a matter of tradition, each of my forefathers has kept the lighthouse logbook. In it we record each passing ship, the weather of the day, and anything we might see that seems worth recording. I have been diligent at this and I have done something my forebears did not. I have read every logbook in the library.
My public duty will be to turn my logbook over to my son and to have him start his own. The secret duty I must perform is one in which each of my predecessors has indulged, though none of them wrote of it. I break with tradition by writing of it now. Each of them, as will I, reviewed every page of their logbook and removed certain references to a secret that we keep. I will do this and, as they did, I will hide the stolen pages in the wooden casket in the library wall. I will tell my son, when his time comes, to do the same.
The secret is the Giant.
My father did not tell me of him, could not perhaps. He wrote of him, so I know that he knew.
I first discovered the Giant with my hearing. One day but a few days before my first winter in the lighthouse, I heard a sound carried on the wind. It was faint and the wind brought it to me only occasionally. It was, though, unmistakable. It was weeping. Unmistakably I heard bitter and inconsolate weeping carried to me on the raw winter wind.
I stood for hours seeking the point from which that crushing sound emanated. It was crushing. Hearing it I was near to weeping. It continued through the night and the next day. I walked circles around the light leaning this way and that, straining my hearing to locate the source of the sound. It took me days, and in all that time it never abated. Not for an instant did it cease.
The sound came to me from Capsheaf Crag. Capsheaf is an irregular yellow outcrop of rock fixed tight between earth and sky. It over-tops the distant cliffs to the South and is higher than any point that can be seen from the lighthouse. It lies beside the glacier that creeps down from Widow Mountain to the East. That glacier has finally neared the sea in my lifetime. I will not live to see it reach the water, but the water, on occasion reaches it.
I first knew of the Giant by his absence. The weeping stopped. It took years for me ever to see him. He comes before the first day of winter and bears in his hand a great spray of the blue flowers that grow on Widow Mountain. He sits upon Capsheaf crag and stays there immobile, weeping, until the winter goes. Even when he is present, I cannot really see him. He seems made of the same stone as the crag. I can only tell that he is there because twice a year the shape of the crag is different. It changes when he arrives and again when he departs. And of course, there are the blue flowers.
The blue flowers live in his hand through the harsh winter weather. Only the winds may steal a few petals to shower them across the glacier. When he goes the petals blow away painting the snow blue for a moment and then they are gone until he returns.
Why he comes I cannot say. Why he weeps so inconsolably is something about which I can only guess. But I have read the logbooks. The first lightkeeper in my family, the father of the grandfather of my grandfather's grandfather heard the weeping. The Giant's sorrow has lasted more than two hundred years. When my family assumed the duty of keeping the light the family of the earlier keepers took the logbooks. I wonder if they mentioned the Giant?
In reflecting on the Giant's sorrow have often reflected on my own. I raised my son alone. His mother, my only love, died of giving him to me. I could think of no other woman after her. My son gave me solace else I might have wept my life away as bitterly as the Giant. I wonder if he makes his pilgrimage each year for love? Are the flowers a tribute to a lost love? A gift in case she might return?
The winter ended last week. He has gone again, and the weeping with him. His departure was followed by a massive storm, one of the fiercest in my memory. It came ashore near Capsheaf Crag and the waves, more than thirty feet high at times, washed far inland. The wind blew away the last vestiges of snow and the blowing spray washed all the land. The wind and waves chiseled away at the glacier too.
As the sun set I looked across the ocean to Capsheaf Crag and the glacier and I saw what I think no man has ever seen. The setting sun illuminated the glacier, the glacier scoured by the storm to a crystalline clarity. It was blue. It was a wall of ice made up of a million blue flower petals as deep into the glacier as the sun could penetrate. Those petals if freed to float upon the wind would make a path across the sky to exceed the mightiest river in all the world.
How might I compare my emotion to his? Is sorrow not utterly hollow, incapable of defining what the Giant must feel? What word could define the feeling that left behind a river of flowers frozen in a glacier of tears?