Wednesday, June 22, 2011


by Kathleen Ernst

For the past several years my husband Scott and I have served as volunteer docents at a lighthouse. We spend nine days in late May-early June living in Pottawatomie lighthouse, which is in Rock Island State Park, WI.

lighthouse NW view

We give tours to guests from ten to four each day, and do some light housekeeping. The park campground is over a mile away, and there are no vehicles or roads on the island, so our afternoons and evenings are pretty peaceful.

lighthouse twilight 09

Pottawatomie is the oldest light station in Wisconsin. It was established in 1836, although this gorgeous structure wasn’t built until 1858. Keepers lived at the station until 1946, when the light was automated. (For more photos and details, check out Should It Stay, Or Go? and Beyond Death’s Door on my personal blog.)

lighthouse scott reading

Scott and I refer to the experience as camping indoors. The lighthouse has no cell reception, electricity or running water. The parlor has a stove, but the rest of the building is unheated.

lighthouse KAE writing

I love history, and I love nature, so the gig is ideal. More than that, though, my time there is good for me as a writer. Like everyone else, my days are usually crammed too full. My days on Rock Island give me time to read, to scribble in my notebook, to think. No email, no FB, no phones. I don’t realize how fragmented my brain gets until I have a chance to truly slow down. I come home with pages and pages of notes and ideas.

lighthouse window

How about you? Do you have a favorite spot to recharge?


Beth Groundwater said...

What a great gig, Kathleen! It sounds like a writer's dream retreat.

Marji Laine - Faith Driven Fiction said...

That sounds like a little piece of heaven! I think if I detached myself from my computer for more than a couple of hours, I might go into withdrawal, but it might be worth it to try!

Darrell James said...

Sounds like just what I need, Kathleen. It's been a long time since I took time to slow down and smell the coffee (or the daisies, as it were).

Kathleen Ernst said...

We're all so used to being wired that sometimes we need help to disconnect!

Terri Bischoff said...

I admit to being quite frazzled when I don't have my phone... but I am trying to wean myself off it a little bit!!

Robin Allen said...

Living in a lighthouse sounds so cool! Except, of course, for all the strangers traipsing through during the day.

I don't do it as much as I'd like, but I feel recharged after a couple of days at the beach. Connecting to the very earth is healing and calming.

Keith Raffel said...

Kathleen, thanks. Who knew Great Lakes states had lighthouses?

Does the lighthouse have an outhouse?

As I've blogged before, to get real writing done, I go to a corner cafe where I have no WiFi! Only way to fly.

Alice Loweecey said...

That sounds so cool, Kathleen!

My favorite retreat will always be along Lake Couchiching at Fern Resort (Orillia, Ontario). We used to go there for a whole week, at which I could write every morning by the lake, and I dind't have to cook or clean anything! Hopefully we'll be able to return there next year.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Yes, the lighthouse has 2 outhouses! The original, which we don't use, is the oldest building in Door County. The park service has also discreetly supplied a modern composting privy, which is solar powered.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, everyone!