Ile Vierge | Teen Ink

Ile Vierge MAG

By Alexa J., Culver, IN

      The pistachio-colored copper plaque on the wall read “1889.” The tour guide pressed his hand-rolled cigarette between his lips as he waved his arms in front of him. He spoke in French at an unintelligible rate and used ancient Bretagne words that only the older generation could understand. All I knew was that I was standing inside the tallest lighthouse in Europe.

The lighthouse, 82.5 meters tall, looked historic, haunting, mysterious, remote, exposed. It sat on a small, secluded island in northern Brittany and, in its magnificence, towered above all else. The white plaster of the walls mimicked the sea gulls picking barnacles from the shells glued to the surf-worn boulders. Next to the soaring structure sat the keeper’s house with cracked walls, a sagging roof and a round walnut door with iron hinges.

When I walked through the door, I paid three euros to the man with the cigarette and started to climb the marble steps. My hand grazed the wall, craving to feel the history of a structure guiding sea vessels for so long.

I leaned over the handrail and gazed at the great helix spread out below me. My tired legs hauled themselves up more steps with the goal of reaching the unforgettable view from the top. After each step, I heard the faint echo from my past strides.

At last, after climbing 392 steps, I walked onto the deck, grasping the wrought iron railings for stability. A gust of wind wailed in my ears, almost pushing me over. I laid eyes on the microscopic boats perched on the sand left from the low tide, our miniature beach towels spread out for sunbathing, the flocks of sea gulls making nests among rocks. I saw also the immense shadow cast by the lighthouse darkening the ocean.

Left in solitude, I took a deep breath and wondered how I ended up at the top of a lighthouse in northern Bretagne in France, 3,000 miles from home. On that clear morning, the expanse of ocean opened my eyes to the limitless opportunities that await me. Liberation.

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