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  • Barbara Hacha

One Man, Two Million Steps - and Inspiration

On the shore of Lake Ontario, about 20 miles north of Rochester, NY, Braddock Point Lighthouse has stood for 118 years. At the beginning of its long life, its Fresnel lens cast a powerful light that was visible for 14 miles—the brightest light on the entire lake.

One man, Frank Coleman, served as its first keeper for 33 years, from 1896 until 1929. His job meant he had to climb the stairs of the 110 foot tower twice each day—or more, if something needed extra attention—to reset the chains that operated the pendulum-driven pump that kept oil flowing to the light.

Over the course of his tenure, Mr. Coleman would have climbed at least 2,600,000 steps! He would have climbed in beautiful weather as well as in thunderstorms, despite dangerous lightning and powerful winds. Surely, he also climbed the tower when he was ill—or just plain tired. But he kept the light burning and ships safe.

I think about the keeper’s dedication and apply it to writing. It's important to stay on the job, no matter the weather or the mood. Some days our writing goes well, and some days it's a chore. But diligence pays off. If each of Mr. Coleman’s steps was a word, he would have written, on average, 216 words each day. That, in turn, would result in 78,788 words per year. If you think of the average length of a book as 105,000 words, the 33-year span of Mr. Coleman’s career would result in 24.75 books—a very impressive body of work!

Only 216 words per day. Already, this blog post is 271 words.

I thought about the steps of the keepers as I climbed up the metal staircase that supported the work of Frank Coleman and his successors. As writers, we follow in the footsteps of others, but each of us does our work in our own way. At the top, I see a view that for that moment belongs only to me, and I notice that in the morning light, the tower casts a long shadow, and I am part of it.

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