Some mornings are red lighthouse mornings. You wake to unexpected sunshine and the thought of the lighthouse tugs at you, like seaweed wrapped around an ankle.
Best to accede gracefully on mornings such as these, for no work will be done, no focus maintained, until you walk to the lighthouse, place your palm against its stout red walls.
So go ahead. Make your way to the car park at the start of the Great South Wall. But take a moment before you step onto its granite flags. (The lighthouse will wait. It’s been waiting a long time.)
This morning, you will be the only person walking to the lighthouse. The sea will murmur its accompaniment; the heron swoop to say hello.
Behind you, the port will be busy. Its blue cranes will load and unload, but you will be too focused on the red lighthouse to notice. Your eyes will sweep across the sea, settle for a moment on the grey spires of Dun Laoghaire, before returning, inevitably, gratefully, to the red lighthouse.
And when, at last, you reach the lighthouse, you will run your hand along its weathered base, marvel at its cool solidity.
You will stand with your back to the lighthouse, surrounded on three sides by water. In front of you, the open sea stretches, silver and shining. To your right, Sandymount and Blackrock are visible. To your left, Bull Island, Howth.
You are now enclosed by the Bay, held at the still point of its centre.
Behind you, the city crouches. The people you love most in the world are contained within it, working, studying. You are tethered to them by a two hundred year-old wall, eight metres wide and three kilometres long.
It is the strongest and most fragile thing you know.
The red lighthouse, more properly known as the Poolbeg Lighthouse, stands at the end of the Great South Wall, once the longest sea wall in the world. The wall was completed in 1761 and took thirty years to build. It was designed to prevent Dublin’s shipping channels from filling up with sand, but the problem of silting continued until a companion wall, the North Bull Wall, was completed in 1825.
The lighthouse in its current form dates from 1820.
Not all mornings are red lighthouse mornings. Some mornings you wake tired and dispirited. You remember that to get to the lighthouse, you have to drive through the city’s industrial underbelly, past the sewage works and the tailings pond, the abandoned buildings and the concrete yards.
The lighthouse will wait, offering renewal or redemption, a chance to watch a man cast his line into the sea beneath.