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So Much Light
Welcome to the fourteenth issue of Me Who Writes. I started this newsletter at the end of 2022 with the hopes that I could keep it going for at least a year. I’m pleased to say that connecting with readers on a regular basis has been an enriching experience. I feel energized by the process of creating these pieces and can honestly say I enjoy doing this newsletter thing. Once again, my gratitude goes out to all of you for tuning in.
This week is a bit of a ramble. If I put all the words that follow into a single drawing, it would be a mixed media collage. A bunch of things put together. As I collected these fragments, I decided that whether or not the whole is a cohesive entity didn’t matter. It’s more about how they exist in the same space.
Above you see a photo I took early yesterday morning. This is what my trail looks like this week, suddenly teeming with the lushness of summer growth. In some places, the path seems to have grown much narrower with all the greenness leaning into it from the edges. It’s not really ‘my’ trail, although I do think of it in quite possessive terms. It’s called the Eagle View Trail and yes, there are eagles. Magnificent bald eagles. Once I counted nineteen of them in the same tree. It looked like a conference of eagles, or I guess that would be a convocation of eagles. I remember wondering what they were meeting about. That was a few years ago. Since then I’ve seen them only one or two at a time. I hope to witness another eagle conference again sometime.
Ignore the dust visible on the window pane. The photo above exists because I was trying to take a picture of how much morning light beams into our house from the narrowest of our windows. The past few weeks leading up to the Summer Solstice have been almost blinding. Each day there has been a growing abundance of light. It’s still daylight when I climb into bed to read myself to sleep. It’s light again already at 4:30 in the morning when I wake up to go to the bathroom. We have to pull the blackout blinds down completely to get any sleep.
Those are not complaints. I love the light and the long evenings, sitting outside as late as my eyes will stay open, listening to the birds and the crickets as the minutes move towards tomorrow. But, much as I embrace the light, I also miss the night and at times find myself thinking of fall and winter evenings when I cozy up with a blanket as the dark descends and get lost in a book. As you can tell, I’m not someone who mourns the arrival of the Summer Solstice as a dreaded downward turn into darkness. Summer light is glorious, but I know I’m ready for the beginning of the slow transition from light to night again. Perhaps it’s the cycle itself that I embrace the most, the annual movement from light into dark and back to light again, a constant motion that marks our years and our lives.
One morning this week, I spent forty-five minutes in a salt cave, a gift from my son and daughter-in-law who thought I was in need of a treat. They bought me a session at a small local business (hello, Room & Pillar!) run by wonderful friendly young women. I was instantly at ease in this place. At home, I have a Himalayan salt lamp that I turn on most mornings, less often during these light-filled summer mornings, but always in the darkness of fall and winter. I love how its warm orange light leaks into my day and warms my thoughts. This week, while I was in the salt cave, I felt like I was inside my orange lamp.
My appointment was early in the morning. Before going into the cave, I had an excellent foot and calf massage, so my feet were very happy. I had the cave all to myself. First, I took some selfies. Then I lay back on one of the lounge chairs. When I closed my eyes, I could still see the soft orange light. Every few minutes, I’d open my eyes and gaze at the salt. It was everywhere: on the ceiling, on the walls, on the floor. Then I’d close my eyes again and just breathe. It was a perfect meditation room.
Afterwards, I did a little research into the healing benefits that may be gained by spending time in a salt cave. It was like reading through almost everything you could want fixed in your body and life: stress, arthritis, inflammation, skin conditions, easing of respiratory conditions like asthma, general sense of well being. I don’t know about all that, but I do know that the air in the salt cave was softly cool and that I felt refreshed afterwards. The whole experience was very pleasant. I might try it again in the fall, or maybe the winter, perhaps the spring. Next time I’ll bring a notebook and pen.
This is an old photo, taken back when I was still using film cameras with interchangeable lenses. I had a couple of zoom lenses, one with a barrel and the other with a twist zoom. I enjoyed playing around with them. This was in the days when you didn’t know what the image looked like immediately. You had to wait until the film was developed to see what you’d captured. Sometimes the results were disappointing. And sometimes they were magic. Creating is like that: making something worthwhile out of nothing but an inkling, an idea. Every once in a while, it turns into magic.
The first piece of writing I remember creating was when I was sixteen, an essay for my high school English class. The gist of the assigned topic has long left my memory, along with all the words I wrote, but I do remember the title: Imagination. As titles go, that one has little imagination, but it reminds me that I wrote it while sitting in the sunlight at a weathered old picnic table in our backyard in Winnipeg. I can still recall the feeling in my left hand as I scrawled those words across the page. It was almost as if my hand was separate from me. It was moving itself. I couldn’t have stopped it even if I’d wanted to. When he returned the essays, my teacher said that mine was either one of the worst student essays he’d ever seen or one of the best. He gave it an A. After class, he told me I should go to university and study English. It took me almost thirty years, but eventually I did exactly that.
In the darkness of our storage room, Geo and I have many plastic bins filled with items we hardly use: snorkelling equipment we haven’t touched for years, old files we never look at, documents that trace the archive of our lives. I wish I could say that I’ve always been a dedicated journal writer. I’ve certainly bought enough notebooks that I could have been, but my journaling efforts have always been sporadic. Those notebooks now take up space in one of our plastic bins, half their pages filled with scribbled words, the others still blank.
Some of those scribblings grew into computer files that grew into stories. Once they started to grow, I’d roll them out thin, like pastry, then ball them up and roll them out again, not so thin. Each time I rolled them out, they acquired more substance. A few of them have became books. A few more are still balled up waiting for me to massage them again.
Try as I might, I can’t seem to go back and fill up the empty pages in my old journals. I know I should. I want to. It’s paper. It’s available. I should use it. But I don’t because an old journal with writing already in it feels like that writing will colour whatever new words I put in there and I’m a different writer now. So I buy new journals, vowing not to stop writing until I fill them up, a vow usually abandoned. At this rate, I’ll soon need to buy another plastic bin for our storage room.
My parents put a Brownie camera in my hands for my thirteenth birthday. I’ve been taking photos for a long time and have acquired an extensive photo archive. A few issues ago, when I was writing about Gordon Lightfoot, I searched that archive for a train image. I knew I had a few train pictures somewhere but damned if I could find any of them. Having no time to go out and take new ones, I abandoned that search. But an unfulfilled search always nags at me and I keep looking. Yesterday, I finally found a train shot, so here it is. Consider it my Canada Day picture a week early. Taken in Jasper, Alberta, at least two decades ago, it’s from a slide that was a bit damaged, hence the blank blotch on one of the rails in the foreground, but I still like the lines.
I think I’ve been drawn to photos and words because I like lines. I like how they move and intersect in images and narrative. Perhaps that’s a reflection of my brain and the way it works. I’m a linear thinker who is a bit scattered and easily distracted. These are not necessarily good traits for a writer.
When I’m deep into the delicious throes of an established project, focus is not an issue. I am so completely absorbed that Geo sometimes has to pull me away from my desk to join him for dinner. I’m lucky - he’s a very good cook.
It’s a different story when I’m between projects or trying to get into a new one, like I am right now. My brain is as slippery as a skating rink. Nothing sticks and I fall down a lot. A pandemic foray into the world of meditation helped me figure out why. Most humans have 60,000 thoughts a day. And most of us are aware of only 10% of them. Even so, that’s one aware thought per waking second. Enough to cause much inner static. Some days I’m convinced that I pick up on more than the usual 10% of my thoughts. Some days I feel like I’m aware of all 60,000. It’s a bit like a wasp’s nest in there. That’s when I take my head to my trail and look for eagles.
That’s it from this wasp’s nest for this week. Thanks so much for reading. If you enjoyed this issue of Me Who Writes, please share it with a friend.
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