Shelter amid cold winter nights

“The first awareness of night was a world of darkness bounded by a streetlight’s glow, the barking of a distant dog, the stars, trees, dim houses. The sense of being enclosed by the night, of being protected, as it were, by the darkness, is ancient.” 

–August Derleth

January. The sun set half past four o’clock. Air temperature registered fifteen degrees Fahrenheit. As wind gusts rocked the automobile from side to side, the windchill felt more like five below zero. Pools of parking lot lights blurred from time to time with blowing snow.

I waited outside the grocery store for the oldest child’s shift to end. In better weather, the child walked to the grocery store. Or rode a scooter. But the long expected Wisconsin winter arrived with a fury. And walking, or riding, to work presented challenges.


The old auto’s engine idled as the heater worked to warm the vehicle’s interior. In spite of the effort, my feet were cold after twenty minutes of waiting in the south part of the parking lot. I wore insulated gloves as I read a library book from the glow of the parking lot lights.

As the heater fan moaned and engine grumbled, I thought of night and darkness and protection. From one of the books in the Sac Prairie Saga, these ideas rose before me like my breath in the winter air. The long nights of winter. The home brightened by Christmas tree lights. The contrast of the light and darkness. Protection and vulnerability. Is it vulnerability? Or destruction? Does not Epiphany land during the longest nights of the astronomical year?

A truck parked in front of my automobile. Head lamps blinded me. I looked away to the store exit until the driver turned off the headlamps and shuffled into the grocery store entrance. My eyes returned to the book and reread the passage. And the a half dozen more pages before a familiar stride passed below the parking lot light nearest me. I welcomed the child into the warm protection of the vehicle and drove home.

The young moon, a waxing crescent, appeared in the southwest like a cold smile. Jupiter, above the right tip of the crescent, glared down upon the frozen fields and village. I recalled not what we talked about on the way home, but the idea of shelter and safety persisted in my thoughts.

Later that night. After supper. After even prayers. I wrestled with an illustration. Measured, composed, and sketched. A world of darkness “bounded” by street lamps? The image of darkness leaping or jumping over glowing spheres of street lamps captivate my thoughts as I inked over the pencil marks on the illustration paper. Pen stroke after pen stroke filled the page until my eyes grew weary. And I surrendered to that ancient enclosure of night.

Confessions of a coffeehouse junkie, revisited

1.

The genre of blog writing is nearly obsolete. As far as I can tell. This is based on a conversation I had a couple months ago.


“You’re son told me you have a blog,” she said.

“Huh?” I replied.

My family was invited to a small, casual dinner party.

“Yeah, he also said you’re an artist and poet,” she said. “I used to have a blog. I mean. That was years ago. I’m not really a writer, but I blogged.”

She continued to tell me what she blogged about and where. We were both active around the same time period (by active I mean posting writings nearly daily). That was before the rise of the major social media platforms. I shared that part of what I enjoyed about the genre was the interaction with people. The exchange of ideas. The sense of being part of a greater community.

“I mostly just write on Facebook now,” she confessed. “Remember, back when, you could only leave a comment on a blog post?”

“That’s right,” I recalled out loud. “There were no like buttons or social media share icons.”

After that dinner party, I updated the art page of my blog. And planned to contribute more time and resources to blogging again.

2.

I composed a post about the value of journaling with plan to publish it the first week of March. But it ended up in the draft folder.

Mid-March I wrote another post. This one was about discovering a collection of my old art work. But it too is in the draft folder. Well. Actually. I eventually posted it near the end of April.

But the genre of blog writing is passé. Outdated. Why do I still do this?

Then I remembered rule number eight: “Every word on your blog is a word not in your book.”

3.

Shifting focus, I started work on a book. Or rather a series of books. Inspired by August Derleth’s Sac Prairie books, like Walden West and Countryman’s Journey. I set to work on the first manuscript.

Derleth presented a non-linear collection vignettes and entries about his home town. I moved in the direction of a daybook, or journal. Instead of spending a year at Walden Pond, or Sac Prairie, I collected entries and stories of a year in the life of a cultural creative edging toward a digital nomad.

Thoreau and Derleth drew from nature, whether from a pond or prairie. I discovered the ubiquitous screen became the prominent pool of inspiration for the first manuscript. One book manuscript became two and three. The metaphor of the glowing computer laptop screen began to crack and shatter by the fourth book manuscript.

The book series is part confession and part cautionary tale.

4.

I deleted the blog. The only thing that remains of that original blog is the screen shot featured in this post.

In truth, I deleted all blogs I maintained. Except this one.