Now it is winter

Now it is winter

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.

A cold, bright Cathedral Square Park

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The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, full moon (or nearly full moon) rising, and Christmas lights brighten the cold December night.

Comics and Narrative Non-Fiction Continued

I had tea not long ago with the writer of a very nice article about Asheville blogs. I didn’t realize he was such a comics aficionado. Over tea, he presented me with the idea of illustrating non-fiction narratives and personal memoir. I illustrated a 14-panel story about our meeting. The drawings are quick suggestions of setting and characters. I didn’t want to get too realistic.

Brian commented: “Such an exercise cannot help but broaden and deepen your writing… This is really fascinating. Taking everyday situations, finding the drama, illustrating them – you’re developing a wealth of back-story. I could see one of these scenes popping up under a bigger story… I don’t think you’re wasting time on this project.”

I hope he’s right in regards to the exercise assisting my writing.

Narrative Non-Fiction Comics is not new. Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor was famously made into a movie. Jessica Abel’s journalistic comic Radio: An Illustrated Guide records the making of a This American Life show. Joe Sacco’s books “Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-95” and “Palestine: In The Gaza Strip” are journalistic graphic novels.

Eddie Campbell’s Alec McGarry stories offer extensive inspiration in the genre of autobiographical comics/graphic novels. Alec McGarry is Eddie Campbell’s stage name (or rather comic page name). That is like Samuel Clemens writing an autobiography in which Mark Twain was the main character.

I must confess I’m enamored by that idea, but not as a narcissist. In the arena of stories, the most compelling tales are true, personal accounts–narrative non-fiction. Also, persuasive arguments are often won by personal example/experience. That’s what makes Elie Wiesel’s book, Night, so riveting–he was there. He survived Auschwitz, Buna, Buchenwald and Gleiwitz. He has first hand experience.

I know, I know–I’ve just sprinkled a lot of names throughout this post like confetti. Mark Twain I am not. Nor have I the life experiences of Elie Wiesel. I don’t know if I really want to follow in Eddie Campbell’s footsteps, either (he reveals all areas of his life–i.e. no trouble drawing himself nude which unnerves me–but maybe that helps him gain perspective on his own life).

I have a sketch of an idea of where I want to go with narrative non-fiction comics. This is what they call in Corporate America the development stage. It’s what I call drawing 1000 black lines before presenting a finished drawing.

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