Bent and Broken and Light
I’m not dead. I just thought I should lead with that, because people who see that I haven’t posted in ages might have assumed that I was. I’m not. I’d love to say that I had a good and wonderful reason for not posting, but I don’t. I just haven’t done it. I’d like to say that it’s because I’ve been working on my book, but that’s not really true either, because the book is coming really slowly. It’s coming though. I thought that I’d share a little excerpt from the chapter I’m working on, tentatively called Bent and Broken and Light.
When I was little, my parents took me to the Ice Capades. It was cool. Don’t laugh. The Ice Capades were very cool back then. It wasn’t so much figure skating as cartoon characters coming to life and trying to avoid skating over their own costumes. I honestly can’t remember what sort of Ice Capades they were… Disney or Hanna-Barbara or some sort of generic off-brand, but I remember that there was a big dog, and I enjoyed it.
It was interesting to see what figure skaters do when they don’t want to try to be in the Olympics anymore. I had always wondered about it, and now I knew. They dressed up like giant dogs and slid around the ice for the amusement of 5-year olds, wondering where their lives went, and wondering if it’s too late to learn math. I now assume that was followed by heavy drinking, but I’ve never really looked further into it.
I think I have trouble remembering the details about it, because the whole experience was overshadowed by my father coming back from the concession stand with the BEST TOY EVER. It was a tube. A glorious tube. This little tube was special, because out of one end sprung a myriad of tiny little things. They were like tiny pieces of fishing line, only stiffer. And when you turned it on, the tips of these filaments glowed with all the colours of the rainbow. It was strange and beautiful. The length of them seemed a semi-opaque white, but where they stopped was a prismatic explosion. You could wave it around and the things would bend and waft and the colours would shift and change like magic. My parents likely regretted the decision, since I spent far more of the rest of the evening waving around this $5 toy than watching the ice show they’d paid so much for.
As cool as it was to wave this toy around in the dimly lit recesses of the arena, it was equally disappointing when I pulled it out the next day in our living room. The colours that had seemed so vibrant the night before were muted and dull. There barely seemed to be a difference between on and off, between the line and the light. In the middle of that brightly lit area, my glorious toy became mundane. I trailed it around with me for most of the day, holding on to those moments of remembered amazement. It was when I went down to the basement to watch some cartoons that it started to come to life again. In that darker environment, it began to shine. I had it figured out! For the next couple of days, the downstairs bathroom became one of my favourite places, because it was one of the very few places in our home that, not having a window, could become pitch black. In that absolute darkness, this little toy became one of the most beautiful things I could imagine.
As all toys do, it got used less and less as time went on, moving slowly down through the strata of my toy chest. Newer, fresher toys came. Birthdays and Christmases and visits from family gave me new pieces of shiny to focus my attention on. When it came time to do a clean-out, and take stock of the old toys, the wand was near the bottom. We pulled it out, and many of the filaments had broken off, or become bent, twisted, and kinked. Amazingly enough, the batteries still worked. When I switched it on, there in the depths of my shadowed closet, I was awed again. Every break, every bend, every kink was a new point of rainbow light, sometimes two or three in one strand. It was only at those places, where the line was cut or damaged, that the light that flowed through it became visible, even beautiful.
There’s two things that I’m getting at here. The first is that light is only relevant in relation to darkness. It’s the contrast that makes the light needful and magnificent. A light turned on while there is sun streaming through the windows is irrelevant. A light turned on in the middle of a dark night is blinding, and then a blessing. So it is with us.
The second is that the light that’s inside us shows most beautifully in the areas our lives that are open to the air, that we allow what’s in us to escape freely. The areas that we’re weak, or messed up, or hurting, those are the things that are most radiant.
Anyway, I’m done for now. I just wanted to let everyone know that I’m not dead, just lazy.