where the writers are
Why Write? Paying Homage to Northern Lights

Sometimes I miss a certain place, like the aspen draw on the ranch in Wyoming where Thimbleberries grow thick by July, and where snow gathers by October, staying until May. Sometimes I miss a person, like the young Greek girl Antigone whom I barely knew, but knew well enough to lie on a hill near the Acropolis, beneath the light of a full moon counting the stars as they came out. “Ena Dio Tria Tessera,” she taught me, pointing at the sky. “One Two Three Four,” I echoed back.

Today, I am missing a magazine, and the vision that it brought to the world before publication ceased. Northern Lights, published by Deborah Clow O’Connor. "What does it mean to lose Northern Lights?" asked Charles Finn. "It is like asking what it means to lose a star from its place in the sky." WHY WRITE? asks The Center section of the Summer 1998 issue. The answers of seven writers were printed, including essays by Jane Hirschfield, Ellen Meloy, and C.L. Rawlins. But the piece that I saved, that draws my centered attention even now, was by Terry Tempest Williams. Dearest Deb, Terry begins…

I was dreaming about Moab, Brooke and I walking around the block just before dawn. I threw a red silk scarf around my shoulders and then I began reciting why I write: I write to make peace with the things I cannot control. I write to create a red fabric in a world that often appears black and white. I write to discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts. I write to begin a dialogue. I write to imagine things differently and in imagining perhaps the world will change. I write to honor beauty. I write to correspond with my friends. I write as a daily act of improvisation. I write because it creates my composure. I write against power and for democracy. I write myself out of my nightmares and into my dreams… I write because it is dangerous, a bloody risk, like love, to form the words, to say the words, to touch the source, to be touched, to reveal how vulnerable we are, how transient. I write as though I am whispering in the ear of the one I love…

Lunar Eclipse 12/10/11

Terry's entire letter celebrates writing. Yet how different writing in this digital age feels, how easy to lose hope in the murky skies of this new electronic era. Yet don't we still write for the same reasons, even though it is a bloody risk? And don't we still seek the eyes and ears of the ones we love? Like painters and musicians and sculptors, our art celebrates life. Deb O'Connor, though no longer publishing a magazine, paints and explores the celestial world as a gifted astrologer and visual artist. "Who says the Universe doesn't have a sublime sense of humor," she begins her November 24, 2011 column. "A new and eclipsed moon the same day that Mercury goes backwards?"

It helps to have a sense of humor when we don't know if our writing is moving forward, or slipping backwards. Sometimes it helps to count to 4 and remember why we write. Why do you write? If you're in the mood to share, I would love to know. Shout it out to the world, if you want. Declare your intentions as if 2012 will be the year that you marry your dreams. Then make it so.