Fran Skene is a retired librarian who has written in a variety of forms. Two one-act plays were produced in the 1990s and later she published a poetry chapbook. She is a co-author of the SF novel Windship: The Crazy Plague, available from Amazon. Most recently, some poems and stories were accepted by the online magazines Polar Starlight and Polar Borealis.
Journaling is one way I cope with all that’s going on in my life and the world. Here are two of many pieces that were written during a Callanish Society writing workshop. Callanish, a nonprofit society in B.C., supports people whose lives have been affected by cancer.
Late Dusk to Dawn
It was late dusk, my one full day in hospital. I’d been sleeping. I heard a voice reminiscent of my daughter’s and opened my eyes. There she was, standing at the foot of the bed.
“Sweetie pie, how nice to see you!” I exclaimed.
Then I blinked; no one was there.
Of course not, since no visitors were allowed. After a moment of shock and a feeling of loss, I realized I’d dreamt her, between sleep and waking. “Oops,” I said, again out loud.
A nurse came into sight from behind a curtain. “Are you all right?” she asked. I explained what happened and she laughed and said something intended to assure me I’d not gone crazy. What I didn’t say to her was that I was all too ready to imagine someone I loved, there in person.
It was easy to feel okay in that hospital while medical staff came and went, some of them students in the nursing program at the nearby junior college. But early evening was slow. Hour after hour of light fading and no one there except for two roommates sleeping behind curtains. I could text people on my phone, or read more Covid news.
I’d not brought my laptop, so I begged paper for writing on, but I was so involved in a project that I couldn’t get into a new story or poem. The feeling of isolation increased. And I wondered why no one had come to clean the bathroom, or why staff were not in PPE, or why I’d been asked only the most cursory of questions during admission to this non-Covid wing the day before, which meant that’s all they’d asked my roommates as well.
But the vision of my daughter, and the assurances of the nurse, her friendliness, did help. The rest of the night was okay, and I made it through until morning.
It was early 1980. I was flying across the country, the last leg of a trip home from a visit to a friend in New York state. I was still mourning the end of a relationship.
I wrote a poem about that flight. Look down, it starts. Look down as you follow the afternoon sun to the west. Look at the amazing geography of the country you live in. And that did help. For a short while, I could look into the future without despair.
Looking at and smelling and hearing the world around me has always brought hope with it. I remember as a child seeing the Milky Way across the night sky in our small town, or more recently when the planet Mars was at its closest, so close that it reflected off the Fraser River near my home. A reflection of Mars! Not just the moon, or lights from airplanes coming to or from YVR.
I remember the sound of chopping wood in a section of forest by the river path. I got to the source, and saw a pair of pileated woodpeckers the size of ravens. And I remember an actual raven in a highway rest stop, a bird far bigger than I expected. Yes, it was scavenging, but to my eyes it was magnificent. My brother and I were returning from a trip to bury our mother’s ashes in Revelstoke Cemetery.
Poetry itself, the writing and reading of it, also gives me hope. Also journaling, or writing plays or fiction or creative nonfiction, or drawing and painting, or printmaking. And I love learning about the lives of famous artists, women especially. I envision myself in a studio doing what they do, perhaps getting inspiration from the forest or desert outside.
At the same time, sitting here at my desk, typing this, lifts my spirits.