Looking for Light by Ginger Johnson
I am a great believer that small things can have a big impact. So on January 1, 2017, I began a yearlong search for the beauty in everyday life—in people, in places, and in the world around me. I wrote on Facebook:
One specific thing I’m going to do this year is to look for the beauty in each day and post about it because life is full of good things. #Beauty365
It sounds ridiculously optimistic, but I needed that optimism. My first major revision of The Splintered Light had been with my editor for a few months, and this was a way to tether myself to my story about light and color and the senses and the act of creation. I had written an entire novel about such things; surely I could find them around me on a daily basis.
At first, it was easy. I posted about holding a baby. I posted about a cup of citrus lavender sage tea. I posted about lichen, fog, music, snow, traditions. These everyday things gave me a shift in perspective. Instead of passively seeing what was in front of me, I actively looked for beauty and usually found it. It wasn’t always easy, though. On January 19th, I wrote:
Some mornings you wake up and the world has become Narnia and you want to go snowshoeing in the woods, but you need to make breakfasts and lunch and send boys off to school and when that’s done, you’re tempted once again to head to the woods, but you’re late to meet friends so you say, “Some other time,” to the trees but when you come home, you’re no longer living in Narnia because the world has returned to its regular wintertime status quo and you have to pick up a gingerbread boy and take him to the orthodontist anyway and then make supper because your husband is going to be late so you wrap up that memory of everything being covered in white, shimmering from the tops of the hundred-foot pines all the way down because you know that it will be hard to find even one speck of beauty tomorrow. #beauty365 #Narnia #winter #everydaylife #dread
I wasn’t even going to bother looking for beauty the next day, but beauty found me instead—a beauty that left me breathless.
Sometimes you wake up and the gingerbread man gets tickets for the symphony and takes you to Boston where you witness a random stranger giving up his seat on the subway for an older lady and then you eat lunch with your fingers at an Ethiopian restaurant before being engulfed in the velvet and suede and lemon meringue plush of the music, and afterward you walk through Boston Garden, and you’re surprised by all the beauty that surrounds you even in the midst of what might be. #beauty365 #bostonsymphony #hope #bekind #bostongarden
As the days progressed, the search for beauty in what I saw, what I heard, and what I tasted was not enough. Ars longa, vita brevis. Art is long, life is short. On January 29th, I wrote:
There have been so many hard things that happened this week. The light in the darkness for me was setting up my work space–rearranging, cleaning, pruning. This is my safe place, my place of creativity. Though it’s not big enough to shelter all of those I wish I could shelter, it is a place where I can create worlds with people who have love and compassion for those who are different–a fictional safe haven for those who need it. #beauty365 #loverules #artstudio #office #creativity
Taped to the wall in my office is a piece of paper with words I wrote at a retreat when I was challenged to articulate why I wrote. “My purpose for my career is to use my love of beauty and all things good to produce hopeful and thoughtful fiction in order to create pathos and hope for kids who need to recognize their value and who need to see themselves as agents.”
And so when revision notes from my editor arrived at the end of the month, I was ready to get to work, tackling revision after revision of The Splintered Light, with the ambition that what I created might serve as a balm to those who need hope and value and validation.
There is a great deal of pain and injustice and ugliness in the world, but there is beauty and light and goodness, too. Sometimes we just need to look for it.
Ginger Johnson earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and lives in the Seacoast area of New Hampshire with her husband, two sons, a coop of sassy chickens, and a tank of doctor fish. The Splintered Light is her debut novel.