Today, I'm sharing another guest post from my blog series "A Circle of Kindreds." This series includes stories from a few people I consider my kindreds who are shining a light on the true stories and sharing adventures from their own creative self-care practices.
Today's post is from my dear friend Jenna McGuiggan who is one of my favorite storytellers, and someone I can talk to about anything because she's also a very good storycatcher.
Sometimes phone conversations take the form of magical excursions into truth and possibility. One such conversation happened a few years ago between Jenna and me. She shared an idea, and through our conversation, the idea took form as it stretched until it had wings. She put the idea out to others and they answered her call. Over a few short weeks, her idea was loved into reality into a beautiful little book full of wisdom and truth called Lanterns: A Gathering of Stories.
I am honored to have contributed an essay and a couple of photos and to be in the company of six amazing women in this book. It is one of my favorite things to share with others, and today, Jenna is sharing a story from Lanterns and a bit more about it.
Several years ago, I was inspired to celebrate women in creative community. The result was Lanterns: A Gathering of Stories, a collection of prose, poetry, and photography by seven women writers and artists. Every time I hold this beautiful book in my hands I’m grateful for the power and grace of creative collaboration. Today I’m sharing the essay that closes the book (plus a special kindred spirit holiday sale). You can read the essay below or listen to an audio recording of me reading it (just click on "Lanterns" at the end of this post to hear the audio).
I can chart my life's course by constellations of friendships. The stories of friends past and present shine like stars in the night sky. Some have faded like a bittersweet distant star; others have exploded like a blazing supernova; some burn steady and bright. Every star with her own name, her own story.
She is the girl who made ice cream floats with cheap vanilla ice cream and generic grape soda during weekend sleepovers. Together we belted out Whitney Huston songs and played mad scientist with a chemistry set. We took long walks in the humid summers, our young hearts longing for something beyond the acrid smell of hot, sticky blacktop in our small hometown.
She is the roommate, the hallmate, the classmate in college. She taught me to love the precise smell of lavender and folk music; before her, I was all baby sweet and pop culture.
She showed me that a kindred spirit with a goofy sense of humor can lurk beneath a picture perfect exterior.
She taught me that shared friendship will outlast shared crushes almost any day.
She introduced me to the pleasures of cheap Australian white wine and American sitcoms on foreign telly. She took me home for Christmas when I was thousands of miles from my home.
She sees straight through me to the other side, between where I am and where I could be. She calls, she texts, she chats, she emails. She comes for a visit. She invites me into her home. She writes me poems, shares her story, folds me into her journey. She is laughter in the dark, sobbing in the light.
She is a creative companion, my very own personal cheerleader. She holds my hand, hugs me, calls me on the carpet, tells it like it is. She inspires me to try crazy things and to encourage her to do the same. When I'm sad, she listens deeply and with love. When I run out of creative juice she inspires me, reassures me, kicks me back into gear. When I rejoice, she celebrates with me.
These are my lanterns, my friends. When I stumble and feel lost, they hold up their lights and say, “Look: You know the way. I'll come with you.” They are, as Lisa [Ottman] has called her essay, “lights unto my path.” By their examples, by their words, by their laughter, they have lighted my way and lightened my load. They have been, to borrow a phrase that contributor Rachelle [Mee-Chapman] often uses, my “withmates” on this journey of living the creative, authentic life.
You are here with us. As Jena [Strong] wrote in her essay, we are all “alone, together.” There are many women along these paths, each of us finding one another in the beautiful twilight, in the deep dark: gathering together, pooling the light from our lanterns until the darkness itself is invisible and everything glows.
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This holiday season, I’m offering a kindred spirit special on Lanterns: A Gathering of Stories: Buy one book and receive a second at half price. That’s two copies (one for you and one to give as a gift) for $27 (normally $18 each).
Jenna McGuiggan is a writer, editor, and teacher.
Visit her in The Word Cellar, where she writes about everything from living the writing life to playing roller derby.
(Photo credits: Photo of Jenna by Vivienne McMaster; Lanterns front cover photo credit: Darlene J Kreutzer; design by Tilky Fernandez