Waiting for the Light

This story was published in Storytime Tapestry and gather.com

When I took the writing course back in January I had some difficulty with this exercise. Remember, it was stream of consciousness writing. I was to write about light and as I meditated I was to write what thoughts and images emerged. I wrestled with this exercise. I went blank; nothing would come to the surface. Even after I read some of the exercises posted by others, they did not shed any light (pun intended). The light that comes from insight did not shine through.

I have my theories about why this would happen to me at this time. For example, I think that light means life eternal, joy and renewa,l as the warm comforting light of spring shining through after a cold dark winter. But I was still reveling in the darkness of personal trials and tribulations. I was too far away from the light.

Here is the final result of that exercise:

I had to sit back and collect myself. I must say that since I am an automatic writer this temporary blank slate for me was something very new and very scary. Instead of forcing something that was not forthcoming I decided to read the work of my peers for some guidance and insight.

Julie spoke of the light that shines from the heavens, Eli wrote about the lack of light. Esther concentrated on how bright light can hurt – boy can I relate to that. I know when I take a nap after work and my son turns the light on to wake me up if I have slept too long, the shock that comes from the brightness of that light, even when my eye lids are still closed, scares me awake. My eyes, though protected by my lids are sensitive to the light and it feels like I have just been assaulted.

Esther also spoke about spiritual light, and I just alluded to the light that comes from insight and understanding in the first paragraph of this piece.

It got me thinking, where do I go from here? It then occurred to me that I would like to elaborate on the concept of light and its meaning.

I closed my eyes to shut out the light, and to rid my mind of all thoughts, and to gently accept what insights would emerge.

What I got was a vision of a man dressed in a trench coat of sorts, it was grey, and his surroundings were very dull, much like the trench coat. It was definitely nighttime, dark and grey with minimal visibility.

The central focus of this image was not the man himself, but the fact that he was swinging a big kerosene lantern in front of him. The light was very bright and commanded presence. It was the focal point of the vision. It was the guiding force to see this man on his journey through the night.

This vision made me think how important light was for guidance and understanding, but then I thought how much more important that light would be to two small children lost in the dark. I could only imagine what a relief these scared little children would be to see that light approaching them. I could imagine how they would watch the light in anticipation, coming closer with every terrified heartbeat. I could imagine how they would feel when this light got close enough that they could identify it as the light of rescue, the power source that would guide them back home and back to safety.

After the vision of the man with a lantern bringing two young children to safety, I remembered a story of my own. In October, my son and I were sitting at our computers as usual. Out of what appeared to be nowhere, my son asked me if I was cooking anything. I said no, and asked him if perhaps he had something on the stove that he forgot about. He said he didn’t but he could smell smoke.

I continued to type as he looked out of the window, and then continued to do whatever he was doing on the computer as well. In less than five minutes, the smell of smoke grew stronger and he looked out window again.

He jumps, turns around, looks at me, and in a commanding take-charge voice, says, “Get dressed and get out of the house now!”

Why?” I cry in fear, yet deep down inside, I already knew the answer.

“The house next door is on fire. Get out now. You have no time to ask questions.”

The first thought that came to my mind was the safety of my five cats. I told him to get the carrier and find them and get them out of the house.

“I will, don’t worry about it,” he said, “Just get out now!”

As I ran down the front stairs I could hear the thundering sound of banging on my backdoor. It was the firemen making sure everyone got out of the house.

When I reached the outside stairs, I looked over and all I saw next door to me was a fiery hell. The whole front porch was ablaze and the flames were lashing out against our building. They were angrily assaulting the building with a vengeance.

I was scared. I was outside, and my 28-year-old son was inside with five cats. I waited and waited, and it seemed like an eternity, yet he still had not come out.

I tried to re-enter the building, but I was prevented from doing so. I told the firefighter that my son was still upstairs. He just said, “Stand back Madame you cannot go back.”

I waited some more. My heart was beating quickly and my stomach was churning.

Eventually, Steven came out of the house with the carrier. He had the five cats. They were all safe and secure. I was relieved. He said he had trouble finding one of our cats. She was afraid and hid. He had to turn the house upside down to find her.

He said to me “You are lucky that you got out when you did the smoke started coming in through the baseboards. It is so thick now that you can’t see, and the smell is horrible.”

The fighter fighters entered all the houses in our building. They were checking to see if the flames had jumped buildings.

I was afraid again. I was worried my apartment would go up in smoke. We do not have insurance and we would be homeless. My son only seemed concerned about his computer and said that he didn’t care about the rest, but he should have brought out the computer while he had a chance.

The difference in our perspective was amazing. I was concerned about his safety and my cats safety first and then my whole household destroyed by fire, and he was only concerned about a computer. This after he got me out of course!

Wild thoughts penetrated my head. I felt so bad for the neighbours who lost everything. I wondered if they even had insurance and I was afraid for them.

I went to a pay phone on the street to call my family and my boyfriend to tell them what was going on. I promised them all that I would give them news about the status of my apartment as soon as I found out.

I came back to join my son, and I was so nervous. My stomach was upset and I felt queasy. A neighbour was so kind. He offered me a chair and a bottle of water. A police officer came over to ask me if I was okay and did I feel I needed to go to the emergency. I told him I was fine, I just was nervous. I have high blood pressure and I am a diabetic but I would be okay. He seemed satisfied with that answer and informed me if ever I feel I needed to go to the hospital just to let him know. There was an ambulance stationed on the street with a doctor on hand, and even an impromptu animal shelter for our cats.

We waited for hours; about thirty families all standing on the sidewalk, just waiting and wondering what would come next. We were afraid and confused. We were not getting any answers about the status of the fire and the global damages it could cause. All we were told was that the gas main was turned off. The authorities were afraid if the fire hit the gas pipeline it would cause an explosion.

Evening set in and as the sun went down. It started to get chilly. My son handed me his jacket. “What about you I said?”

“Don’t worry about me,” he answered.

Finally, my downstairs neighbour came over to where I was sitting and she told me the firefighters said we could go back into the house, if we could stand the smoke. Apparently it was terrible.

My son wanted me go to my boyfriend’s house; not to enter the house at all. He said the smoke was not good for my lungs. I already was struggling with bronchitis at the time. I told him I couldn’t leave him alone in the house all night like that.

We went back into the house. The smell was unbearable and the cats were traumatized. Again my son begged me to leave as he knew I would get sick, but I was not leaving him alone.

The electricity had been turned off as a safety precaution and the house was in total darkness. We were told that it would remain off for at least another hour.

We sat in the dark, in the vile smell, and we sat in silence; neither one of us really knowing what to say. Eventually to cut the brutal silence, we started engaging in small talk. Yet all I could remember feeling was numb inside.

We wished and we waited for the lights to come back on.

Eventually they did, and I literally could hear my son’s sigh of relief. It was as if the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders.

We could see the light. We could get our lives back to normal. We were secure again. Our home was save, the computers worked, and although the house smelled bad, we still had one.

This day will always be remembered as the day we yearned to see the light.

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