The Return of the Light
By John Palka — Posted December 27, 2021
Those of you who have been with Nature’s Depths for some time will remember that two years ago my life changed forever. Yvonne—my beloved, my companion of sixty years, the mother of our two daughters, a brilliant scientist, a teacher who helped shape the lives of hundreds of students, a skilled and creative artist, a writer of magical books embraced by thousands of children, and a life-long seeker of the deepest truths . . . Yvonne lost her life in a tragic accident on the streets of downtown Minneapolis. It happened while we were walking to dinner before attending a performance of Bharatnatyam, one of the classical dance forms of India, the country where we’d been married in 1960 and that had deeply impacted the rest of our lives. I shared part of this story with you in the post of November 24, 2019, which I called “Beauty and Love.”
At the end of that post, I asked you not to leave Nature’s Depths, just to be patient with me as I adjusted to my new reality. Not a single subscriber left. Thank you!
It took me eight months to start posting again. Since then, I have relished sharing my observations, my photographs, and my own learnings with you. I have also launched into another writing project as well as into a photographic project. Both of these projects are now entering their closing phases which require a great deal of concentrated effort. For this reason, I will be taking another break from writing for Nature’s Depths, and once again I ask for your patience.
The first project is a memoir I am calling The Journey Together of Johnny and Yvonne As Seen Through Johnny’s Eyes. It is exactly what the title says—an account of Yvonne’s and my life together, beginning with a bit of family background and the high school experiences that brought each of us to Swarthmore College (where we met) and continuing to the life I lead now in which Yvonne remains my companion even though she is no longer physically with me.
The second project is a coffee-table book combining Yvonne’s paintings and my photographs. This is a realization of an idea Yvonne had during the summer of 2019—that we should hang a joint show in the Whidbey Art Gallery of which she was a member. The title of this second book is The Brush Dances and the Light Sings. It refers to the creative movement of the brush in sumi-e, the Asian brush painting that Yvonne grew to love and mastered to a high degree, and also to the dance of light that good photographs capture.
So, my dear readers, please be patient with me again. I will return to writing for Nature’s Depths once these two books have been printed. Our target date is August 1, 2022. I’ll let you know!
In the meantime, I invite you to look again at the post of a year ago, a Rumination called “Winter Solstice”. We can experience the Winter Solstice that just passed, and the Christmas that took place a few days later, as marking the return of the light following a period of increasing darkness. This darkness and light can, of course, refer to internal events. At this time of year, however, they are also physical events. The cycling between darkness and light happens because of the way our Earth moves in the solar system—it rotates around its own axis, it orbits the Sun, and the axis around which it rotates is tilted with respect the path around the Sun that it follows. These three attributes of the planet we live on account for everything about the seasons that we experience, including the fact that in the Southern Hemisphere the seasons follow a pattern that is the reverse of the one that is familiar to those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere. We are truly embedded in the solar system, and more broadly in the whole of the cosmos. This is not an abstract idea. It is an aspect of physical reality that affects our experience every single day of our lives!
As you take joy in the holiday season, however you may celebrate it, and in the return of the light, let the very presence of light and the cycles of its coming and going also connect you with the vastness of which we are all a part.
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For most of this past year, I have made it a practice to walk daily in nature, always with my camera ready to accept her gifts. Here is a handful of photographs that I took during the approach of the Winter Solstice, selected because they draw attention to the light. At least some of them will appear in The Brush Dances and the Light Sings.
I truly look forward to reading these works, Johnny. Thank you for writing them.
Thank you, Paul. As you can imagine, it has been quite a journey!
Thank you for this update and your ongoing courage of creative exploration. You are an inspiration and I totally am not going away!
Thank you, Ann!!!
Thank you for sharing your observations and thoughts! Best wishes for a Happy New Year
Thanks, Andrea. Nature’s Depths has been a big part of my life, bringing me many rich rewards.
Dear John – I am a relatively new subscriber, a freelance writer and photographer whose life has been lived in the thrall of the natural world. I found one of your reflections in a google search one day, and subscribed immediately. But I did not know your recent personal history until now, and I cannot imagine how that affected you, except through your eloquent words here and two years ago. So I salute this project to bring Yvonne’s paintings and your photographic ruminations together. It will be its own kind of rebirth.
Thank you so much for your moving words, Janet. You’re exactly right. Seeking to create something new out of Yvonne’s beautiful art (totally devoted to nature but with dragons considered on a par with other living things!) and my own efforts (I love your phrase “photographic ruminations”) is indeed a kind of rebirth.
Looking forward to both books, Johnny! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and photos and wishing you all the best for the new year
Thank you, Marten, and all the best to you as well.
Dear Johnny, I’m so glad to hear of the new joys in your life, emerging from the tragic circumstances of losing Yvonne’s physical presence in your life. I am also glad to be a subscriber and friend. May your creative endeavors always reflect the depths of your love for creation and for Yvonne.
Thank you so very much, Kit.
Your words and photos are as poetic as ever, Johnny.
Keep up your inspiring work. Best wishes for 2022.
Thank you, Michael. Hearing from you takes me back right to the beginning, the double-date on WSGA weekend in the spring of 1957 that first brought Yvonne and me together!
Your two new projects look fantastic. We can wait! Meanwhile please keep taking your camera on your daily walks! After reading your post, I love seeing Yvonne’s picture with you on the right hand side. Thanks for your spirit.
Thank you, Tom, and especially thank you for your words about the picture. They mean a whole lot to me.
Johnny, thank you for this eloquent and touching post. I will so look forward to your books. Sending you all my warmest wishes this solstice season.
Thank you, Trileigh. And may the light increasingly shine on you!
I am always delighted when Nature’s Depth shows up in my in box. And am looking forward to both books. Wishing you a healthy, happy & contented new year!
Thank you, Mari. I’m trying hard, with Maha’s assistance!
I’m full of admiration for your resilience, but not surprised. Lately I’ve been musing on the strange coexistence of joy and grief; you’re a prime example. You’re also a great example of my grandparents’ advice for dealing with grief, loss, loneliness, (and any other dissatisfaction): “Work harder!”
Thank you so much, Dave. You sure had wise grandparents! I would only add that, in my experience, sidestepping grief by getting distracted is not the way. The more I cry, the better and more joyful I feel!
Thanks John, Once again you have captured the spirit of life in your writing and pictures. I always look forward to yours and Yvonne’s postings. I’m glad she is still with you, you are a lucky man.
Thanks, Lynn. Yvonne is indeed very much with me, despite the fact that our bed is half-empty and I can only talk to her picture.
Thank you Johnny
Thank you so much for sharing so much of your self in these posts, and giving me a chance to listen and to learn. The new books sound wonderful. May the end of the year, and the beginning of a new one, continue to bring you moments of lightness and joy.
Thank you, Jennifer. I have found that sharing is healing and more often than not brings real joy. May joy abound for you as well!
Dear Johnny–thanks again for your updates. I cannot wait to read the book and see the art works–what a great idea, and I am sure your photos and Yvonne’s drawings will open up new visions of the inner and outer world.
Take care and here’s looking for a better New Year.
The idea for the combined art/photography book just popped up one day as I was walking and taking photographs. We now have abundant material. The biggest remaining challenge is how to organize it. We don’t want the arrangement of pictures to be haphazard, but have not yet found a flow that works for the entire volume. I expect that it will pop up one day of its own accord, just like to idea for the book did!
Always a gift – thanks Johnny… I look forward to the books!
Regards, – Marty
Me too, Marty!
Johnny, don’t worry we can wait — I know that the finished products will be stunning! Hooray that Yvonne’s art will continue to be shared, and I’m SO GLAD that she is still with you! WHAT A BLESSING!!!! ❤️
Thank you, Julie. You are so right – Yvonne’s presence, which all of us feel vividly, is a blessing indeed.
I wait with bated breath for the books. Anza recently refound an old birthday card with… a dragon drawing from Yvonne. Yvonne’s crane looking skyward hangs in our dining room. I have that brilliant painting you reproduced for her memorial next to me still. I love the milkweed seed pod and remember vividly a photo of yours, of lichens and mosses on a tree trunk. Breathe in, Marc.
Thank you so much, Marc. Your list means a great deal to me – it’s making me imagine the tail that a comet leaves behind itself as it passes by!
I treasure yours and Yvonne’s friendship of 50 some years! The constancy of your love for each other and the many ways you have discovered over time to observe, share and celebrate the ever- flowering dimensions of your lives have been inspirational and a gift to me and to my own family members. In that regard, I commend you both for mastery in the art of living. I look forward, with patience, to your most recent and forthcoming creative endeavors. With great respect and much love, always.
Thank you, Pushkara. You are a gem!
Your photographs THRILL ME……………….. you have a special ability to “see” …thank you Johnny. I look forward to the books xoxoxoxo
Thank you, Joanie. I have “seen” more this past year than previously. I think that part of the change stems from the wonderful feedback I have had from Linda Schwarz, some of it dealing with space and format and some with editing techniques. Here’s a public Thank you, Linda!
Johnny, thank you for your update, and news of your exciting new endeavors that will celebrate and honor what animated your and Yvonne’s life journey together. We look forward to these publications and are so pleased that they are filling your days. Of course we are not “going away” from Nature’s Depths and we appreciate going back to earlier posts. All the best for the New Year and the returning light. Love from us both.
Thank you, Jean and Rob!
Thank you Johnny,
I look forward to the books!
And thank you, Grace. We have a new publication target, and finally it’s a pretty firm one – in time for Christmas of this year! This includes all the time required by the editor and the publisher, so I hope to be able to prepare a post for Nature’s Depths between now and then as well.
johnny- thank you thank you !!!
Thank you! Something to look forward to August!