Shades of Memory

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Once upon a bright Californian desert, I lived in fear of the sun.

That fear might have been inspired by an incident with a seat buckle when I was a toddler. Back then, car seats exposed more metal than what’s allowed today. I don’t remember the incident but know I witnessed my sister burn on her seat that heated in the desert sunlight coming in on her side of the car. The babysitter said she screamed and screamed. The burn left a permanent scar on my sister and (maybe) emotional ones on me.

I’m not sure I liked direct sunlight or heat before that. My parents insisted that I stay out in the sun on decks and beaches long enough for my skin to burn, and I remember wanting to stay inside. I do believe the incident in the car intensified my fears.

We moved north to green woods and valleys deepened by whitewater rivers. My family complained of the overcast skies that lasted for months. I explored the cool shadows of the forests.

Sure, animals that could eat me lived in the shadows, too. I knew to avoid routines while outside during the dawn or dusk, those glorious times between night and day when shadows filled with rainbow colors. Those were hunting times. I hunted for beauty.

I’ve known since early childhood how to avoid dangers where the light is dimmer. Don’t look like prey. Feel for each step. Know the difference between a baby oak and poison oak–I mean, know what’s actually dangerous. These are important lessons for living in the shadows.

foggy mountain rang at dusk

In my twenties, I learned to live in cities. The human to non-human ratio is higher in urban environments than it is in the country. Most of the dangerous predators are of the same species as their prey. Construction interferes with routes as much as weather does. Toxins are everywhere in higher doses than one finds in an old-growth forest.

Shade can take on new meanings* with greater exposure to human cultures. Shadows are cast by the people who attract the most notice.

As a writer, I like to take the places and types of characters hidden behind stereotypes. They’re buried in history. They’re too alien/unfamiliar. The characters aren’t the typical age or gender, or they’ve blurred the lines between heroes and villains. I blend the light and the dark. That looks familiar to me.

These days, I also try to fill shadows with rainbows.

That’s what I’d needed when I was younger.


* Just Wanna Share: “Throwing Shade”

What is the correct usage of ‘throwing shade’?” on Stack Exchange

a plane's wing with the sunlit sky in the background

Self-Propellent to a Mile High Convention

Update: The campaign has closed, and the event has passed. A following post shared my thoughts after MileHiCon 50.


Hello,

This is a different type of post than I’ve written before. Below is an excerpt from my GoFundMe fundraiser.

MileHiCon is an annual literary speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy) event in Colorado. It’s not a huge event like WorldCon (a literary event) or ComicCon (for comics, often focused on speculative fiction), making it considerably less expensive. It’s more accommodating to marginalized participants than most. For me, it’s the best for connecting with friends and publishing experts. This year is special in that it’s bringing together big names in the industry to celebrate the convention’s 50th anniversary. The list includes authors we would love to see again.

Connecting with my writing peers is important. I have none to meet up with in person unless I travel. The people I’ve already met offline will be at this year’s MileHiCon. After this opportunity, I might not see them again for years.

My husband has fewer contacts online and no local friends.

Attending MileHiCon this year is important for our mental health.

The money I make from writing is not enough to cover trip expenses. My husband’s work covers most of our daily expenses. We need a break from our daily lives. That also includes a break from worrying about how much everything, from toothpaste to a hospital visit costs. In this case, the break we want is from worrying about how we’ll pay back the cost of flying to and from our previous home.

couple posing in front of
MileHiCon 49 was a good experience in 2017

I was raised to believe that the only people who deserve wealth of any kind are those who work for it. That made sense to me as a child. What I knew best was chronic pain and criticisms. I was hungry, hurt, scared, and living in unsafe environments because I wasn’t the right combination of smart enough, strong enough, or appealing enough. Somehow, I could work my way to a better life despite all of my flaws.

That’s not true. Most of us aren’t born with the right amount of luck for wealth.

Knowing that, I still can’t shake the feeling I don’t deserve “handouts”. I’m guessing this is a common feeling in Americans who have lived near poverty lines. It’s one of the misconceptions about poverty and the value of a person.

The feeling that I shouldn’t ask for help doesn’t reflect how I respond about others asking for help. One of the first things I do (which I was also told was wrong) when I receive money I wasn’t expecting is to divide it. I might always owe more than I can give, but I want people to know that I appreciate their help, whether it’s for free services or inspirational art. (I am horrible at sending friends and families gifts; however, that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of anxiety-saturated complications.)

The desire to share windfalls, interestingly, a reaction that’s studied. British researchers recently found that we tend to share more when we luck out than when we fight for a resource.

If you gain a high status through effort rather than chance, she said, you are more likely to want to keep what you earned. When your wealth is limited, you have more of an incentive to cooperate.

The concept that people get what they put into works out for the lucky. For many of us, it leads instead to injuries, trauma, exhaustion, and depression as we attempt to work harder for a system that consistently awards those at the top the most.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that I feel the need to justify asking anyone for anything, even if it’s $5 that can save a reduce anxiety for a week.

Sincerely,
A.M. Lynn

 

a plane's wing with the sunlit sky in the background
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