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By Katherine Johnson

Dear L,

Once upon a time, long, long, ago I lived in Duluth. After many years of ignoring those memories, I decided a while ago to see if the Internet could revel to me how the city had changed during my long absence. I got the sense almost immediately that the nature and character of the city, while different in certain details, was remarkably familiar.

The experience did not feel like I was coming home again, rather it was more profound. Time travel does exist in our memories, imperfect, and transports us to the remnants of places and people shimmering in an October light just beyond our reach. Our ability to live with assurance is limited to the span of our arms; everything forward is an estimation while everything behind is populated with ghosts.

Soon my journey through time and the soul of my thoughts were focused on my ghosts, both those long dead and those I estimated to be somewhere in the present.

Soon I found you, alive and well, though I must admit it took much effort for me to see clearly through the decades and become certain that the images before me matched those in my mind. Somethings cannot be corrupted by time; though your hair is now silver, the angles of your face and the sparkle in your eyes have remained beautiful and bright.

I was greatly pleased to see that you have continued to perform over the decades. I found your two recordings that B*** and you have published online. Such things bring the ghosts within the reach of my arms. Thank you for that gift.

While I found that important to know, I also came to realize that if I stopped there that this gift of time travel would have partly misused.

I have no idea of the arc of your life over the last 30 plus years; I am left to speculate about those things, as it should be, for I was absent from those years as I was from Duluth. What did stay with me, regardless of how those years came and went, is that you now look profoundly at peace and that you appear filled with a certain contentment that only comes from having a life that is filled with honest love. Thank you for giving that to the world.

Before I end this letter I have one piece of unfinished business that I need to attempt to resolve. My hard-headed, arrogant youth, caused me to walk away from our friendship. Frankly, I don’t really remember the details, such things are often rendered absurd and pointless by the grind of time. What I do remember are the ghosts from that time and how they hunt and haunt me still. I cannot undo those things but I can at least acknowledge them today, which I now am doing. Thankfully life has allowed me to be able to put these words, too, within the span of my arms.

And now comes the moment where my trip to Duluth ends and I must return back to my present in Seattle.

One day I would like to quietly materialize along the shore of Lake Superior and slip in unnoticed to where you are performing and go sit in quiet corner, alone. There I will be carried on your notes, shimmering and ghostly, again to this place to which I am now speaking. When the time comes for me to depart I will leave a bouquet of pink and white carnations behind, symbols of gratitude and remembrance, and then disappear into the dark of an October night. May life grant me this desire and put that bouquet in my hands.

The arc of my life is nothing you would ever imagine. I am neither rich nor poor, joyful or sad, or even famous or infamous. Most meals and holidays are spent alone. But I do not feel bitter or pity my lot. Fortunately, I was able to make peace with life.

I feel blessed that I have a keen and curious mind and a healthy body that still lets me believe in the youthful delusion that we are immortal. I feel blessed that I found that words and photography are what I do well and that I have become reasonably skilled at them because I love them.

Here I now stand, mute, with the span of my arms reaching to that which is impossible. I am now left to right that which I cannot do. Hopes shimmer, regrets shimmer; they are the ghostly northern lights that come in the last winters of our lives and illuminate the darkened shores of Lake Superior.

I wish for you…


Copyright 2016 By Katherine Johnson – All Rights Reserved