Excerpt: My Inner Sky by Mari Andrew

Writer and artist Mari Andrew's My Inner Sky: On Embracing Day, Night, And All the Times In Between is a beautiful meditation on grief, healing and finding beauty in unexpected moments. 

If you live in a city where it rains a lot, you probably also have a dependent relationship with street lamps. Not only do they illuminate the streets at night, but when it’s dark outside, they also show if and how hard it’s raining. When I was a teenager, it occurred to me that I’d never actually seen the street lamps turn on. When did it happen? All at once? At a certain time? Up until then, I had never stopped to think that there was a time they were off and then on. They were just always there when I needed them.

My last summer in Seattle, before I moved to college, I decided to solve the street-lamp illumination mystery for good. I began watching them every evening, sometimes even staring out the window for ten minutes. But I kept missing the 17 changeover. There was always a time when they weren’t on, then a time when they were. No revelation of the big moment they switched.

Seattle skyline
The Seattle skyline

The night before my move, after everything was packed and ready to go, I took a drive. In 17-year-old carefree wonder, blasting whatever indie rock CD I’d just triumphantly purchased, I drove to a neighbourhood I rarely frequented and decided to climb a big hill that overlooked Lake Washington. The sky had just begun to glow bright gold as the sun made its grand finale performance for the day—an appropriate phenomenon to witness on my final evening.

Right then, I could practically feel my future older self looking back at me: 17, with short, shaggy hair, wearing dirty sneakers, shuffling up to the top of the hill with my headphones on. How poetic, I thought, to be on the cusp of this hill, looking out at my childhood city, dreaming of somewhere new. I wrapped my knees in my arms and rested the side of my face on my elbow. I felt so young, too young to have lived a full childhood already. I twisted my hair in an attempt to hang on to some comforting childhood habit, and switched the song to something folksy and comforting, and—illumination.

Seattle at night
Seattle by night

In one instant, the whole city before me lit up like it was covered in a million little fireflies. They wrapped around the lake and stretched up the hills and covered certain neighbourhoods with a duvet of orange light. I turned around and saw a street lamp behind me, then looked down and saw several more leading down to the car. I smiled, which turned into a laugh, which turned into a cry, which turned back into a smile as I wiped tears with the sleeve of my hoodie.

There are two ways to tell the story of this moment: One is that it was a matter of odds. I’d gotten in the habit of watching the city 18 every evening at the time when the sun goes down, and witnessing the automatic flip of the great street-lamp light switch was bound to happen sooner or later. The other is that it was serendipity, combined with a periwinkle sky, that I would solve this childhood mystery on the symbolic last day of childhood, that Seattle would be gracious enough to reveal something about itself as I left. A magical souvenir and blessing. 

 

My Inner Sky cover

Excerpt from My Inner Sky: On Embracing Day, Night, and All the Times in Between by Mari Andrew

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Header image: Christine Han Photography