Liz Flaherty photo

Between Two Shades of Blue

Last night—Thursday—I sat in the living room and started a disgruntled column on why I have the winter blues. Even though we haven’t really had winter to speak of yet and even though I don’t really have the blues, I just couldn’t think of anything new and different to say.

But now it’s Friday morning and sunrise is out there, brilliantly red and pink and purple. The lightening sky in the west is the most gorgeous shade of blue. I looked on a color chart and it was somewhere between Olympic and Azure. By the time I looked up from the chart, it was different.

Every time you look away, something changes. Seasons come and go. Decisions made in the heat of a moment will be wrong when the intensity cools. Or not. Sometimes they are stunningly, life-changingly right.

I’m not sure where I’m going today, so hope you’ll just come along for the ride. A friend, Debby Myers, mentioned that I used the words “always” and “never” a lot. In the essay she was referring to, I did. For that particular one, where I was talking about myself, it was pretty much right. I wrote about “sometimes” less than a month ago, and that’s still my preferred mode of promissory travel, but when we’re talking about ourselves, we can often be certain enough of our own responses

But we don’t know others well enough to sticky-tape those words to them. We don’t know what’s going to happen in their lives between Olympic and Azure blues.


When I wrote The Happiness Pact back in 2017, I had a lot of help. Libby had severe clinical depression. She was also a stargazer, and I needed a wayDanna Bonfiglio to work that into her story that I couldn't figure out on my own. Danna Bonfiglio, a friend of my kids from elementary days on and an English teacher at the school they all attended, told me Venus had been her guardian planet when she was a kid. Still was, come to that.

During an online conversation, she said, "I used to sing that Frankie Avalon song when I was a kid...if I liked a boy, I would talk to her [Venus] about it. I never told anybody that before. I remember talking a summer astronomy class at IUK, and we looked at Venus through the telescope. I was so excited."

So was I. Venus became Libby's guardian planet, watching over her heart and bringing her through the rough parts.

And there are always rough parts.

Over a year ago, Danna was diagnosed with pulmonary thrombosis. She needed a lung transplant, but her time on earth ran out before it could happen. She passed away January 13, surrounded by her family. Mourned by so very many.

In large part, writers are able to write emotion because they've felt it first or because someone else has somehow given it to them as a gift.

When Danna gave me Venus to use in a story and to absorb how much having that guardian planet meant to her, that emotion became a healing agent for Libby's depression. It was a particular stream of tenderness in a tough story to tell. In her 20-some years of teaching, Danna was the guardian of hundreds of young hearts as well as the sharer of information. She had a wide streak of tenderness. She is the guardian of her students and the others she loved yet. She and Venus.


For nearly everyone I know, there has been much loss in the recent past. I don’t know what to say about it that hasn’t already been said over and over. Loss and living with it are those rough parts. They run over our hearts and leave them aching and bleeding, with empty, torn places—that’s fact. Another fact is that before we can heal, we have to ache and bleed.

But sometimes there’ll be a sky like the eastern one this morning, full of promise and brightness. And, between the blues in the west, something will change, and we’ll laugh and see brightness in the gloom. Sometimes. And, we hope, we’ll begin to heal.

Have a great week. Be nice to somebody.


Liz maintains a blog that you can visit by clicking this link:

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