Editor’s Notebook, Regulars and Shorts

Editor’s Notebook: Night Lights and Luminaries

By Greta Belanger deJong

by Greta Belanger deJong 5 a.m. I wake up ready to write. I feel well rested, though it will be hours before sun lights the western sky, the first thing I see when I open my eyes.

After a lifetime of bedroom windows well shuttered, I am delighted each night and morning to go to bed and wake up in a room with a view. A few months ago I relocated my bed to a room long used for storage, a room without curtains or blinds. Before that, I was a person who couldn't fall asleep if there was any light in the night-not even the slow pulse of my laptop. Closing the blinds was a lifelong nighttime ritual.

No more. I fall asleep smiling at the twinkling valley sprawled before me, and wake up to a vast sky. If I awaken to a moon, I follow its journey till I drift off again. Or I try, unsuccessfully, to really sense the Earth moving and the moon standing still; which just goes to show that sometimes reality can be hard to swallow.

Each morning before rising I lift my head and look toward the distant Oquirrhs. Usually, if it's early enough, they are pristine. I'm still not used to the view, which means I'm amazed again each morning.

I do wonder at all those downtown lights, and the street lights between here and there. What would the night sky would look like without them? I see entire floors lit up in the Wells Fargo building. How come? Do offices leave their lights on as beacons to guide everyone back to work? As if people might forget in the night, and in their 6 a.m. fog turn to drive up a canyon, to ski or go fishing; or just stay home and read a novel, or take their dogs on an extra-long walk. Maybe those light-emitting bank buildings are sending a silent signal, like a homing device. Come back, come back….

Years ago I used to notice, when downtown at night, how much useless lighting there was. Whole highrises lit up as if it were the holidays and all the kids were home. Now there are fewer lights. People are more conscious about their electrical consumption. We are not idiots. There is hope.

But there is that bright lights/big city allure pervading our psyches. It shows in our language. Smart, important, people are "bright," "beacons," "luminaries," "shining examples." When we really like something, we are "delighted." And of course there are the "stars."

Speaking of stars (lucky segue): I got to attend the closing ceremonies party at Sundance last month. The people I met were hugely friendly. They kept shushing me into their photographs. They made eye contact. They smiled. I thought, wow. My stereotypes were falling away left and right.

Then a nice-looking fellow in the requisite directorial scarf stopped me on my way through the crowd. "Congratulations!" he enthused. "You deserved to win. I was so busy-yours was the only film besides my own that I saw all week."

Aha. After a twinge of regret at the realization that I was not loved for myself, I accepted the role of being somebody. A director, apparently. The rest of the evening my friend and I kept wondering: Who?

I didn't have to wait long. Checking the list of winners later that night, I saw there was only one female director. And there "I" was on the front page of the Tribune next morning. Yup. I can see how I was mistaken for Courtney Hunt, director of "Frozen River," which won the Grand Jury prize for dramatic film.

I should look at Sundance-related stories from around the country. With all the photos taken, I'm bound to show up somewhere. I got the fun of fame without any of the hard work.

On that note, I'm going back to sleep. And when I wake up, I'll get to enjoy the view all over again.

I hope you enjoy this issue. Let me know what you think.

Greta deJong is founder, editor & publisher of CATALYST. greta@catalystmagazine.net.

This article was originally published on February 1, 2008.