The Art of Reflection

Source: Magdalena Randal

“Only solitary men know the full joys of friendship. Others have their family; but to a solitary and an exile his friends are everything”. -Willa Cather, Shadows on the Rock.

Aren’t we all people becoming patches of light? Coaxed out of our own shadows by friends, we shine.

Wandering through a park here in Paris on a rainy spring morning, I see puddles as spotlights reflecting the white grey sky back up into the air. Passersby seem to be dark bundles of energy surging towards these plates of liquid illumination.

Dazzled by the idea that each of us is a light preparing to glow, a bulb aching to bloom, I think about a star in Pictou who brightened my life.

Danny MacLeod was my neighbour. He was also my friend. His actions beamed grace at me while his few words always made me feel the thrilling clarity that heartfelt laughter brings. Most days while I lived in Merigomish, Danny passed my house with his dog aptly named Flash2: a border collie fired with intelligence, eager to work.

The last time I saw them was on a spring day. Flash2 sat in the driver’s seat of Danny’s car while we stood in the field I called my front lawn. I don’t remember what we talked about. I do remember Danny’s presence. Flash2 eventually joined us, leaping out of the car when Danny opened the door.

While we talked about everything and nothing, Flash2 darted, lunged and raced around us as Danny prompted him. Often, Danny feigned annoyance with his dog. But I could see how much he loved that creature. Some days Danny’s wife Sadie accompanied him. Then Flash2 always seemed a little calmer.

“Easy now Flash2…” she would say.

All three of them lit up my days.

When I first arrived here in Paris, it was Christmastime. Missing friends like Danny, I made a little greeting card that evoked the church community I experienced in Pictou. I was a stranger and you welcomed me there. Here too, in a different way, I found a welcome to expand my idea of community.

On the card I made was a picture of a little church like St. Mary’s in Lismore. That was not Danny’s church, but that doesn’t matter because the church I sought to evoke is the one I believe the whole world is walking towards and Danny’s light points to – a place where stars are men and men are stars.

What do the stars think about our organized longings as they sparkle in our night skies? I think the privileged time I had getting to know Danny, Sadie and Flash2 holds some of the answer for me.

When I heard recently that Danny had passed away, my sorrow was transformed by my realization that all the time I wasn’t aware of Danny’s physical passing he was – and so he still is – alive for me.

Perhaps this is something of the hope that April’s gleaming showers offer. Is spring with its re-emergence of life, really the resurrection? That story that has made a star of one man?

Danny, who loved music, shines so strongly in my memory by his deeds, by his humility. He once proudly showed off an exquisite violin he had discovered at an auction. He gave that instrument to a young musician in the Merigomish community.

Hardly anyone, it seems, knew he was ill before he died. He saved us from grieving too soon. His example keeps me leaning towards joy this springtime. Maybe this is the silver lining so oft referred to on a rainy day.

A priest once told me rain is the humblest weather because it is always falling! I happen to love the rain. I happen to love the soft light it brings. From my perch in Paris to your verdant Pictou pastures, I send some of the light people like Danny MacLeod gave me, and then some. For aren’t we all just shadows waving in the patches of light we encounter and long to become?


This article first appeared in The Evening News, New Glasgow, Nova Scotia and is reposted here with permission from the author.

Magdalena Randal is a filmmaker and artist currently living in the Maritimes.

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