It's late and I should turn over and go to sleep, but Stephen's watching that show about death, a topic humans can't get enough of. I forsake some sleep so I can watch it too. He makes us cookies in the toaster oven, and they're gluten-free and they taste like hard little rounds of sweet wood chips with tiny bursts of lovely, melty chocolate, and we sit in bed in front of the TV where terminal cancer patients lie in their own beds or their hospital beds. Doctors, palliative care specialists, grieving partners.
A doctor and the widower of a former patient talk about the delicate, impossible decisions they made about different rounds of chemotherapy. The doctor admits that he should have stopped treatment sooner and focused on making her comfortable. I'm struck by the fact that the two men, and particularly the widower, discuss this with elegance instead of rage, that the widower doesn't feel the need to lay blame.
Next to me, Stephen breathes and sniffs and eats his cookie. Under the covers, Nicholas works at grooming, occasionally pausing and giving my leg a little lick.
Shot of a woman in her hospital bed, the palliative care specialist saying, are you feeling comfortable, good, I'll be back later, shot of a woman in her hospital bed alone, being comfortable.
When I'm there, I want you to know, I don't just want to be comfortable. Promise me this, OK? I want to be engaged. Thinking about just lying there being comfortable while time drains away is a horror to me. One of the things that will torture you is that you won't know what to say to me, but just tell me a story of your life. Tell me that thing you know about the life of Mary Todd Lincoln. Set me up with a podcast about the size of black holes. Don't just leave the TV on - set me up with a marathon of Bugs Bunny. Read to me, read to me, read to me.
When I started work on the cover design for Renee Macalino-Rutledge's novel The Hour of Daydreams, publisher Laura Stanfill said the challenge was going to be creating a design focused on wings or feathers that isn't like any of the other wing and feather covers out there.
Oh, lord. There are a lot.
And some really cool concepts / designs. I could look for other inspiration for the cover art, but I mean, come on. It’s a novel about a woman with wings. And what could be more lovely and provocative than wings, or their beautifully miraculous elements, feathers?
In the early stages of my tinkering, I actually constructed a winged woman who I used in a few samples. But Renee was more interested in my less literal approach, which mostly consisted of a lone feather falling from the sky in a curl that looked moonlike, seeming to pull the stars along with it. I curved the title text so that it was spooning that feather moon, and with the space surrounding this, I hoped I had created imagery that felt both expansive and intimate.
Renee suggested a number of different concepts for the landscape below, and I tried them all, and more: cityscape, water, village, field, trees, wild flowers... I asked about Filipino trees and plants that might be found in the story. I had fun trying on each new landscape and seeing what it did to my sky.
One of the things that kept occurring to me as I worked was that the title comes with a question. The Hour of Daydreams. What hour is that? In the book, this is the napping hour, when a little girl is supposed to be sleeping but instead sneaks outside with her grandfather and listens to his stories.
Knowing this, I wanted to set my cover design during the day, but I also kept coming back to the lovely folktale-like image of Tala, the winged woman, flying every night up to the stars with her sisters. No matter what I did, stars kept sneaking into my designs
And as much as the book is about magic, it's also about questioning magic. It's about deception and suspicion, the unknowing - all themes that, to me, speak more to nighttime than to day. And that word itself: daydreams. It starts with a root that has night built right into it - dream - and then turns the tables by adding day. Renee does some very similar table-turning in her book, and I hope I did some, too, with the cover.
Here's a little snippet from the book.
"Grandfather shared another story from his vault of words reserved especially for me. They filled up the silence, not the one that blanketed our barrio during the napping hours when everyone disappeared into their rooms, but the one that had followed me everywhere, for as long as I could remember."
The Hour of Daydreams comes out in spring of 2017. There's more info here.
Feather image copyright Partha S. Sahana. You can check out the original image (black feather on white, which I adapted), here on Flickr Creative Commons (licence info here), and you can check out the photographer's photo stream here.