“I am gone away but will be home soon.”—Laura Hansen, from the poem “Leaving Instructions”
Laura Hansen’s recent collection of short-form literature, The Night Journey: Stories and Poems, is an invitation to wander through the realms of legend, myth, dream, memory, and encounter, in search of the heart’s home.
a Search for Oasis: looking for the heart’s home
In all my life, I have felt most at home in my grandparents’ farmhouse near Cedar Lake in southeast Minnesota. In this place, I am curled up on a rag rug, warming myself in front of the heating vent like a kitten. The air smells of smoke—wood, cigar, cigarette—and cinnamon, and I hold a red Folger’s coffee can of glass marbles. Rapt with wonder, I examine the unique, miniature world within each tiny globe. One is solid white. I can’t see what’s under the surface, but I know it conceals a mystery. Another is clear as glass and contains a swirl of white feather—an angel’s wing. This is a delightfully dreamy way to while away the hours when it’s dark out, and the incomprehensible grown-ups keep slapping cards against the kitchen table, barking about spades, clubs, trump, and tricks.
Reading The Night Journey made menostalgic for that long lost farmhouse, and simultaneously transported me there again. I found myself picking up these poems and stories the way I once pondered the meaning of marbles, pressing them against my lips to explore the taste of their color, peering into them until they give up their secrets and show their ghosts.
“Art is a portal, a spirit guide,” Laura Hansen writes in her closing piece, “Afterword.” Perhaps all of our lives, we experience a melancholic nostalgia or longing, a desire that compels our search for oasis, “that place we long for,” she writes, “that may exist only in memory…or in art.”
Dear friends, I know that life can feel overwhelming and cold. When the big people are stinking up the air with their cigars and cigarettes, when they’re shouting about spade and clubs, trump and tricks, here is a little prescription for you. Curl up somewhere warm. Select a cozy corner where you can see stars from your window, and savor The Night Journey’s stories and poems like a curious child. This won’t save the world, but it may comfort you immensely by taking you inward to a dreamy place, where it doesn’t matter that you’re not in control of the universe, because your heart remembers, or suddenly glimpses, what it means to feel at home.
about Laura Hansen and The Night Journey
Laura L. Hansen writes to give public voice to her inner voices. As an aphantasiac and granddaughter of a poet, Laura learned early on she could preserve memory through writing. Known for writing lyrical, image-rich poetry, Ms. Hansen’s work has appeared in a number of regional literary journals as well as online, and on public radio and television. Her book, Midnight River, was a Stevens Poetry Manuscript Prize Winner and a Finalist in the Midwest Book Awards. An avid reader, Laura lives along the Mississippi River in Central Minnesota.
The Night Journey: Stories and Poems, is published by River Place Press ©2020, and made possible by a grant provided by the Five Wings Arts Council with funds from the McKnight Foundation.