The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Effulgence or writing with film

Rachael Conlin Levy


  1. The state of being bright and radiant; splendor; brilliance.

There is a stretch of highway in an empty corner of Nevada where the sky takes over the world. The earth is flattened, the mountains squashed under blazing blue. Clouds, squeezed of snow and rain were breaking apart, their ribbony shreds floating like jelly fish above our heads. The sun sang a symphony.

I wanted to drink up the light.

Later, long after the sun had stopped reciting poetry to the storm clouds and we’d driven the length of the valley and climbed over some smallish mountains and descended into another lonesome basin, I wondered what would’ve happened if I had swallowed the effulgent light? Would I glow like Christ, a small sun radiating from behind my head and my stomach illuminated? Or would I look like my father, who, after three rounds of chemotherapy, was as solid and unchanged as the desert floor?


My dad is okay and that was something I needed to know, that cancer hasn’t stopped him from doing what he’s always done — fix pipes, translate Spanish novels, hold babies. My mom is okay, maybe better than okay, for she’s strong and happy not in spite of the cancer, not because of the cancer, but because she and my dad have a good life together, cancer or not.

This trip was about understanding, illumination. Although I brought my notebook I didn’t open it because I couldn’t find the words to define what I knew to be beautiful. Instead, I found myself with camera in hand, documenting, recording, not thinking, just absorbing the light.

I was the negative.

Winter solistice weiner roast

Gingerbread house, under construction


And so I began to know, to comprehend, to believe that the parts of me I left behind are not struggling, but thriving, that this is life, sometimes fighting, sometimes coasting, but always here, right now, with clogged pipes and grandsons wrestling like puppies in the living room and it’s 5 p.m. and no one knows what’s for dinner but somehow a meal is made.


And it nourishes.

4 responses to “Effulgence or writing with film”

  1. Andrea says:

    Lovely words…"I was the negative". That sky is incredible. Your family seems incredible.

  2. Rachael Levy says:

    Thank you, Andrea. It was an incredible trip.

  3. I love road trips because I can take in the landscapes. It may not seem like it to you but you are part of that illumination too.

  4. I enjoyed reading this. Thank you.

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