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I'm a nonfiction writer and photographer living in Minneapolis, where I live with my husband and two young daughters. I write personal and lyric essays primarily but come at nonfiction from a journalistic background, which taught me that truthtelling is a deeply creative act in and of itself. Writing and photography have always been linked practices for me, the aim of both, as Joan Didion described writing, being to "make somebody see something the way you see it, trying to impose your idea, your picture." When I lived in San Diego, I spent much of my free time photographing the surrounding desert regions east of San Diego. I'm still looking for subjects to photograph and write about in my new home in the midwest, and I try to take some kind of camera with me when they walk around the city pushing my daughters in their stroller. I earned my MFA from Portland State University and I participated in their graduation reading five days after giving birth to my first daughter by c-section, an experience that reminded me of the vulnerability, trauma, and beauty of all births, whether literal or creative in nature.

Prayers to Lucia

Illustration by Missy Chimovitz

Heather Quinn| Longreads | September 2019 | 21 minutes (5,102 words)


Obtain for me, by your intercession with God, perfect vision for my bodily eyes, and the grace to use them for God’s greater honor and glory and the salvation of souls.
— Prayer to Santa Lucia

Santa Lucia holds her left arm outstretched, a silver platter balanced on the palm of her hand. On the platter rests a disembodied pair of eyes. They are looking, lidded, expressive. What they seem to express, in their straight-ahead gaze, is serenity and knowing, a kind of Mona Lisa without a face. In some images Santa Lucia holds the eyes in her hand directly, without a platter to rest on, with a sort of branch that connects them both like fruit on a tiny tree. I think of optic nerves connected directly — without the brain as intermediary — to the spinal cord. Sight talking to body, vision sent from nerves straight to muscle, a physical and tangible thing.

These are Lucia’s own eyes, though she gazes out from the picture with an identical pair of her own, safe in their sockets. They were gouged out while she was alive, then restored to her after her death.

Lucia is the patron saint of eye diseases, blindness, writers, stained glass makers, the poor, and sore throats. Her name means light and her feast day is attended by young girls in red-and-white gowns with crowns of candles upon their heads.
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