Oh my goodness! Is summer over yet? I’m so ready to say good-bye to summer 2012.
It’s been a rough week. My husband was in a rollover accident coming home from work last Wednesday. He is fine, amazingly, but the car was totaled. Kory stayed home from work on Thursday, went to the doctor at my insistence, and made the necessary insurance phone calls. I went about my normal day, but I kept thinking, “I could be in the hospital with him right now.” I couldn’t bear to think of the worst-case scenario.
Then came the tragic events in Aurora on Friday, July 20th. It’s mind-blowing to think that my husband survived a rollover and twelve people didn’t survive a night at the movies. This is not the sort of thing you can make sense of. Everything we tell ourselves—that God had a plan, that death is part of life—none of it reconciles the gut-wrenching wrongness of a psychopath murdering innocent people.
The outrage and grief stirred in our hearts is the only natural thing about such a tragedy. The heated debates about gun laws and access to mental health care are examples of our need to express the splitting deep within our souls. We have a collective need to cry, “This is wrong! This is not how it should be!” We point to different reasons for the tragedy and offer scenarios of how it could have been avoided. But all of the words and the arguments can’t fill in for what we can’t express.
The truth is that death is at odds with the eternal nature of our souls. Death was never in the design. Yes, I truly believe human beings were created to live forever. Death entered our world with sin, but before that, we were immortal. Of course C.S. Lewis put it best. “Humans are amphibians - half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.”
This juxtaposition of our condition is one reason I’m drawn to paranormal stories. I think the genre allows for that schism we all feel. It’s a relief for me to read and write books with both human and supernatural characters. My mind fits more easily into a story containing elements outside of the normal “human” experience.
I sometimes wonder if there are components of speculative fiction that are more real to our souls than anything found in realistic fiction. But no matter what we write, read, say or experience, we are not much more than tadpoles navigating our world in awkward bodies while peering through the water’s surface at an existence we can barely imagine.
This summer I deliberately put my work in progress on hold with the intention of establishing a healthy summer routine for my boys. I mostly failed. I am handicapped in the area of organization. We’ve been going to the pool, reading sporadically, and practicing math facts on a sort of penance model. And I’ve been drifting. Every writer is familiar with that evil voice that whispers, “Who do you think you are, pretending to be a writer? You don’t have anything worth saying.” At one point, I realized I couldn’t even remember the name of one of the main characters in my current project.
Then I went to bed one night last week and I couldn’t sleep. I suppose it was either Wednesday or Thursday because it was after Kory’s accident. To my surprise the characters from my WIP started speaking. The antidote to that pesky voice of doubt is a character who pops into your head every time you close your eyes. In my case, he’s a boy with high cheekbones, brown eyes, and copper wire woven into his dreadlocks. His name is Blaise, and he’s trapped in a city full of beautiful porcelain people and wind-up creatures called Tocks. He tugs on my imagination, begging me to leave behind one level of existence in order to explore another. And so I guess I’ll return to the life of a writer, wriggling and flopping along in between story world and reality. Not fully at home in either. A tadpole. A human. A spirit. Something in between. Something other.
Where are you this summer? When do you feel split? What experience causes you to slide between the two planes of existence? Is it uncomfortable? Terrifying? An awakening of sorts? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
For info on how to help the Aurora victims, click here
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