Tree Picture Taken at Raleigh’s Raulston Arboretum — October 2013
One dreary evening under a spooky old tree,
a spirit seemed to beckon me.
What do you think you want to do with your life?
A profound question whispered eerily.
Dark and ominous it quite did appear,
but by capturing it in time,
I began to allay my fear.
THIS! THIS! This is what I want to do!
Weave words and pictures together.
What say you?
Photo Credit: Hurricane Art Found in A Hotel Room — by Liz Gray — July 2012
Nothing like a storm in life, either literally or figuratively, to jar you back into writing. Life’s demands gobble my time and opportunity to write often seems to vanish. But then Hurricane Sandy came to town, er, came to the entire East Coast eating pavement, crashing shores, flooding buildings, submerging tall ships, forcing rescues, and threatening to swallow all who cross her demanded shores. Immediately, inspiration struck.
See I was born on a dark and stormy night–the kind where lightening crashes and lights go out. I’ve been fascinated by storms all my life. I’ve had two homes in twenty years damaged by storms, one a hurricane, the other a tornado. I’ve been trapped on water during a dangerous storm, and stopped from stepping into danger when a storm impeded my plans. I’ve seen rescue from figurative storms that would blow your mind.
I may not be storm chaser, but I’m certainly a storm romancer. There’s a reason for that. Like the surfer who feels called to stay and attempt to ride the calamitous waves, or the stubborn fisherman who sails out into sea, or the native who refuses to leave the island despite fair warning, I am the writer who likes to drown in the sea of intensity when life gets complicated or challenging. Somewhere in this chaos, lies a great story. Fear and solace strangely coexist; I become quiet. I become who I most am. I write.
Every storm survivor knows this to be true: In the eye of the storm, there is calmness–a clarity before impending calamity. You pull yourself together quick, because you already know what comes next! The backlash and final fury of the storm waits to devour you, as it rages and fights for its final breath.
You brace for impact and the long night and days ahead, all the while knowing the battle is already lost. You already know you’ll win; all you have to do is survive. Every great storm ultimately can’t sustain the intensity it creates.
But you can. You do it every day by surviving everything from petty annoyances to devastating losses. You’ve lived through dozens, perhaps hundreds of hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, and the like–sometimes in the span of a single teardrop.
Writing helps us put our storms to good use. We learn from and become our characters who fall in love while being kissed in the rain, or have their true beauty illuminated by lightning’s quick flash. Our souls, like our characters are at peace in the calm before the storm, even knowing it can’t last. Thunder soon crashes and the winds howl and shriek, and we know unless we adjust the rigging on our sails and change course, imminent peril awaits us.
So the passionate lover must die young. The young heroine falls prey to illness. The longed-for parent abandons. The medical experiment leaves side effects, not healing. As we write our characters and stories, we are really writing us.
We are coming to the grips of universal truth:
Nothing beautiful lasts forever. Everything dies. This moment won’t last. We are but a shard in time.
The beauty lies in remembering.
The truth is worth preserving.
The memory was worth cherishing.
So write. Bring your heartache and fattened blazes of joy to the table. Season it with characters that are spoiled, demented, gorgeous, intellectual, or enigmatic. Heap on some drama and see what bubbles up.
And when the storm comes, linger a while in the eye. See what truths await you. Finish your work as you learn more about you.
The storms will always rage around and within you. But you are the master and commander of the ship of you. Hoist the sails; fly your flag. Find peace in the unknown as you embrace your destiny.