Sunday, July 10, 2011

Burned Out

Since I'm a writer, you may think this is going to be about writer's block, or a long unproductive spell. Not so. In my first novel, Between the Rivers, I wrote about being "burned out." As the author, I stood beside my protagonist and imagined the horror she and her family felt as they stood huddled in the shelter of the trees, their eyes wide and unbelieving as they watched the house sputter and cough up great clouds of black smoke...ashes raining down on the canopy of ancient trees, covering their moss-bearded limbs with a peppery dust. Last week, when I heard the news that our good friends in Hendersonville had lost their home in the middle of the afternoon when lightning struck their garage, once again, I could only imagine the horror. Fire had raced through the attic and soon destroyed the whole house. In the early part of the last century, especially in rural areas, it was not that unusual to be "burned out," but today we are so careful--for one thing, we don't use kerosene to start our fires. Many of us don't even use real wood logs. But what can stop that act or freak of nature that directs a bolt of lightening into a mountain home, or sends a tornado skipping across south Raleigh today anymore than it could a hundred years ago. It is hard to accept a freak act of nature, we want to put the blame on something or someone, but only a writer can do that with surety. But such sad news should give us pause. It has me. I look around at my carelessness, things I value scattered about with abandon. If I suddenly lost it all, would I wake up in the night and remember the little things--that little doll from my childhood that always sat on the shelf above my computer? Or my dad's Brownie camera, or my pictures. How would I ever replace all of those pictures! We take so much for granted--that our things will always be here. That we will always be here to care for and about them.

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