Saturday, August 07, 2010


I was immortal once. I remember it well. I feared nothing because I couldn’t be killed. I could eat poison and jump off cliffs and never for a minute expect to suffer harm. But the most wonderful benefit of my immortal days was that I had time. The line of my life stretched out before me clear to the horizon and disappeared in the distance over the curve of the earth, no end in sight.

Oh, no, you may be saying to yourself, she’s going to wax philosophical about mortality, here. Never fear.

Okay, I’ll admit that I started out driving down that road in a shiny red Maserati which after a quarter-million miles is looking pretty dinged-up and the check-engine light is on, but that’s not the point. What’s changed is the road. In fact, it is beginning to dawn on my that the entire metaphor is wrong.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an entry in this very blog about a friend of mine whose entire life was a work of art. (“Works of Art”, June 7, 2008) She was a fine artist, a painter. But everything she did - making a pie, sewing a dress, growing a garden, even cleaning the house - was done with as much care, eye for detail, and even reverence, as were her paintings. I still think about her with awe and maybe a little envy. She approached life in a way that I’ve often wished I could. She didn’t wish that things could be other than they were. She wasn’t moving toward a goal. Nor did she think that she had plenty of time to fool around before she lived an authentic life.

I’m not exactly saying carpe diem, though one should. That “seize the day” philosophy is what motivated me to finally take the leap and write stories. I love being a novelist, too, even though I don’t love all the stuff that goes along with it. Being a writer can be glorious, but sometimes it's painful, too. I achieved a life goal, and it isn’t what I expected. In fact, I’ve achieved a bunch of life goals, and none of them has turned out to be what I expected. Every one is much worse in some ways, and infinitely better in others. Is that the point, I wonder?

Life isn’t what I thought it was. I’m not driving anywhere and there is no road. My new metaphor is that life is a wildfire, and we’re all standing right in the middle of it with no way out. It’s overwhelming heat and light, it has no shape or substance. It’s scary as hell. It consumes everything around it in an unstoppable rush and a roar, and eventually it even consumes itself. You just know this isn’t going to end well for you and it’s going to be painful, to boot. But it’s still endlessly fascinating and incredibly beautiful, even while you burn.


Joanne Carnegie said...

Love your description of life as a wildfire. Dead on, as far as I can see.

Donis Casey said...

It feels like you just keep beating back the flames for as long as you can, Joanne.

Jude Johnson said...

The notion that there are no roads is quite apt. We each must choose whether to brave the fire or stand and let the flames consume us. And there is no one way to attack the flames.

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