Sunday, May 23, 2010

the sweet mystery of life...

This week scientists created the first artificial life form. Think about that for a minute.

The first time I went to Bourbon Street I was fascinated by the shuttered windows and strange symbols that someone had drawn on the front of the old buildings. It was no different last weekend when I returned to New Orleans for a literary festival to pitch my novel idea to a publisher.

The strangeness of the French Quarter is nothing obvious in the street but something that goes on behind closed doors and on patios where no one else can see. I’ve always enjoyed finding things that are hidden; walking the back of old thrift stores and searching through shelves filled with treasures that other people call junk.

The meeting with the publisher went great and she said I did a very good job. She’ll be reviewing my query materials for the next few weeks and reviewing if the concept fits in with the publishing project list. There was one question that she asked which I should have been prepared for, but had to think about before answering:

“What will the readers learn from following your characters story?”

I stalled for a minute before blabbering something about the importance of creating your life and not expecting it to be laid out for you. But over the next couple of days I turned that question inward and wondered what people would learn if they followed my story? MY story, the one about me and the life I have lived.

I sat in a café on Chartres Street, drinking an espresso and watched the stream of people walking towards something they thought they needed to experience, and tried to discern the real answer.

If I were writing my life story, there are a couple of moments I would like to do again. Not do over, but to experience once more.

There was an early morning boat ride with my father. I sat on the bow as the black smoke choked out of the engine that propelled us through the mist covered canals in the marsh. All around us the morning sun was in every bead of water and the glare made me close my eyes against the white flame.

It’s probably there that I learned to appreciate listening for sounds. I would stretch out from my ear drums, like a spotlight, trying to identify the splashes and calls of animals as we passed them by.

We parked the boat under a low hanging tree and dropped our fishing lines into the dark bayou water. The popping of water lilies and the cricking and buzzing lulled us into a haze of half awareness. Then, without warning, something large crashed through the brush, pushing the tree down onto the boat as it splashed just beyond our sight.

Without saying a word, my father threw the fishing poles into the water, started the boat engine and took us away from the spot. I asked him what it was but he never said a word about it.

There are so many answers in this world and it seems like the questions mean less every day. But this one is important to me but I don’t know that I’m the one to determine what the answer is.

I’ve never learned how a jet engine works, but I know that planes don’t fly by themselves. As I sit and weed my garden I wonder if my life is any less rich because I know why a lizard changes its colors.

So I’ve decided to put some mystery back into my life. Some magic. Some wonder about the world around me. And that will be a challenge because I have spent a lifetime understanding how things work and it’s been a long time since I’ve been in awe of things I cannot see.

But I have exposed myself to enough to know that anything may be possible.

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