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Swallowed By The Earth...

By March 12, 2011

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Thinking ManI love the still quietude that hangs about the house--just before the sun comes up and life suddenly turns to such busy chaos. It's a time to pause and reflect, and be thankful for that brief breathe of time.

Some days, the earth shakes, and we are reminded once again about how quickly disaster can strike (full of sound and fury, but also with such terrible finality). Where were you when the earthquake shook Japan? Where were you when we've experienced the other assorted tragedies? But also, what does tragedy do to you? Does it make you rethink life? Does a life-wrenching experience cause you to re-evaluate literature?

Samuel Goldwyn once wrote: "We want a story that starts out with an earthquake and works its way up to a climax." A good book can turn your world upside down; it can change everything. Emily Dickinson once wrote, "If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?"

Frederick Douglass wrote: "It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake." (Do you know his story? Slave, orator--he continually feared for his life, after he escaped from slavery.)

Sometimes--it would appear--we need our perceptions to be shaken. We face brutal challenges--the pain and fears. As in Ursula Le Guin's story: "The eye altering alters all." There's a sense of improved awareness (at least for a period of time). We are part of a shared experience and together we gather strength. As I curl up, I find solace in the words of men and women who have long since been interred into the earth. I'm reminded that we're not alone. Upon the well-worn pages, I read passionate outpourings, with strange familiar slants to the words.

Even in the darkest moments, I feel somehow safe (even comforted) while buried in a book--wrapped in the clutches of a wonderful full-fledged tome by one of the great literary masters. We may never experience the full extent of the devastation so far across the ocean, but we are still touched. What is your story to tell? Which books offer you comfort during this time?


March 17, 2011 at 11:29 pm
(1) Christy says:

I tend to go to the classics around times of stress and disasters. I also think I write my best poetry and stories during those times, too. It seems to put me in a certain frame of mind … to think and contemplate when things happen which are out of our control. That’s why I love the rainy foggy days, with horrendous thunder and lightening. I light my candles and while I listen to the wind and rain, it puts me in that same mood. I always look forward to what I call my “Edgar Allan Poe” days.

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