Some days a cohesive thought just doesn't come. Some days I sit down to blog and find my words take me down winding, not entirely unexpected, gravel roads. Today is one of those days.
News is grim. Worry is prevalent. I wonder how self-absorbed I am when I'm preoccupied with word count and the family down the street is struggling to pay their next grocery bill. I justify the dalliance of fiction as a necessary commodity in hard times. An escape. To an extent, it is. I remember feeling the same way after September 11th. The fiction I write, not the slash-your-wrists-Oprah-pics, are stories about overcoming adversity. Hope and love. Who can't use more of that? But is it enough?
I lived in rural America for a time in the 90s. My generation's curse, the hunger for more and faster, was a rampant symptom of my discontent. I was a city girl on a crusade to inspire my students to so much more beyond owning the local Dairy King and driving combine harvesters someday. But after fifteen years of falling victim to theft twice, countless incidents of vandalism, city corruption and breathing in everyone else's pursuit of the fast lane, I think those students taught me more in return. How awful would it really be in the hard times forecasted ahead to live where I have the space to start a garden and have the option to walk to a store? Where fresh corn comes from a neighbor's acreage, not from a farmer's market I had to spend $2 in gas to get to. Where I might actually share a glass of lemonade with my neighbors instead of worrying about registered sex offender rumors. Is the reshaping of my values a product of media-fueled fear or a romanticized notion of how life should be? John Titor may have been a nutjob hoax, but is there not a grain of truth in everything? Maybe he represented more wish than inevitability.
Last weekend I went to see Gran Torino. I'd always respected Clint Eastwood, but he'd flown under my girly-not-of that-generation radar until his memorable performance in The Bridges of Madison County. After Gran Torino, he's pushed aside some of my previous top ten favorite actors and stepped firmly to the forefront. In a quiet, almost-vacant theater on the cusp of what probably amounts to the movie's final week at the box office, a powerful cinematic experience unfolded. Rarely do films leave me with a gift. This one left me with a golden ticket of perspective. The intolerance I had toward small town life manifests itself now into the frustration I have toward relatives who live by the same creed as Walt Kowalski, Eastwood's character. I've heard more racial slurs dropped at family gatherings than potato salad on the carpet. I'd dismissed them as the grizzled after-burn of a life lived without happiness. But in the two hours that unfolded during that film, I saw my own intolerance and was saddened. This movie resonates with so many because Kowalkski gives voice to everything we are afraid to say and think and do. He is a modern day hero of our discontent and an increasingly collective longing to return to the basics: family, honor, love.
I don't profess to know what's around the corner and there are still days when my Pollyanna-self struggles to see the glass half full. But if I didn't have an unyielding faith in the human spirit, I wouldn't strive to explore it through writing. Fiction reflects life. The most fertile inspiration is yet to come.
Next Week: The final countdown to THE 90,000 word, fifth draft END. Like a shower to present this babe to the world, I'll bring those horribly ugly first snapshots for everyone to lavish with disingenuous oohs and ahhs.