Wrapped Around Schrodinger’s Cat

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Призрачные коты - Все интересное в искусстве и не только.

Watercolor by Endre Penouac

That’s where I’ve been these last ten days or so, wrapped around Schrödinger’s cat in that state of unknowing. My son went missing and I did not know if he was dead or alive. Both possibilities seemed so potent. I wanted to know and not know at the same time. I wanted to peek beneath that lid and keep it securely closed forever.

I’ve always been fascinated by the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat, that something can be and not be at the same time. That it exists within a perpetual state of ambiguity until the lid is lifted and someone peeks inside. The act of observation is what breaks the spell and catapults a thing, a cat in this instance, into a single state of being– either alive or dead.

Apparently, according to quantum physics, at the level of the infinitely minute, where atoms and quarks and such are the substance of reality, things exist in a fluid state of infinite potentiality. Yet at this macro level where we experience reality, all appears fixed and certain. Only during heightened times, such as when loved ones go missing, does the dilemma of Schrödinger’s cat become not only real, but preferable.

The hope that my son might still be alive seemed too fragile and fleeting to hold on to. Instead I wanted to wrap myself within a state of unknowing, where there was neither life nor death, being or non-being, but just this rich, potent potential with no edges.

I wanted to remain in that limbo forever because I knew that once the lid was lifted, the dilemma did not really end. If he was dead the long, anguished darkness would descend. If he was alive, the joy would be brief and mixed, because the eventuality of his death was so certain and could come at any instant. Life is fragile and fleeting. Death is the one great certainty.

The lid to my dilemma eventually did lift. The whole time of my unknowing was his as well, it appears. He had been in a hospital in a coma. They called me when he awoke and I went to him. But he was clearly not fully awake. He was in purgatory he told me, neither alive nor dead, and he could not tell if I was real and really there or just a figment of his imagination. He truly believed that he had died and was existing in some hellish limbo. I cannot tell you, but you may well imagine, the anguish I felt hugging a son who thought he was dead.

By the next day the lid was raised for him as well, and he knew that he was indeed alive and that I was really there. His recovery was swift and he was discharged from the hospital.

So all is well, for now, at least.

But I cannot shake this sense of uncertainty about the nature of reality. I would rather live in that quantum field of endless potentiality, rather than being stuck in this macro world of duality where the cataclysmic forces of right and wrong, good and evil, life and death, clash so ferociously, and appear so fixed.

I wonder if it truly is that lifting of a lid that “fixes” a thing? That ties it to one end or the other of an apparent duality, and makes a thing dead or alive?

Or rather, is it our firm belief in a dualistic reality that forces our rational mind into “seeing” either one thing or its opposite, and not the state between?

Is this another paradox to puzzle through? Another box to open?

Let all six sides fly apart.

Let all  hard edges dissolve.

Let me wrap my mind around the soft warm body within where nothing is fixed or final.

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Endings & Beginnings, A Writer’s Life

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Like Two Lovers in Conversation, by Deborah J. Brasket

Well, I just finished rewriting the ending of my novel as requested by a publisher. We will see what they think.

Either way, I believe this new ending is stronger–still hopeful, but less certain. More in keeping with the way things are for most of us when things we love go missing, or when struggling with our own demons and addictions.

I’ve decided something else too. Quite a few publishers have wanted to see more of the missing mother in my story, yet I wasn’t willing to do that. It would have unraveled the very premise of my novel, which was, how do we cope when the center holding everything together falls apart? When that upon which we most depend disappears?

I wanted the mother to be part of the puzzle, not a presence herself, but that “absent” presence we feel, even yearn for, but cannot quite pin down, and never really know for certain.

Do any of us ever, really, know our mothers? Don’t we only know them through our own often faulty and incomplete perceptions of them? What they’ve allowed us to see, or what we choose to believe? All knowledge is partial and open to revision. We may know the facts that lay before us. But do facts a person make?

Yet even while I’ve resisted the call to add the mother’s perspective to this novel, I can understand how a reader might want more of her, to hear about her journey as she travels away from her family and through South America. What does she learn as she discovers the world through the new lens of her photography? Does it lend insight into her past? Into herself as a mother and wife and now an artist? How does it shape her anew?  Where does it take her?

So I’m beginning a “sequel” to From the Far Ends of the Earth, if we can call it that, since it will cover the same time-space as the first novel.

I think it might be fun to give the mother her own voice and space, to see what shaped her past and how her journey shapes her future.

It’s the thing I love most about writing, discovering what I never knew I knew before I began to write it, as if the words themselves are drawn from some inner well of insight or vision I never knew I had.

“We create ourselves out of our innermost intuitions,” so writes a sage.

I believe that. And I also believe our characters are created in much of the same way. I wonder if we all contain multiple characters within us that make themselves known to us through our writing? Or are we just writing our larger selves?

Perhaps all the selves of all the people we’ve come to know, to experience, in this wider world, once known, become part of us, at least partially?

I believe there is a collective consciousness that we tap into from time to time, and writers, perhaps, most of all.

Sometimes I don’t know where I end and another begins.

My son says I have boundary issues. No doubt he’s right.

Mary Oliver, Washed in Light

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Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe

One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, died last week. I do not have the words to tell you how much her words meant to me, and so many lovely eulogies have been written already, I won’t try.

But the best eulogies were written in her own hand, or so it seems to me.

She did not shy from death. She studied it, stalked it, even taunted it at times. But mostly she used it as a spur to live more deeply in the moment, to become “a bride married to amazement,” a “bridegroom, taking the world” into her arms.

And finally she let it swoop down to wrap its white wings around her and carry her away to that river of light where she is “washed and washed.”

She lived her “one wild and precious life” with exquisite purpose, and I am certain beyond words her journey will not end.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Poppies

The poppies send up their
orange flares; swaying
in the wind, their congregations
are a levitation

of bright dust, of thin
and lacy leaves.
There isn’t a place
in this world that doesn’t

sooner or later drown
in the indigos of darkness,
but now, for a while,
the roughage

shines like a miracle
as it floats above everything
with its yellow hair.
Of course nothing stops the cold,

black, curved blade
from hooking forward—
of course
loss is the great lesson.

But I also say this: that light
is an invitation
to happiness,
and that happiness,

when it’s done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.
Inside the bright fields,

touched by their rough and spongy gold,
I am washed and washed
in the river
of earthly delight—

and what are you going to do—
what can you do
about it—
deep, blue night?

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field

Coming down
out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel,
or a Buddha with wings,
it was beautiful,
and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings—
five feet apart—
and the grabbing
thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys of the snow—

and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes
to lurk there,
like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows—
so I thought:
maybe death
isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light
wrapping itself around us—
as soft as feathers—
that we are instantly weary
of looking, and looking,and shut our eyes,
not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river
that is without the least dapple or shadow,
that is nothing but light—scalding, aortal light—
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.

 

 

“Endless Love” – A 6th Year Celebration

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I created this collage to celebrate my daughter and her husband’s 6th wedding anniversary, today. They were married January 12 in Shell Beach. Her husband made a surfboard called “endless Love” for all the guest to sign, and she made and decorated her dark chocolate, chiptole pepper wedding cake. Their best friend officiated as they stood barefoot in the sand with the waves unrolling in the background.

Aside from the births of my children and grandchildren, it was the happiest day of my life.

I wrote a post about that day six years ago Sea, Sky, Earth, Fire – My Daughter on Her Wedding Day,  which began:

She was married beneath a cliff on the edge of the sea standing barefoot on the rocky beach. Barking seals sunning on rocks and crashing waves nearly drowned out the simple ceremony.

Hunchbacked boulders rose from the sea behind her like giant guardian sentinels. A single guitarist played flamenco music to match the red rose in her hair while the late afternoon sun glimmered across the waves.

Sea. Sky. Earth. Fire. All four essential elements holding the world together blended beautifully together that day.

Below are a few photos and memories that I tried to capture in my collage.

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Happy Anniversary, Kelli and Andrew!

Three to Share: Beauty, Art, Place

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I love discovering new blogs that inspire me and want to share three, among many, that I discovered this past year.

The Beauty We Love

I turn to this one often, for the captivating images as well as the inspiring quotations. Two I enjoyed most recently were by John Muir, the first enticing us to saunter reverently rather than “hike” when we are out among nature. He tells us how the word “saunter” comes from pilgrims who are traveling through France  ‘A la sainte terre’, or  ‘To the Holy Land.’ Another reminds us that we are kin to everything

When we try to pick out anything by itself,

we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.

One fancies a heart like our own must be beating in every crystal and cell,

 and we feel like stopping to speak to the plants and animals

 as friendly fellow mountaineers.

Recently I featured another post I loved in Seeing the Self in What We Love.

Then there was Wild Elegance, which speaks to why I named this blog Living on the Edge of the Wild. John O’Donohue from The Invisible Embrace, Beauty writes:

When we acknowledge the wild beauty of God, we begin to glimpse the potential holiness of our neglected wildness.  As humans, citizens and believers, we have become domesticated beyond belief.  We have fallen out of rhythm with our natural wildness.  What we now call ‘being wild’ is often misshapen, destructive and violent.  The natural wildness as the fluency of the soul at one with beauty is foreign to us.

The call of the wild is a call to the elemental levels of the soul, the places of intuition, kinship, swiftness, fluency and the consolation of the lonesome that is not lonely.  Our fear of our own wildness derives in part from our fear of the formless; but the wild is not the formless – it holds immense refinement and, indeed, clarity.  The wild has a profound simplicity that carries none of the false burdens of brokenness or self-conflict; it flows naturally as one, elegant and seamless.

And moreover:

Beauty invites us towards profound elegance of soul.  It reminds us that we are heirs to elegance and nobility of spirit and encourages us to awaken the divinity within us.  We are no longer trapped in mental frames of self-reduction or self-denunciation.

Instead, we feel the desire to celebrate, to give ourselves over to the dance of joy and delight.   The overwhelming beauty which is God pervades the texture of our soul, transforming all smallness, limitation and self-division.  The mystics speak of the excitement of such unity.  This is how Marguerite Porete describes it:

 ‘Such a Soul, says Love swims in the sea of joy, that is in the sea of delights, flowing and running out of the Divinity.  And so she feels no joy, for she is joy itself.  She swims and flows in Joy… for she dwells in Joy and Joy dwells in her.’

The Eclectic Light Company – Paintings

For a stroll through art history and a survey of some of the major and minor artists through the ages, I love to visit this site, which always inspires and enlightens.

The painting that headlines this post is from his site by a lesser known artist, or at least new to me, Maria Fortuny’s painting of Portici Beach in Spain.

The best of his 2018 paintings and articles can be found at this link. It’s a two-parter, so don’t miss this one as well.

For a preview of what he’ll be covering this your, make sure you check out this link.

The Depth of Now

This blog satisfies my longing for travel, art, photography, soulful writing, and that fearsome urge to trust oneself in exploring the unknown. Here a young woman tells about uprooting herself to move to a new city, Istanbul, which she explores through photography and storytelling.

In her favorite posts of 2018 you can taste some of the many flavors she has to offer: joyful wisdom, finding home, writing about place, Istanbul street art, and more.

I also loved her interview with photographer John Wreford. She’s a wonderful photographer herself, and I think that’s how I met her, at a cemetery in Prague.

But where I fell in love with her blog was when I read Home is Where the Heart Is,  where she converses with a stranger she meets in a medieval courtyard and writes:

We talked about how everything at its core is fluid and he talked to me about the Tao Te Ching.

And suddenly we had left the party and were slowly meandering down the road of a deep conversation. And by deep, I mean that reality started to lose its edges as we both came to an agreement on certain points other than what is conventionally accepted.

I admitted to him that I had lived in so many places that I no longer could relate to home being somewhere outside myself. That secretly I was building my home within – letting go of the stuff of this world and instead focusing on the things that I can take with me when I die – the wisdom and knowledge of the world that may (or may not) serve me in the next life.

You see, I don’t believe that we die because what is there to die into? Everything is alive and remains alive in one form or another.

And something tells me that I have lived many lives because from time to time I remember something unusual. I will have a dream that will take me to another place so real that I must have been there before.

I hope you will fall in love with these blogs I discovered this past year as I have. And, please, share some of the favorites sites you’ve discovered with me too in the comments below.

2018 – A Look Back, a Look Forward

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The end of a year always signals a kind of reckoning for me, the urge to look back and assess and celebrate, and to look forward and gauge where I want or need to go next.

Looking back through my blog posts, I see three major themes: travel, art, and writing.

Travel

It started with A Slice of San Francisco and a look at the Fascinating Faces and Divine Bodies at the Asian Art Museum.

Then I took a sharp turn left turn in Romancing Europe. I wrote about Dancing through Time & Space, and Tasting Life Twice. I took readers on a tour through Segovia and Bruges, and into the Musee d’Orsay, the Casa Battlo and Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and Down the Rabbit Hole with Salvador Dali.

Art

Art was a big theme with all the museums I visited, but also on a personal note with my own painting. I heralded my New Home Studio with a tour, and bragged about my first public recognition for my art. I showed off  Flowing Leaves, Tangled Limbs, Folding Hills, and Trees and More Trees.

My most popular post this year was the Art of Living, A Reminder.

Writing

I started off in January with a post on why I write in Walking each Other Home. In May I celebrated finding an agent for my novel From the Far Ends of the Earth in Pinch Me! In June I wrote about Following the Yellow-Brick Road to publishing, and in December I wrote about Happy and not so happy Endings in novel writing and life. In this last post and an earlier one on A Walk on the Wild Side, another theme that weaves through the underside of much of my writing in one way or another surfaces, the heartbreak of addiction.

A Look Ahead – What I Want Most

A happy ending for my son.

A happy ending for my novel.

More novel-writing, more painting, more blogging.

More artful living.

More Love. Lots and lots of love, for all of us.

A happy new year to you all!

 

O Holy Night, Images Sacred & Sublime

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I’ve gathered some images, sacred and sublime, to scroll through as you listen to “O Holy Night“, one of my favorite Christmas carols.

I love this song, not only for the haunting melody and beautiful  lyrics, but also because night has always seemed holy to me.

When I walk out beneath the stars on a cold or balmy night, I’m awestruck by such beauty and mystery and magnificence. I feel humbled and incredibly grateful, as if witnessing the hand of the divine writ large across the sky.

The images below are my gift to you. They reflect what this season is all about for me, a sense of the sacred and sublime–scenes of the birth of Christ and families celebrating Christmas.

Photos of spectacular sunsets and winter wonderlands–nature in all her glory.

And finally, images of an infinite universe stretching out and wrapping about the earth as if we were a holy gift just waiting to be unwrapped.

Enjoy!

 

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Walters – The Adoration of the Shepherds

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Peter Paul Rubens – The Adoration of the Magi

 

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Paul Gauguin – Christmas Night (The Blessing of the Oxen)

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Attributed to Carel Fabritius

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From Christmas throughout Christendom – The Christmas Tree

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Viggo Johansen – A Christmas Story

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Waiting for Father Christmas – Theodor Hildebrandt

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Glorious Sunset

Wikimedia Commons GALAVERNA

A White Christmas

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Blackbirds flock at Nightfall

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Frosty Trees in Winter Wonderland

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Cosmic Skies over Bali

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Northern Lights over Greenland

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Stars trailing through the night

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Earth Rises in the Night

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Night Mist as seen by Hubble

This false-color composite image shows the Cartwheel galaxy as seen by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer's Far Ultraviolet detector (blue); the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field and Planetary Camera-2 in B-band visible light (green); the Spitzer Space Teles

Cartwheel Galaxy

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Orion as seen by Hubble

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The Milky Way Galaxy

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Our home Earth wrapped up in the Milky Way Galaxy

(First posted in 2012)

10,000 Thank-You’s! A Blogging Milepost

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“Vase with Poppies Emil Nolde - 1907”

I have so many things to be grateful for, not least among them the ten-thousand people who, for whatever reason, took a moment to click “follow” on my website. I reached this blogging milestone just a few days ago.

Each follow  I’ve received over my 7 years of blogging has been received as a gift of love, a “micro-moment of positivity resonance,” as Barbara Fredrickson defines love in her book on the subject. Each click translates into  a smile, a hug, a friendly wave, a nod of encouragement, a cheerful thumbs-up, a coin of appreciation tossed to a fellow blogger, a way of saying I see you and like what you are doing.

I know most of those clicks were from friendly people who in their breeze through the blogosphere stopped for but a moment to wish me well and rarely returned. I certainly do not get 10,000 views on my posts each week, not do I expect to. But the fact that they took the time to make that click, for whatever reason, is deeply appreciated.

Many who are following this blog have become part of what I think of as my blogging family, a mutual admiration community I meet with online. It is you who I am “breaking bread” with each week when I send out my posts, read your comments, and visit your sites to see what you are up to.

My first blog post featured in the “Freshly Pressed” column was about “Blogging and the Accident of Touching“, which is how I see blogging, a way to reach out and touch others and be touched in return by your responses and posts.

Thank you for helping me reach this blogging milestone.

Today I am blowing ten-thousand kisses back to you.

Painting by Emil Nolde

“The Secret of Happiness” – A Coda to My Last Post

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After my last post on “happy endings” for our novels or ourselves, I’ve been thinking a lot about what exactly constitutes happiness and where it is to be found. Is it a goal worth striving for? Or should our life journey have a more practical, or grander,  purpose?

Is it to become fulfilled, to live up to our potential? Or simply to be “good,” to live what most would agree to be “the good life”?

Maybe it’s to “do no harm,” or to leave this Earth better than we found it, or to alleviate suffering wherever we find it?

Perhaps our journey is to find God, to become enlightened, to fathom the mysteries of the universe?

Or simply be present, bearing witness to all we encounter, the good, the bad, the ugly, the pain and suffering, the laughter and joy?

Maybe it’s just to gaze up at the stars in awe, and wonder what it’s all about.

But where does happiness fit into all this? Can it be found at all?

In my novel I have a chapter called “The Secret of Happiness.” Two characters, a young wife and her husband, are arguing about it. She’s come to believe that the secret of happiness is simply to stop thinking. To give the mind a rest from all its encircling doubts and fears and uncertainties.

He has another idea. “There is no secret to happiness,” he tells her.  “It’s all out in the open. You just have to grab it on the fly.”

I like his answer, as well I might, being the author of it. And I know where it came from.

There’s an old Zen story about a frustrated student who accuses his master of keeping the secret of enlightenment from him. The master claims that’s not true at all. “Do you not pour my tea for me? Do I not drink it?”

Still the student thinks the master is being deliberately obtuse. Then one day when they are walking through the mountains steeped with the sweet scent of trailing arbutus underfoot, the master turns eagerly to the student and asks, “Do you smell it?”

When the student says he does, the  master replies, “You see, I haven’t been hiding anything at all.” It was always right there, ready to be crushed underfoot.

So could it be that happiness, like enlightenment, isn’t hidden at all, but must be grabbed on the fly? Not because it’s elusive or evasive or enigmatic. But because in our headlong rush toward whatever hopeful ending we imagine for ourselves, which is always in the future, just out of reach, we overlook the abundant pleasure of life lying at our feet. Sometimes these pleasures seem too lowly, too humble, too ordinary to even note, let alone grab onto. Yet the self-so-ness of this unobtrusive good would fill our lives with such sweet moments of happiness, of warmth and well-being, if only we would have the presence of mind to note it.

It comes even in the midst of all our troubles, our worries and resentments, pains and hungers. Not “in spite of,” as I put it in my last post. But right there in the midst of it, that unconditional goodness permeates life and is woven into the fabric of reality.

A happy ending for my novel, or my life, is beside the point. Allowing our lives and our life’s work to be to infused with these sweet, rare essences is enough.

Photo of trailing arbutus by Justin Russell, public domain.

A Happy Ending for My Novel? For My Son?

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Florence Harrison, 1887 – 1937

One of the publishers we sent my novel to wants a rewrite of the ending. While their readers said they loved the first 2/3 of the novel (the novel is divided into 3 parts), they felt I tried a little too hard to tie up all the loose threads into what they called an “uber happy” ending for my characters.

I can’t say I’m surprised by this reaction. I too worried that I might have tied up the novel in too pretty a bow. Perhaps I should have left at least one or two threads dangling for the reader to play with. But I believed, despite that, the transformations of the characters, their coming to grips with their past, their fears, their demons, their very real struggles and eventual triumphs are what we all hope to find at the end of our stories, both the real and the imagined.

Happy does happen, after all.

But, of course, in reality, our stories and struggles do not end as they do in a novel. Our lives keep on going after that final page, whether it ends on a high note or a low. We all know that. So what’s the harm of ending the novel on an upbeat tick?

I wanted that for them, for these deeply flawed characters who I had come to love. Weren’t their flaws and failings, their addictions and anxieties, their grief and doubts and fears enough grit to ground the story? Couldn’t we soar a bit too, near the end?

Happy happens too, right?

But does it last?

Probably the most improbable part of my ending is the struggling son’s recovery from heroin addiction. Not an easy thing to do. The statistics are all against it. Few survive, and those who do never feel completely free. It’s always there, slippery beneath their feet, breathing hard down their necks, a giant question mark dangling on the horizon like a sharp, deadly hook.

Some parts of this novel are based loosely on my son’s struggle with heroin addiction. For all I tried, I never could completely wean him of his addiction. I could help him: Pull him off the street, put him into rehab, pick him up from jail, search for the medication and counseling he needed; call an ambulance when he overdosed.

Sometimes it worked. Woven through his battles with addiction are the times he won, the year, or two, or three he was free and happy and thriving. But it never lasted much more than that. Four, tops.

I always thought: If only he would listen to me, take my advice, do what I say; if I could lock him in a closet and keep him safe; if I could trade places with him, get into his skin and live his life for him, beat down the addiction once and for all and then give him his life back again, I would. But I couldn’t. I never could control him any more than he could control his addiction.

But I could control my characters. I could manage their recovery. I could give them a happy ending. It does happen, doesn’t it?

Rarely.

So I’m rewriting the end of my novel with that sharp, thorny question mark dangling in the air. As it always does, for each of us, whether we struggle with addiction or not.

Paradise burns to the ground. Mudslides swallow homes. Daughters lose babies. Sons relapse. Again, and again, and again.

But strangely, miraculously, hope never dies. Not completely. Homes are rebuilt. Lives turned around. Marriages mended.

Families come together at Thanksgiving and look across the table at each other with all their flaws and fears, their unhealed hurts and scars, and they love what they see. Through it all, despite it all, they just love.

That’s what my novel is all about. That “despite it all” kind of love, happy ending or not.