What They Mean for Your Reading or Writing
the sun set on December 10, the sky was awash with the
most intense color I have ever seen--perhaps the color
of flamingoes on fire or of burning embers when the
whole world is dark. I think the sky and the way it
painted the brush around me like blood in milk was so
intense because of the widespread wildfires we’ve
had in Southern California and, for a moment, I felt
pleasure in it, then guilt for that pleasure when I
realized the creation of so much beauty was bringing
so many so much sorrow.
I thought about another time I had a similar feeling.
We were cruising a fijord in Chile when we saw a glacier
calve. The white and blue mountain that pulled itself
away from the land was so immense it filled the narrow
waterway. The sound was everywhere and the echoes stayed
a long time. Waves from ice-cliff thundering into the
sound rocked our ship. I felt so lucky to have experienced
it, there! Right in front of me rather than on film.
When I stopped to realize that its size was a direct
result of melt from global warming and how similar marvels
were affecting polar bears in the northern hemisphere.
. .yes, it was that same guilt. And then the time I
turned my TV to CNN just as the bombing in Iraq appear
like celebratory fireworks and wondered how “shock
and awe” could be related to such beauty.
greatest literature if I dare make such a far-reaching
statement—benefits from disaster, too. War
and Peace comes to mind immediately, of course,
but the greatest stories are almost always set against
a backdrop of the horrors of war or disaster. Sometimes
even the greatest children’s stories. Think Bambi.
as readers love conflict and when conflict is at its
greatest, we learn more, feel more. If we learn compassion
from such events—real or recreated in literature—guilt
is but one reaction. Me might also consider that these
experiences remind us to be grateful. And, hopefully,
to look at the colors longer and appreciate them more.