Thursday, July 9, 2009

Birth, death, and everything in-between

This is not my daughter, but it could be. She passed her driver's test today and she's one 'happy camper'.

Watching the joy cross her face when the examiner told her she'd passed reminded me of what a huge milestone this is in a young person's life. One step closer to true adulthood, which they think brings them so many freedoms.

Talking to her about the importance of this achievement reminded me of an assignment I did in university. We were given long scrolls of paper and asked to draw a line from one end to the other. At the far left point of the line we drew a mark and labelled it "birth". At the the other end of the line, we placed a mark and labelled it "death". The assignment was to draw peaks in the line for all the major events that had happened in our lives to date, and those we saw in the future. We were given about 45 minutes to complete this, so were expected to put in a lot of peaks!

We set to work. Some of us put in peaks for learning to crawl, learning to walk, entering kindergarten. A lot happened in the first 5 years. Then some of us skipped ahead to getting our driver's licenses, part-time jobs and highschool graduation. We all drew a peak for university entrance, but after that, our lives were up to our imaginations. Most of us put in peaks for starting our careers, getting married, having children, buying cars and homes. Some of us even thought to put in peaks for our children's achievements (crawling, walking, school) and this took us to about mid-span on our lines. A few of us noted retirement, and some might have imagined travel, but for the most part, our lines were rather 'peakless' after about the age of 40.

I did a lot of assignments in university, but this is one of the few I still remember. At the end of the allotted time, the professor asked us where most of our 'peaks' were clustered. He asked where the least were clustered. We discussed the reason for this. Of course, most of us could not even imagine reaching middle age, so we didn't concern ourselves too much with the flat lines after that point, but the image stuck with me. The professor pointed out that, typically, there are less 'peaks' after after middle age, other than giving up our driver's licences and, maybe, moving to carehomes. (And it could be argued that those are not 'peaks' but dips'.)

But now I'm there. Past the midlife point. I have reached those 'peakless' years that I once imagined. But does it have to be that way? I am healthy and fit. There are many things I can still learn and experience. I can imagine many more published books. Peak peak peak. I can imagine grandchildren. I can imagine new friends and relationships. I can imagine new activities. Adventures. Peak Peak.

We all have a choice. We can allow the second half of our life-lines to remain flat, or we can find ways to continue living, and maintain peaks. I've talked about taking up piano again, and I recently climbed back into a kayak. As I get better at the things I still do, I'll imagine them as peaks, (though they may, actually, look more like foothills.)

At our celebration lunch today, I thought of telling my daughter about this assignment, and how passing the driver's test may be one of those major peaks in her life. But I didn't. Instead, I outlined the rules about driving, about sharing my car, and the consequences for breaking the rules. In short, I lectured. Afterall, she's too young to care about life lines, and clusters of peaks. She's too busy living.

And that's what I intend to do too.

Image from:

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Cover Art

Isn't this a stunning photo?

I stumbled across it among my daughter's photos when I was looking for something else. At first I thought it was a photo she'd taken, but then I realized that those are her legs. Not too likely that she posed and took the shot. She's flexible, but.... even she has limits.

The image has stayed with me, I guess because it's such an unusual subject, the ballet slippers against the backdrop of a chain-link fence in an industrial area.

Then I remembered that the novel I'm working on features a dancer. Wouldn't it be wonderful if I could use this photo on the cover of the book? It would be so perfect to have my daughter as the model. And this is exactly the kind of photo that my last two books have featured, photos that show only one part of the body, the part that suggests what the theme of the book might be... Maybe if I rewrite the setting into a more industrial area....

Okay, I just gave my head a serious shake. I am getting way ahead of myself. The book is only half written. I haven't signed a contract. I may never get it finished and even if I do, chances are that it won't be publishable. And even if I do get it finished and someone agrees to publish it, the publisher always determines what the cover art will be. I've rarely heard of an author having any say on what goes on the front of their books. Their job is to write the story. It is someone else's job to design the book.

But I can dream. And it IS a stunning photo. And I AM a proud mother.