Author’s note: This blog was written in response to yesterday’s writing prompt challenge on A Writer’s Path: Ten Quote Tuesday, in which we were to write about “A human cage, built without a lock.” It’s a great writer’s site–very inspiring.
Hope among the Embers
My shelter sits on the edge of the Sea of Fear. I have all I need here.
I’ve been building this place for nearly 50 years, and I’ve stocked it well.
The floor is warm, lined with newspaper clippings and childhood essays with large, red A-plus marks scrawled across the top. The yellowed by-lines on some of the articles whisper my maiden name. I re-read the stories now and cringe at my poor grammar and worldly naiveté. Still, I keep them because of the accolades from teachers and publishers; their sparks ignited a fire that still burns in the shelter’s camp stove.
The shelter beams were fashioned over many years through friendships and mentorships. I run my fingers along the loving, encouraging messages engraved throughout in scrawling gnarled script. “I love your writing.” “Don’t ever give up.” “If you ever write a book, I’ll certainly read it.” Each beam is treasured. Some can never be replaced.
I’ve fortified the walls with tools of the trade. I’ve joined writers’ groups, taken tutorials, purchased How-To books, attended online seminars, and traveled to conferences. I’ve taken more notes and saved more useful files than I’ll ever be able to read, even if I knew where they’re stored on this blasted computer. Still, it gives me peace to know they’re there—if I ever need them.
Photographs pasted on the walls chronicle 40 years of growth and maturity, depicting victories over mind and body. Swimming across the Sakonnet River. Gaffing trees. Rappelling. The first time I fired Expert at the shooting range. Periods of extreme grief. The love of a good man. Raising two boys. Unspeakable joy. Jobs of increasing significance. Walking away from the last job to write. Writing a book. Rewriting the book. Rewriting the book.
Firelight from the camp stove illuminates the open front door and the sea beyond. I sit with my belongings and watch the water’s ripples kiss the shore. Hemmingway, Poe, Harper Lee, Erma Bombeck, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Orson Scott Card, Maya Angelou, Nicholas Sparks. My tables, my chairs, my blankets, my friends. Nestled here, I’m safe and I’m happy, but I’m not content.
There’s something out there, across the water, and it is good. My raft bobs at the pier, like hope ready to burst. It’s big enough to carry me and my shelter, and everything in it. But the sea is so vast. I don’t know what creatures lurk in its depths, or whether a storm sits on the horizon, preparing even now to churn the waters into a frenzy. If that happened, I’d lose everything. I look across the sea, and wonder…
Enough for today. I reach up and pull the shelter door closed, then snuggle against the cold with Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Drowsily, I listen to him whisper from across the years:
“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.”
The fire in the camp stove has been refueled. Tomorrow, I will try again.