I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Shadows on the Screen: Laura Herrmann, Three Years Later

I went to Laura's grave to leave some flowers. It turned out that the earth was already quite generous in this regard... the whole section of the cemetery where she was buried was white with clover. With the rain we've been having lately, it seems as if clover sprouts and blooms in the wake of a lawnmower. The persistence of the tiny flowers is aggravating if you desire a crisp looking lawn. But, with a flip of a mental switch, you can see the flowers as flowers once again, and wonder why anyone in their right mind would ever wish to mow them.

The clover triggered a memory of driving around with Laura in the country a few weekends before she died, specifically to look at fields blooming with clover, wild sage, and other tiny flowers that in aggregate paint the spring landscape. And of course, one memory can trigger a cascade: I wound up thinking about our trips to the beach, and about scouring the shoreline for fragments of beach glass, which she collected with the goal of decorating, well, something. Maybe a table one day. She did cover one light switch plate in her bathroom with beach glass.
Foolishly, I once spotted beach glass for sale in one of the gift shops at the beach, and suggested she could reach her goal of a table-sized quantity much quicker just buy buying a bag or two. She looked at me as if I were an idiot. The stuff for sale at the shop wasn't "real" beach glass. It had been manufactured in a rock tumbler. It was actually much nicer and smoother than the stuff we'd find on the shore, some of which would still have a sharp edge or two. But it wasn't real. It wasn't of any use to her.
In hindsight, it's plain to me now that our hours spent walking along the beach, heads down, eyes searching for any hint of green or blue (the most cherished forms of beach glass, with brown and white the most common), weren't about gathering the glass. They were about gathering memories.
It's so easy to pass through life in too big of a hurry to stop and build any memories. Last summer, I spent nearly all my free time hunched over a computer banging out books. With the exception of a few moments, most of last summer just blurs into one long haze of typing. This year, I'm not going to be such a slave to the keyboard. I want to go out and see the world, and look at some flowers. I want to go hiking and fishing; I want to just get in my car and go places I've never gone. The one thing I definitely don't want to do is spend my summer sitting around watching television, or surfing the internet. Nothing is worse than a skull full of memories of all the TV shows you've watched. It's like bringing home bags of beach glass from a shop. Sure, you've got recollections of exciting adventures, clever things people said, and breathtaking scenery... but they've all been manufactured for you. A real memory isn't going to be quite as clean. You're going to remember that when you walked on the beach, you got sunburned. When you went hiking, you inhaled a pound of gnats. You went fishing and caught some nice fish, but you also buried a hook under your fingernail when you were reaching into the tackle box.
And you'll cherish these experiences all the more.
Real memories, like real beach glass, should have a few sharp edges.


Victoria said...

Hi James,

I came to visit your site, well, because someone told me recently that the novel I've been working on for a while now has some similar themes to your Bitterwood novel. (Since you can't buy in Australia yet, I thought I'd track down a website and just make sure I was avoiding any similarities.)

Anyway... that's why I came, but not why I stayed, and not why I kept reading.

I was drawn by your evocative and thoughtful post about Laura, and I went back to find out the story of her passing.

I just want to tell you how beautiful your words about her are, and what a lovely tribute they are... and how much I admire the courage and grace with which you've moved foreward.

All the best,

Vic K.

James Maxey said...

Thanks, Vic K.

On the subject of Bitterwood, I wouldn't worry too much about similarities. No matter how hard you try to be original with a book, you're going to discover that someone has already written something similar. Still, if you're interested in getting your hands on the book, just email me at the address in my profile and I'll send you a PDF of the book, no charge.

Thanks for stopping by,