Friday, February 04, 2011

The Geometry of Life

I recently read some advice connected with the Clarion West Writers' Workshop:  Practice writing endings so you get as good at writing them as you do beginnings. So I worked on the ending for this story and I wrote and wrote into the night. I came up with a bunch of stuff that sounded preachy.

Then it was time for sleep.

Words crashed around in my head like waves against cliffs as I slid between the cold sheets of bed. Images and phrases surfaced in the whirlpool of thoughts and I sat up and jotted a few down on the pad next to the nightstand. I thought, "If I don't do something, I'm going to be kept up half the night." I've learned that the best way to quiet my lexical mind is to use my iconic one. So I drew: A quartered globe. Two dots connected by a line. A telescope and a microscope; an Eye of Horus. A branching tree. A drafting compass; a paint brush. A book. A throne; a seat. A mask.

I was still thinking about the ending of my trip, but at least my mind was quiet enough to sleep.

The next morning, I tried to use story critique as a tool to figure out this story's ending:
In the manuscript of Pegasus Ranger in Portland, I see someone using artifice as a tool to search for an axis mundi. He dons a costume and begins his search with a train ride; he discovers that the meridians and parallels of the world are blurred. He thinks he's discovered an axis mundi in a temple of art, but his vision of artistic logos overwhelms him and he retreats. A fellow writer, a kind of shadow-shelf of the searcher, turns his attention to Death. Each of the searcher's encounters contrasts and compares chaos and order; control and surrender; expectations, fantasy, and reality. At the end, he tries to connect the dots into a paradigm, but they don't mesh perfectly. The story ends with the searcher almost home, passing a shadowed milestone.

I thought about the critique. Endings are supposed to be where you connect the dots. And as a writer I'm expected to connect them with a flourish and a twist. But then I thought about Georges-Pierre Seurat, who painted A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte -- he didn't connect the dots. And so I think I've found the ending to this story.

The Geometry of Life is always Deconstructed by Entropy.  But Life -- which includes its terminus, Death -- is not about seeing, it's about how one looks. The act of observation not only changes the observed, it changes the observer. Look well.  Bring outfits.  Look good.
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