Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Burning up, and I kinda like it

For the last week, I’ve been walking around with red eyes, a slight headache, and clothing that reeks of smoke.

No, I haven’t been hanging out in a hash bar.

This is Central Oregon in the summertime, where a weird convergence of dry, desert landscape, big trees, and frequent late-summer lightning storms results in an abundance of forest fires each year.

Currently, more than half-a-dozen fires are burning over 60,000 acres. That might sound like a lot, but it’s actually a pretty slow fire season for us.

There are obvious downsides to having everything around you in flames. Aside from the occasional risk of, you know, BURNING TO DEATH, you deal with runny eyes and noses, occasional breathing difficulties, hazy skies, and hair that smells like you’ve been rolling in an ashtray.

But there’s an upside to all the summer forest fires. Every year, I make it a point to pour myself a glass of wine, retreat to my back deck around 8 p.m., and revel in that upside.

Yes, the forest fires make for excellent sunsets. The smoky haze creates an incredible filter for the slowly sinking sun, sending up bursts of technicolor orange, yellow, red, and a whole lot of other colors seldom found in the Crayola box.

Even after a few glasses of sunset-enhancing wine, the metaphor isn’t lost on me. No matter what sort of lousiness life might throw at you, there’s always something positive you can take away from it. Even when everything goes up in smoke, there’s an upside somewhere. Always.

You just have to look for it.

That’s true whether you’re talking about natural disasters, setbacks in your writing career, trauma in your personal life, or walking face-first into a door at work and breaking your nose but being kinda glad you did it because you didn't get stuck in that boring 10:30 meeting.

Hypothetically speaking.

My first book deal that fell through in 2006 when Harlequin canceled the Bombshell line?

I'm so glad now that book never hit shelves. My writing has improved and my voice has changed to the point that I almost don't recognize that story as something I produced.

The unexpected divorce that gobsmacked me earlier this year?

I would never have known how much happier I could be if I hadn't been hit squarely between the eyes by that two-by-four.

Can you think of a time you were surrounded by crummy stuff but saw a silver lining anyway? Is it generally tough or easy for you to do? Please share!

And if you’re having trouble coming up with something, I’d like to humbly invite you to my back deck this evening.

I’ll supply the wine.

20 comments :

Jessica Bell said...

Wow, that looks pretty stunning! Yeah, I've marveled at fire induced remarkable sky views before. Bit hard not to!

Julie H. said...

To paraphrase Phil Hartman's Frankenstein, "Fire...beautiful."

I wrote about this a little bit on my blog earlier this year, but I had to go through several rounds of IVF in order to have my two children. And while all the poking and probing and bloating and hormoning sucked, every round of IVF afforded me 3 WHOLE DAYS of bedrest. Three whole days of doing whatever the heck I wanted (from the comfort of my own bed or couch) without interruption. Oh, and the children are a pretty good silver lining, as well.

Matthew MacNish said...

The one things that fascinates me about forest fires is the Jack Pine. This tree species actually needs forest fires to reproduce. The cones are serotinous. Which means they only open when exposed to intense heat.

Isn't nature amazing?

Patty Blount said...

As I get older, I find it easier to find silver linings... unfortunately, most turn out to be gray hairs, but still... easier.

Linda G. said...

It's the yin and yang -- the goods are always better when compared to a few bads.

I'm pretty attuned to seeing the silver in most situations. Don't always appreciate the burnish right away, but I try. ;)

Bookewyrme said...

I whole-heartedly agree. Sometimes it takes me a little while, but I can ALWAYS find a silver-lining somewhere, in some way. If I can't, then the situation is pretty damn dire, and someone probably is dead. :P

~Lia

Shallee said...

Sometimes, looking for the silver lining is the only way I stay sane. It's hard to see it when you're in the middle of the tough times, but hindsight helps a lot.

Thanks for sharing, Tawna. I'm glad you found your own silver linings.

Suz Korb said...

I'm pretty much always mid-crises. Will let you know if things ever look up.

Lola Sharp said...

I'm big on silver linings. It's my nature, yes, but for those it doesn't come naturally to, it's really a choice...a smart choice, IMHO. Making the best of the lemons by adding some vodka is really the most satisfying and enjoyable way to live a life. Even funerals can be a party, a joyful remembrance, a celebration of love.

To those going through a divorce I always say this: think of all the first kisses you get to have again! (and the wiser choices you get to make the next time you commit)

Enjoy your sunsets! *cheers*
~Lola

Judy,Judy,Judy. said...

I'm in that kind of situation right now. My job is sucking so bad I'm working hard at finding a new one. I know that something good is going to come from the suck - hehehe.
Tawna - Glad to hear that the after effects of your divorce left you in a happy place!

jill said...

I'm another one who sees the silver lining most of the time. When I went through breast cancer surgeries and chemo a few years back, I was hoping to use the time off work to write. My brain wasn't in a writing mood, but I was able to edit a couple of my works-in-progress and read a ton of books.

Post-chemo, I realized that my hair looked just as good or even better short than it did long and now it's easier to take care of.

Love your sunset pictures. Hope the flames and smoke do nothing except make beautiful skies.

Robena Grant said...

Sorry about the smoke, but I love the photo.
I try to look for the silver lining but only find it after kicking a few walls and letting fly with a few cuss words. Once I get over my bad mood I can always find something good in a situation.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

As much as I love this post (and I totally do) I'm really excited that there's someone else in the universe who appreciates a forest-fire enhanced sunset. I'm from the Tri-Cities, and while we don't have forest fires, we have sagebrush fires on badger mountain every summer. It does make for gorgeous sunsets! And yet, whenever I tell people about them, they look at me like I'm crazy. :)

Maureen said...

Other than loving your posts, I have to say that I also am loving MAKING WAVES! Sure, it's a "charming beach read" but it's really a "charming read." In any position or location. Sand in your toes or not.

But then, a little sand never hurts, right? You bring the wine, I'll bring some sand.

No, wait. I'll bring wine, you provide the sand.

Oh, heck. Let's BOTH bring wine and forget about the sand...

Karen Duvall said...

As a fellow Bendite, I'm suffering from smoke stinging my eyes, too. And a cough. I hold my breath a lot. I feel your pain.

Silver linings... yes! The silver is of the tarnished variety, but when my Best of Bend client recently kicked me to the curb so that she could hire an artist in Texas to replace me, it's probably a godsend. Not that I like being poor, but now I'm able to focus more on writing.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Fires do make for pretty sunsets as long as they are far away and no one is losing their lives or houses. But I do know what you mean.

I live in SLC and last year there was a huge fire on the mountain across the valley. It was amazing.

Hope the smoke clears soon.

Kathi

Simon C. Larter said...

So if I claim to not be able to think of anything, when I really can, does the invitation still stand? 'Cause I can never pass up free alcohol.

:hopeful grin:

Tawna Fenske said...

Jessica, I always feel a little guilty admiring them, and then I do it anyway.

Julie H, I had a couple surgeries that required bed-rest. Best. Days. Ever.

Matthew, I didn't know that. I learn something new every day!

Patty, I went on a gray hair pulling rampage last night. It wasn't pretty.

Linda G, I love the word "burnish."

Bookewyrme, I just mistyped your handle as Boobwyrme...and then I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Shalleee, indeed, I do love the silver linings. Sometimes they're tough to find, but they're there.

Suz, I know the feeling, but there's still usually something positive you can find.

Lola, love what you wrote here >>It's my nature, yes, but for those it doesn't come naturally to, it's really a choice...a smart choice, IMHO<< Amen, sistah. Amen.

Judy, Judy, Judy, good luck in th job quest. Been there, done that, found myself happier on the other side.

Jill, your hair DID look adorable when we met!!!

Robena, you're always entitled to the kicking/cursing, as long as you can find something good in it when you're done with all that.

Bethany, people who don't live with forest fires as part of their lives don't always get that they're just part of nature. Tragic sometimes, yes, but often necessary.

Maureen, wine, sand...yes! Thanks for the kind words about the book.

Karen, are you dealing with the nasty headache where it feels like someone's trying to pop your eyeballs out from behind? Hate that.

Kathi, there are so many wide open forests around here that homes aren't often threatened, though it certainly does happen.

Simon, bottoms up!

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Malin said...

I'm afraid I see the silverling very well, but revel in the nastiness until the sordid affair is over. Afterwards I can be all positive about it though!

Four years ago it was different. I was one of those horridly see-only-sunshine people. I'm sure I annoyed the hell out of most people. Since then, I've lived in a consistent haze of pain. Usually very, very mild (like 1-3 on a 1-10 scale) but when it's always there, it gets you down.

The upside of that? I've learned to prioritise. I don't have the energy to help everyone, do school, work, write, exercise etc etc at the same time. I've learned to say 'no' and to not offer a hand for something others can do as well.

There are good sides to everything, sometimes it just takes some time to see them.

Lisa Ahn said...

Great post and topic. I tend to see the silver lining after the fact -- WAY after the fact. In the moment, my vision tends to be much more muddy.
The best example that comes to mind is when I had to move from one city to another about 12 years ago. I wasn't thrilled about the move, but, in the process, I met the man I eventually married.
Lots of other crummy days and scary moments have become writing fodder -- so there's always that!