Last week, we had a freak storm sweep into our area. One minute, things were pretty calm. A little overcast, maybe, but not bad weather. The next minute, 70 mph winds start raging and pelting us with hail. The assault lasts for about 5 minutes, and then it just stops. Things go back to pretty calm again, and we’re left wondering, “What was that?” I still don’t know what it was exactly, but it left plenty of damage in its wake:
This was a tree in my back yard. I guess it still is a tree, but it just doesn’t feel as tree-like in the horizontal. As you can see, much of the top half of the tree was already dead. But the lower region near the base, and a few stalwart branches, still gave it their all and sprouted green every spring. But no more. Those near-hurricane-force winds came through and pulled it right down. Snapped it. At first I was pretty impressed by the feat, but as I was inspecting the break, I found this:
Yes. That is a chain. Inside the tree. I have no idea how it got there, but it has to have been there for years and years, attached when the tree was young and then slowly enveloped as the tree grew around it. After I saw this, I understood not only how the wind was able to topple this tree, but also why it was dying. It had a thick, rusty chain wrapped around its innards.
The thing is just begging for an obvious metaphor. A moral tale about what happens if you carry destructive emotions around for too long, the cost of anger, envy, or regret. Or perhaps a simple allusion to Jacob Marley would suffice. But I don’t think I’ll go that way. Instead, I’m going to make it a metaphor for writing.
You see, I’m working on the first draft of my next book, as I recently mentioned, and it’s turning out to be a much bigger book than I thought it was going to be. And that’s okay. I have to let it grow and be what it wants to be. I could fight it, and force it to be what I originally planned. I could chain it up. But that would only bury a weakness at its heart, something that I have no doubt would bring the whole thing crashing down at about the 3/4 mark. So I’m not going to restrict it. I’m going to let it grow unencumbered.
What kind of tree it grows into? That remains to be seen, and is the subject of a whole different metaphor.