Sometimes we read stories with such absurd or ironic characters that we can’t help but laugh from that place within us that has no bounds. Other times we read stories with such gravity that we are sucked out of our own lives into the place that the character stands. Perhaps we are sucked into the Astronomy Tower under the invisibility cloak as we see Dumbledore fall. Or we are pulled into the bush from which we watch as Aslan is shaved and slain. Maybe it’s into the hospital room as we see Hazel standing next to a dying Gus. A good story pulls us in.
However, truly powerful stories do not only pull us in, they also push us up out of their pages into the story of our own lives. A great author is able to implant in us the sense to feel the weight of our own narrative arc. As our eyes run back and forth over the pages of a good book our hearts often also run back and forth across time—times in which we have felt the same feelings the character feels. Into moments of delight so fragile they might be blown out. Into an instant of past regret that pangs at us from across decades. Through anticipated moments of sorrow that we know, like every story, we will have. The gift a great author gives us is to take us far away and then return us to the place we never left able to see differently. There is something sacred about that ache of melancholy we feel after concluding a story that has reached inside us.
The power of such a story is that it places us back into our own setting sad to have reached the end of the character’s journey, but realizing that we are still in the middle of our own. Recently, after finishing a powerful book I was placed into my present life in front of this pear orchard thinking back to memories as a child with my young parents and pondering ahead about what ways my story will or won’t mirror those two people who raised me. Part of the splendor of entering another world is the joy in returning to see how beautiful my world is and how gripping it is to write my story day after day, season after season, knowing one day my narrative will also conclude.
I’ve authored the past two years of my story in front of these pear trees. Seeing all these photos together reminds me that life, like most good stories, is linear yet strangely cyclical. Reoccurring themes come up, but never in quite the same ways. Like Harry and Ginny on Platform 9 3/4 sending James and Albus to Hogwarts, or the Pevensies as they exit the wardrobe, or Hazel as she returns to support group after Gus’ death. Our stories are always moving forward, but often we find ourselves in astonishing familiar scenes.