Friday, October 2, 2009

Dharma and Karma and Funeral Homes

Last night at Zuda, I was in the second minute of Utkatasana (or squat for my gym friends)--sweating, wincing, possibly cursing--when our instructor said "When things are hard, the teacher is in the room". The teacher, of course, being the universe or God, depending on how you roll in that regard. And at the end, he chanted something for which I can't remember the exact translation from Sanskrit, but the gist was the universe--or God-- is wise, all-knowing, and our greatest teacher.

Fabulous, you're thinking, what does this have to do with writing? Well, as you few, but fierce fictionlimbo followers know, Laura and I trekked across the country last week for a real, live Done Fell Out research trip. If you know me and Laura, or if you're a mother who often feels the weight of your family, perhaps the world, on your shoulders, you know how not-easy it is to make a solo trip and leave the troops behind to fend for themselves. Will lunches get made? Will homework be completed? Will they make it to practice? Will they--God, please--wear underwear to school? I could go on and on, but you get it. So as the date approached, Laura and I worried we were being frivolous, indulgent, even delusional. Sure, as we went through security and boarded the plane, we gave lip service to the commitment to our craft, nothing ventured, nothing gained, and other Oprah-isms, but not so deep down, we both questioned whether the trip was a good use of our time.

This is where the yoga comes in, the chant, the universe, God; because we found our answer shortly after we walked into McDougald Funeral Home and Crematorium, a place we were referred to as a result of chance encounters and the kindness of strangers. (In the interest of context, and in case I've not mentioned this before, our main character in Done Fell Out--a California native-- inherits a funeral home in a small town in North Carolina). There we met Beacham McDougald, whose family has owned the funeral home since the mid 1800s when it was a funeral home and a furniture store, who happened to have a free hour to discuss his business (he had two funerals that afternoon), talk about the families he serviced, give us a tour, and who happened--hello universe, God--to be a writer. He didn't say as much, but when he gave us (yes, gave and let us take home) a personally bound collection of the stories he'd written about the families his home had serviced, we knew writing was also his personal passion. Laura and I looked at each other with the tears and goose bumps of gratitude because we knew with all certainty (and how often does that happen?) that in that moment, in that instant, we were exactly where God, the universe, intended.

A special thanks to Beacham McDougald for his time and his lovely stories and a special apology to Ty at Zuda for possibly butchering his lovely chant.

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