Curiosity might kill the cat, but it feeds the writer. What was it like to be a woman on the prairie, trapped and alone in her cabin during a howling week-long blizzard, not knowing if her husband is riding it out in town or trapped somewhere between there and home? What was it like to have to marry a man twice your age, someone you barely knew, a widower with a half dozen children from his first wife, because your father arranged it? What was it like to have to leave behind all your friends and family, the only way of life you’ve ever known, because your husband wants to go west and start over? What was it like to be a woman during a time when women had little say in such decisions?
The answers to some questions can prove to be too frightening. What will happen if I fill this blank paper with words and send it to a publisher? Maybe they’ll love it and print it and the whole world will come to idolize me. Maybe I’ll just make a complete fool of myself.
Other questions, like the ones above that fill my head, are a tantalizing invitation to visit a long ago time and place and the people who lived there. They’re a chance to open doors to entire worlds other than my own.
I took this picture of a fawn cautiously checking out the fenced-in portion of our yard a couple years ago. We normally close that gate (to keep the deer out) but my husband had accidently left it open and this little one was drawn to the unknown so enticingly beckoning from the other side. She stood at the open gate and stretched her neck to look inside but she would not step past the threshold. Mom stayed a little ways back, closer to the trees, keeping an eye on her young one but not too terribly concerned. “What’s in there?” the fawn wondered. “I want to know but I’m afraid it could be dangerous so I won’t go in. I’ll just stand here and look.” Then she saw me standing just inside the sunroom with my camera. I froze. She froze. Then she turned and ran, mom close behind.
Do you turn and run when faced with the unknown? Or do you jump in with both feet?