“I love you, whatever you do – But I got a life to live too…” – Brandi Carlile
As I wade through my options and look forward to the future – and to building the life I have waited so long for, there is one thing that feels . . . off. I guess it was bound to happen. It doesn’t surprise me that I’d get here – to the fork in the road and feel unsettled – in spite of knowing what I want and sensing the path I need to take to get there. As I hope & pray for a new opportunity – including one that may take me across the country, I know I’m taking more steps toward letting you go.
When I wrote “Wild Things” in August of 2020, I was already predicting this fate. It’s just really hard for me to give up and let go. I suck at it, to be honest. And so, as I throw my heart and soul into pursuing this life I’ve been waiting on, I do so knowing I’m also taking steps that seal my fate – settling into the cold, wild – alone.
Before my recent vacation started, I started re-watching my all time favorite television show, LOST. You have to type it out that way . . . L-O-S-T, or you’re not a true LOSTie. So anyway, the show will always stick with me because of what the Show Runners, writers, and directors did with the characters throughout its six seasons. For a show that was filled with everything from time travel to age-old questions of faith vs. science, mystery, and even violence – it did what other action-packed dramas on television have never done for me – made me love its characters.
As someone that writes character-driven fiction, it was only natural that I’d fall in love with the characters themselves. They’re not exactly lovable. They’re not exactly worthy of hate, either. While there are a few characters that I will never like, for the most part, I love all of them. Each character is complex. None of them are fully good. Most of them aren’t fully bad, either. They’re like most of us – a healthy of mix of what’s good and what’s not.
Though I’m drawn to love stories in movies and books, those remain secondary to what has made me such a loyal fan of the show. That said (you knew I was going to throw a however comma in there, right?), there are some great love stories woven into the six seasons. It’s hard to pick which is my favorite – though Sawyer and Juliet and Jack and Kate certainly rise to the top. I’ve shared before that Desmond and Penny share one of my favorite television moments of all time. Above is another. While the whole clip is pivotal – in terms of the plot – it’s also another one of the perfect moments that passes between Desmond and Penny. Much like in my favorite moment between them, in The Constant.
It is ultimately their love that changes things, for everyone on the island – at least on the surface. But I love their love. It’s my kind of love. These two stay the course, in spite of insurmountable odds. Desmond – poor guy – he takes the worst of it, thanks to Penny’s horrible father. And even though there are moments when she wavers, in the beginning, she knows. She knows how loved she is. She knows how far Desmond will go to show her that.
Because of that, she waits. She doesn’t give up. While she waits, she’s constantly trying to figure out how to find Desmond so they can be reunited. At about 2:50 in the clip, Desmond recalls the words Penny has written him in a letter he keeps – to remind him of how and where they started. I remain uncertain that in season 1 – these two would become as important as they are in the rest of the seasons. Nonetheless, it is their determination and dedication to each other that keeps them on course.
This is my kind of love. If only. Strip away all the craziness of a TV show – these two have a few things going for them in addition to loving each other – loyalty, determination, and patience are a pretty solid foundation. It’s what sustains them through the darkest moments when all seems lost (pun intended). Like I said – if only.
If I bottled up the tears and words, And stored them in my home, I’d run out of room. The bottles, scribbled with your name, Would spill out of the doors & windows, Piling up like my dreams. – By Elaina M. Avalos
I don’t live near the sea anymore. I thought I would miss it – but the mountains of North Carolina have taken up residence in my heart. I was raised beside the wild Pacific, on a ranch and vineyard, one of only a few along that shoreline, nestled into the mountains and hills of the Big Sur coastline. The coastal landscape along the winding Highway 1 is at once stunning and agonizingly lonely. It’s melancholy – like me. Giant Redwoods tower above you on one side and then within a few steps, cacti and wild California brush co-mingle with an intoxicating scent that you get to enjoy when it rains – or when the landscape is warmed on summer days.
It was there, on those lonely hills, that my life became both deeply painful and shockingly beautiful. When I left California, nearly seven years ago now, I did so with little more than a weekend trip to the mountains of North Carolina to decide it was what was next for us. I knew very little about the place that would be come home to Jackson and I.
I put aside my novel, A Thousand Years, for a while. But I may have found a good way ahead for a novel that was floundering. It’s still a lot of work and a major rewrite. So much so that I’m contemplating making part of the wall in my dining room (that’s really just an office and a place for the dog to sleep her life away), into a plot wall. I have no idea how I’ll make this work, but in my head, it’s something like this . . .
But I’m thinking character’s names, important dates, scenes, etc. and then plugging in and moving around as need be. In part, this novel is two distinct stories – and that’s where it got weird and confusing. I wanted to get the thing written. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t fit the entirety of this story into one novel. It just didn’t want to work with me. What I’m saying is . . . it had a mind of its own.
If I’m honest, this “novel” should probably be written as a script. Except I have no clue what I’m doing in that regard. I have never attempted, nor do I know where to start, when it comes to writing a script. Two of my favorite writers, directors, and show runners – are the two men above (Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof). What they did with LOST – in terms of the characters, is and always will be inspiring to me. While I loved the storyline, that faithful viewers followed throughout its 6 seasons, it is actually the characters themselves that I grew to love more than the plot.
I didn’t care about all of the explanations about the weird things that happened on the island as much as I cared about the character’s journeys. They were weird, complicated, beautiful, and sometimes, really bad people. It was hard, at many points, to determine whether you hated or loved a character. Or maybe hated is too strong a word. Either way – they were complicated. A character like Sayid Jarrah, for instance, was terribly hard to figure out. He was a torturer – literally. Yet, he was deeply burdened by his past life – regretting all of it. He also found it much easier to slip back into his old ways when the need would arise. But I digress. The point was, I loved Sayid. But it wasn’t always easy to love him. Sawyer is another example. He was deeply, deeply flawed. He pushed everyone away and seemed, at times, to happily convince others to hate him. Yet, we learned throughout the show, what started him on this path. And that made all of the difference in the world in how you viewed him.
I love writers and directors who can tell stories like that – stories that make you love the characters in spite of their flaws, that is. All along, A Thousand Years, was a novel about family. The problem is, I started too far along into the story. Birdie Langston’s story didn’t start where I started writing the novel. It went way back. Way, way back. That became apparent quite quickly. Birdie (the protagonist) was trying to get through to me the whole time. I listen well. Except when it comes to writing. Sometimes I get something in my head and don’t see around the original vision, even when a bigger story is taking shape.
I’m now rambling on – but while I’m on my tangent – let’s talk about LOST again and how characters take on a life of their own. Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof could certainly clear this up for me, but there are times I wonder if two of the LOST characters were intended to become who & what they became (when the show runners began working together). Those two characters are Desmond & Penny. They played pivotal roles, in the development of LOST overall, in my opinion. But I’m not 100% convinced it was always meant to be that way. Or perhaps I should say, I’m not certain they started out this way. And yet, in spite of that, the two are among my favorites. They also happen to be the stars of my favorite moment of all six seasons of LOST. It’s hands down my favorite. There’s no way to explain what brought these two to this moment, so I won’t even try. But it is, without fail, the moment that always, always gives me chills. I have seen it dozens and dozens of times and it still gives me chills at exactly the same moments, literally every time. Penny is Desmond’s “constant.” And man, this was an incredible TV moment. It’s romantic, beautiful, and a bit of encouragement – for all of us hoping that rescue was somewhere on the horizon.
If I’m wrong, and Penny & Desmond were in the plan from day one – to always have this moment (that would usher in a whole new direction for the show) – it only drives home for me how important it is for the writer to take a backseat. A story that wants to be told should be indulged. Even if it takes you to Scotland, England, and a freighter in the middle of the ocean – way out of the action on the island.
And so, I’m back. But the clock is being reset and the story is starting somewhere else – in another day and time. It starts with the family that raised Birdie and the soil they love, the hard work that made them, and the determination – that created the woman that Birdie would eventually become.