The Unexpected in Life and Literature

With a thunderous crack much of the tree was gone, and so was our electricity. The pleasant weather we enjoyed earlier in the day had deteriorated into a nasty storm with mounds of charcoal clouds, torrents of rain, hail in some areas, and bolts of lightning.

We think the massive maple tree was hit by lightning because there wasn’t much wind at the time — no other reason for the tree to break apart as it did, flinging aside several branches all at once. One vehicle was slightly damaged, and a fence, but thankfully the tree fell away from any buildings.

Some days have a similar way of dropping the unexpected on us. My aunt would certainly agree with that! There’s not much predictability in life. Oh, of course we expect to get up, eat meals and go to work, meetings or church at specific times, but there’s no guarantee that our tomorrow will follow its anticipated schedule.

I suppose that’s why, when I’m reading a novel that drags me along on a character’s everyday journey, I lose patience. The predictable bits may exist in real life, but I don’t want to read about them. The ordinary has no place in most stories, even if the characters normally live a mundane life. It is the unexpected that jolts us out of complacency and propels us forward, eagerly flipping pages. Even in memoirs, we skip the boring bits. They may seem like useful transitions, but they also provide convenient places for the reader to lose interest and put aside the book.

Life in our neighbourhood will continue, but when the maple tree exploded, the local landscape instantly changed. We’ll all remember the moment when it happened — and that’s the kind of experience we want our readers to have … a memorable one.

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“The oaks and the pines, and their brethren of the wood, have seen so many suns rise and set, so many seasons come and go, and so many generations pass into silence, that we may well wonder what “the story of the trees” would be to us if they had tongues to tell it, or we ears fine enough to understand.”

Author Unknown, quoted in Quotations for Special Occasions by Maud van Buren, 1938

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“Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away;
behold, new things have come.”

2 Corinthians 5:17

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