A Spark Spelled Out

Doctor ZhivagoHere are two stories that (still) inspire my soul.

In 1965 everyone was talking about a new must-see movie. Everyone that is, except me. My mother wasn’t sure it was appropriate for a 6th grader. I didn’t know what it was about exactly, but the trailer made it look exotic and full of passion and set to a soundtrack that blew me away like a flurry of weightless snowflakes. Its name was exotic too - Dr. Zhivago. Imagine my surprise when my mother agreed to let me go see it with the rough and rowdy Hansen family from down the street. It was  the first time I was allowed to go to a movie without my parents. So it was on a night dark and blue, my heart bursting with anticipation, that I began a love affair with Russia.

Not long after that I picked up a copy of the book Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. I had never experienced poetry in a novel before. These poems  were like little stories themselves. As for the ending, it floored me: this wasn’t some contrived Romeo and Juliet tragedy; this was real life where true love doesn’t always win and many a good-hearted person dies.  Still what shines through is Dr. Zhivago's excitement and interest in life - harsh and tragic, but also achingly beautiful and exuberant. He says, "If you go near...a spark will light up the room and either kill you on the spot or electrify you for your whole life..." 

FAST FORWARD 40 YEARS...the year is now 2008.

I am reading about a new series on PBS Masterpiece Mystery. Kenneth Branaugh plays the lead, it takes place in Sweden and is based on a ‘wildly popular’  Wallander detective series by Swedish author Henning Mankell.  ‘Wildly popular’? I  consider myself a mystery connoisseur - why had I never heard of Wallander? In a frenzy I called the Woodstock brKurt Wallander PBS mysteryanch library.  Yes, they had it on the shelf, yes they would hold it for me.  Watching that first episode and reading Faceless Killers, the first book in the series, I fell headlong into a world stark and unkind, one so full of contrast and intolerance that it made my eyes ache. Enhanced by the sweet, melancholy theme music sung by Emily Barker, this was the story of detective Kurt Wallender, trying to solve a gruesome murder while also trying to connect with his elderly father and estranged daughter. But once again I couldn’t quit reading, couldn't quit listening, couldn’t quit watching the series over and over.

At one point, Wallender says, "These are our lives. And they're precarious. Miraculous. They're all we have". It made me wonder what is it inside me that lies dormant and asleep, waiting for just the right phrase or musical note or image to strike in a burst of fire and wake it up. It is hard to predict. All I can do is open my eyes and ears and heart. Tell you what I've found.  Maybe it is lying dormant, waiting inside you too.

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