The Wedge of the San Rafael

The Wedge of the San Rafael
Someone has to live here, in the middle of desert beauty. Might as well be the Kellys.

Friday, June 3, 2011

All through the night

This writing business is not for the faint of heart, especially when a writers chooses - or is chosen by - a big topic. I'm on Chapter 19 of the sequel to Borrowed Light, and it's more fun than is probably legal in some states. Writing can be like that, at times, or it can be like pulling teeth. Sometimes I have to just wait patiently for the story to surface. The cool part is that I know it will. I just have to be patient.

For me, anyway (all writers are different, I suspect), what happened today indicates that I am already thinking about the next book for Cedar Fort, which will be My Loving Vigil Keeping, a story of the Scofield Mine Disaster. The title, of course, comes from the Welsh lullaby.

This afternoon, I was driving home from Manti, and decided to take the back road to Scofield, which meant threading down a twisty, windy road past the Skyline Mine. My goodness there's a lot of snow on Utah's mountains. I stopped and looked for a minute at all the cars and pickups in the mine parking lot, thought of the many men underground right then, and said a small prayer.

In tiny Scofield, I finally had the courage to visit the cemetery. Two hundred men and boys died in the explosion and rising damp of the Winter Quarters Mine on May 1, 1900. Many bodies were shipped to other cemeteries in Utah and the West, but a substantial number remain there in Scofield. Nine Luoma men and boys from Finland - yes, one family - died there and remain there. Luoma Luoma Luoma Luoma Luoma Luoma Luoma Luoma Luoma, all in a row. And there are Welshmen, and Scotsmen, and one touching stone from Mrs. T.H. Reilley, to her husband: "Sleep on, dear husband/And take thy rest,/God called thee home,/ He thought it best." 

Marker after marker, and all with the same date: May 1, 1900.  On and on. I've been in some sad places: The Holocaust Museum, the Antietam Battlefield, in particular. And now there is a third one, and it seems more terrible than the rest: the little cemetery at Scofield, Utah. Maybe it seems more terrible to me, because in January or February when I start writing that story, I'll be deep in the middle of the sorrow. And the joy. I couldn't just write a sad story.

I sat in my car, and my shuffle happened to be playing Welsh folk songs. "Sleep, my child, and peace attend thee, all through the night./Guardian angels God will send thee, all through the night./Soft the drowsy hours are creeping, hill and vale in slumber sleeping./I, my loving vigil keeping, all through the night."

There are far too many young men who will be always be young men, in that cemetery. I sat there, cried, and promised them I'd write them the best book I could.

And that's the easy life of a writer. We do take things personally, or we'd never write.