In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Oasis.”
Once I had a dog named Lucy who I loved. She was a 100-pound cattle-herding dog known as a Bouvier des Flanders. Not only was she spectacular looking, but you could take her anywhere and she would good-naturedly allow the hands of strangers to stroke her magnificent head. Wow, was she a head-turner! Everybody would stop to ask about her. I was as proud as if I had given birth to her myself! Tragically though, Lucy was also doomed. At six years old, she was diagnosed with lymphoma, cancer of the lymph nodes. Our choices were chemo or death within a few short weeks. I simply couldn’t deal with the speed at which this thing was progressing, so we opted for chemotherapy. Lucy was stoic about the whole thing, of course; I was an absolute wreck. I swear I cried more during the next few months than I have ever cried in my life. More than for some people I know. Shameful yes, but how I grieved for that dog. Despite the vet’s best efforts and way too much of our hard-earned cash, she was gone in three months.
Here’s how I coped: I re-read the Outlander series of books by Diana Gabaldon. Within those pages I found sanctuary, far away in space and time from my own life and sorrow. While Lucy lay panting at my feet hour after hour, shedding her wooly coat in great clumps, I’d travel to 18th century Scotland, where heroic Jamie Fraser lived among the Highlander clans. I’d immerse myself in what I maintain is the greatest literary romance of the century: Claire Beauchamp Randall and James Malcolm Alexander MacKenzie Fraser. I followed these people as they struggled to prevent a war with England that would destroy the Highland clans and their way of life. I followed them into pre-revolutionary war America. I followed these people as if they were real.
I know some people turn up their noses at the Outlander books, thinking they are romance novels; I’ve seen them shelved that way in bookstores. But they are actually historical fiction with a bit of science fiction/fantasy thrown in. There is something about the way Gabaldon writes these characters that speaks to me (and millions of others like me, I might add — mostly women). If I could conjure up people like that in the pages of books, I would in a heartbeat and die happy. Gabaldon says she started writing the first book more than 25 years ago by posting chapters on a ListServe late at night while her kids were sleeping. I guess that was the earliest blog; a place where you could post your writing and talk to people online and share ideas. Now there are eight or so of those books, and when it’s 3 am and I’m lying in bed worrying about something, I can still join Jamie and Claire’s world and get away from mine. How marvelous is that?