Monday, April 21, 2008

Before and After

A couple years ago I looked out my kitchen window just in time to watch Roscoe fall from a tree branch to the ground below. I ran outside, and there Roscoe lay, not moving. When I got close enough I could hear him whispering hoarsely, “My back, my back…”

Within a few minutes he had gotten up and was fine, but in that moment, looking down on his motionless body, I thought, “This is it,” the moment that would forever separate the before, when Roscoe has healthy and whole and life was fine, and the after, when it wasn’t.

Here’s a short assignment on the topic of before and after, the moment when something happens or news arrives and life jumps the tracks and becomes forevermore different. Imagine you’ve just gotten a letter bearing major news.

Bad News

She raised her eyes from the paper and looked across the familiar scene. Her yard, her neighborhood, all the same old places. But now a gray mist covered it all, giving everything a strange and unfamiliar pallor. It looked like the same place, other people still inhibited that place, but she did not. Each breath seemed shallow and insufficient, like the air of this new gray world would barely sustain life. Her shoulders hunched under her sudden burden. She was in new territory, and now she must learn to live in it.

Good News

The slip of paper fell from her hand and her eyes raised to the sky. The oppressive weight had been lifted and her lungs filled much fuller than before, with the air that was more pure and clean than before, flowing like a drink of cool water. She looked across the yard, across the green grass and treetops, sparkling with vibrant clarity. A veil of gray had suddenly disappeared and without it she saw more brightly, moved more surely. The way forward was clear.


  1. Oh Ang, your post is so inspired today. At 5:30 the day before a major term paper is due, I find myself feeling very discouraged that I just can't seem to organize my thoughts and actually write anything! So in an attempt to escape I pull up your blog. I click the link and find all kinds of encouraging writing tips. Now I'm thinking to myself things like "I'm just going to start writing what I'm thinking, and I'll fix it to make sense and add in references and citations later," and "I don't really have to write 7-10 pages, I really only have to write 3 1/2- 5 pages and then double space it." I can do it! Thanks Ang!

  2. Very beautiful! You sure have a gift.

    I just finished reading "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" and your description of before and after reminds me of the theme of the book. I'd recommend it if you haven't already read it.

  3. Angela, you are an inspiration to me: I need to just sit down and write. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  4. Nice picture! Did you take that yourself? I love photographs that are different. angle, light, subjects etc