Monday, April 26, 2010

Rising Fire

Post by NCW Member Jenny Sundstedt

Even before Iceland’s Mt. Unpronounceable began its prolonged eruptions and disruptions, I had volcanoes on my mind. It started when I read Rising Fire: Volcanoes and Our Inner Lives, by CSU Professor John Calderazzo. (Northern Colorado Writers Conference attendees may remember seeing this book at the conference bookstore. Professor Calderazzo also presented two excellent conference sessions.)

I do not know Professor Calderazzo, but I’m going to refer to him as “John” for brevity’s sake. In Rising Fire, John explains how his interest in volcanoes was reawakened when a friend asked him to write a children’s book on the subject. Thusly inspired, he traveled the world to personally experience, learn from, and write about the geological enigmas and the people who live, and die, in their shadows.

Every volcano John visited, whether active or dormant or somewhere in between, has a story, and he tells them so well. Interweaving geology, history, art, anthropology, geomythology, and religion, John takes us from Earth’s explosive past to its potential future, from ancient human sacrifices in South America to hippie mystics basking in the new-age vibe around present-day Mt. Shasta.

That’s all interesting stuff, and John delivers it in a way that is both adventurous and accessible. Rising Fire is well worth reading for that reason alone. But a volcano is also such a great metaphor for the creative process. Artists, musicians, actors, writers all draw from within, either on a personal or societal level. We recognize the ones who do it well, who fearlessly tap into the subterranean chambers of emotion and experience, because their work touches us deeply, gives us chills, stays with us.

Thankfully, not every creative endeavor requires a swan dive into a fiery caldera. If that were the case, I never would have signed up for this eternal expedition we call ‘writing.’ But I find that whenever I can channel even a little bit of that deep energy, something new is born and becomes tangible. Like lava, it might not take the shape I anticipate, but it’s there, it’s real, it provides a solid, hopefully fertile, foundation to build upon.

And on the best days, it’s as raw and unpredictable and thrilling as a real volcano.

What stokes your creative fires?

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