This was a (mis)quote about the universe, but is also a perfect description of falling in love; of that pivotal moment where all out previous experiences of love and loss are balanced against the unknown possibilities in this new love before us.
It could also describe the feeling when we pick up a new romance to read – or start to write one. There is the history of all romances read and written before, if it is a category romance there is a defined word count and a restricted cast of leading characters (depending on whether it’s a Presents or a Western for example.) Readers and writers have a wealth of research and past knowledge and experience to draw upon – but how that story will play out, the twists and turns of plot, the depth of character, the sights, sounds and scents of the location will be something new, and hopefully, something amazing.
I’m sorry if I have managed to repeat myself already in only two months on this blog about the infinite variety and possibility contained in romance novels; it’s the cumulative effect of years on line seeing romances denigrated by non-readers, interviewers, other authors and even those who have ridden the coat tails of romance to financial and popular acclaim and then want to say “oh my books aren’t really romance.” Fine, not everyone has to like or read romance, there are many genres I don’t read, but I see no point in singling them out or putting them down – especially when I have no knowledge of them – and I would never try to sell my books on that genre, nor pour disdain on its readers.
I didn’t plan to write any of that, but it’s some of the thoughts inspired by seeing Professor Brian Cox in the snow talking about the centuries of research, speculation and experimentation that have formed theories about the nature and origins of the universe. (I am paraphrasing, and badly as I wasn’t paying total attention.) Scientists now stand on that knife edge with history behind them and the vast unknowable universe before us waiting to be explored. Just as a reader opens that first page and waits to see what fresh characters and intriguing situation will cast a new light on the tale of falling in love and earning a happy ending against the odds.
It’s why humans keep on trying new romances even after disastrous break ups. I ended up single and celibate for almost five years after too many broken hearts (mine and other people’s), but eventually the pain had faded enough and someone offered a fresh view of the possibilities ahead; I reluctantly took a few hesitant steps and low and behold fell in love all over again, almost against my will (certainly against reason) and am still marvelling at it (and never taking it for granted) today.
And what has any of this got to do with standing stones? I wrote a blog last week about castles (not posted yet due to the heart breaking stories in the news, I’m hoping I’m not tempting fate posting this one with its title on the day the UK votes whether or not to remain part of the EU.) In that blog I tried to explain how it is the love of the unknown in ruined castles and ancient monuments that inspires me – as a story teller and as a visitor puzzling over clues left by people long gone. I love reading about the history as well, but it is more the untold story that fires my soul and makes me return again and again to some sites.
One such place is Avebury (the solstice this week also made my mind take this particular tangential trip down memory lane, with my by now familiar clumsy attempts to tie it to romance.) I first saw Avebury no older than ten on a frosty morning. I have seen it in rain and sun and have always been awed by the mystery and majesty of the place. And been baffled and amused by the village that was built centuries later slap in the middle of this unique landscape; a very British piece of practical vandalism – why not build houses near a handy pre-quarried source of stone and with nice earthworks to keep animals in? Our attitude of veneration and conservation now shudders at what was done just a few hundred years ago – a fraction of the life span of these ancient sites – but what will future generations think? About the sites, about the recent past, about our twenty-first century views? Which will be laughable, which valued, and which utterly incomprehensible?
So much about these ancient sits will be forever a mystery; we will always be on that knife point of knowledge and the unfathomable. And for me that is the main part of their charm. Maybe that goes for falling in love too; I’m hoping for happy ever after but I know it’s not guaranteed or easy, and it’s never boring. Which applies even more to the books I love to read, and write.