Venus on Mars

We All Hit Our Heads When We Fall

Posted in Author's Notes by janmillsapps on February 18, 2010

Watch your step!

The women in my book are clumsy; they often lose their footing and fall.  Whenever they do, I have to write how it feels to have this happen – the sudden loss  of balance, the instant knowledge that recovering it is not going to happen, the extended time it takes to actually fall, and the painful aftermath.

Falling is always scary; I’ve fallen three times since my hip replacement; I’m just less steady on my feet since the surgery.  Once I tripped in front of a oncoming MUNI train – but I got up in a hurry.  In my book Wrexie/Lulu faints and falls from the viewing chair in the observatory – most likely her corset was too tight and kept her from breathing.  She later trips in the dark running from the dome to the barn and falls – right into the arms of an unlikely savior.  My character Venus also falls down, hits her head and sprains her ankle, effectively stalling her out in Flagstaff and preventing her from completing her journey home, but the fall provides her valued time to reconsider everything in her life, a process that is long overdue.

All the falls in my book take place in the dark – the unseen, the unknown and certainly the less easily navigated.  Falls are never vague, never subtle, never gradual, never without some degree of drama.  Falls separate us from our past; each one begins a new chapter, one not necessarily connected to the previous ones.  Each fall is like a sharp cut in a movie, a sudden change that happens without warning, and everything that happens after the fall is somehow tempered by it.

The other night I fell in the dark, on my way to bed.  I have no idea why it happened; I just toppled over when I leaned down to take off my shoes.  I woke up with blood all over my shirt the next morning and have had an off-and-on headache ever since.  I’m well on my way to recovery, but I can’t shake the feeling that something momentous has transpired because of the fall.  I don’t know what it is yet; I’ll have to wait and find out.  In the meantime I’m thinking about the reverberation of falling, its lingering effects not so much on the body as in the mind. I play my fall over and over in my mind, trying to remember the person I was before, trying to discover the person I have been ever since, trying to evaluate the difference.

My character Lulu writes in her journal:

The journey toward any worthy goal contains within it a frozen moment in which past, present and future are fused into one that offers a brief view of the completed event. It’s like the pause just before a rose opens, its imminent splendor already evident, or the moment just before an accidental fall, the knowledge of its certain and painful outcome caught up in the very moment of falling.

A fall can restructure time, then, as well as space.  Astronomers call the line separating night and day, or dark from light, as seen on the surface of the moon or planets a “terminator” line.  It marks the termination of something – but also the initiation of something else.  If we were actually on the moon or on Mars, we’d experience the same event not as a sharp line, but as a more gradual transition from light to dark, or from dark to light.  Seen from another perspective, the time before, during and after a terminator may spread and extend like the mental space that lingers after my fall.

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