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TITLE: Dirty Soot, Mingled with Snow Births a Dream
By James Brown
11/16/07
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It has been said that in every tragedy, there is a seed of equal or greater blessing. A fire that destroyed my sawmill proved that to me.
The snow is falling, goliath-sized flakes spiraling to the ground attempting to conceal the devastation of his dream. He stands forlorn and alone, deserted by all who called themselves friends; tears his only companion. They all laugh at his calamity; not a one understands the depths of his despair. To them it was just a sawmill; to him it was everything.

The soot, mingled with melting snow blackens his boots as it intensifies the total mind-numbing destruction around him. The track the stately carriage rode upon, once straight and true, lies twisted in wretched agony from the super-hot flames. It withstood the most ferocious beatings the logs could deliver day after day, but in the midst of that heat, the weight of a single flaming beam warped and twisted its formerly proud metal; no need to smash and slam.

Machines that were once productive, maintained to the highest standards, lie mute, ashamed of their naked appearance. The emerald green paint burned off in a flash, leaving the bare metal to rust and discolor in the harsh elements. Dull, rusty orange characterized this lifeless equipment, as well as his soul.

He wanders through the carnage, kicking indiscernible blobs of black and gray. Every so often, he finds a treasure; something of sentimental value burned almost beyond the point of recognition. Tears form a blackened channel down his cheeks as he starts to put the trinket in his pocket … but he changes his mind. It tumbles to the ground where the unstoppable snow swallows it completely.

Gone, everything is gone.

He steps to the sawyer’s stand and grabs the crippled, distraught lever that once made the carriage race back and forth. A tug and the carriage moved forward creating lumber for the masses. A push and it returned in preparation for another cut. He relived countless memories, pulling and pushing that stick, a smile on his dirty face; the first smile since the call came in the middle of the night. Snow mounds on his head and shoulders, as he loses himself in the world of memory.

The smile fades and his hand slips off the stick as reality returns to torment him. The overpowering odor of the blackened charred logs lying on the deck assaults his senses as they scream out in silent agony. WHY? We were ready to be sawn into useful boards, but instead we lie here useless and abandoned. How could you let that happen? It’s your fault, they accused in the roaring quietness of the falling snow that mercifully is attending to their burial.

He relinquishes his post for the last time, resting his gnarled hand lightly on one of the burned logs in a silent plea for forgiveness. I did my best, but it wasn’t good enough, he lamented. The Almighty decreed that I am a failure as a business owner and a man, totally deserving of His wrath…

His demise is complete. All hope is gone. There is nothing left to live for. He shuffles along in agony, wanting only rid himself of this Albatross that was his life, but instead, the charcoal timbers that supported his once proud building surround him, barring his way, while demanding he do something. Don’t let us die in vain, they wail to his tortured conscience.

He sinks slowly to his knees amid the black mush on the concrete and looks up to the sky in despair. The big fluffy flakes light on his face, as if to mock him saying, “You are nothing and we will prove it by covering you up as if you never existed.”

A cry of anguish escapes his lips as he cries out to a God that does not see or care; a cry that every man shrieks at least once in his life – Why?

“Why did you let me be born? If I had died at birth, then I wouldn’t have gone through this hell. I thought you were a God of love, but instead I see hatred and punishment. I hate you God … I … hate you…” he sobbed as he slumped in total defeat.

How long he remained there, he didn’t know, but it was long enough for the snow to pile up and the cold to seep into his bones. He started to shiver, shaking the snow off his form, which made it release its hold on him. A thought formed somewhere in the depths of his soul like the striking of a match as it flares to life in a momentary burst of light. The tiny flame of light flickered in his hopeless dark heart, void of any kindling; a flame that should have quickly and quietly extinguished itself from lack of fuel.

Instead, the flame grew, licking up a fuel the man failed to realize he possessed. From a flicker to a bonfire, nothing could extinguish it: not the snow, the destruction or even his own failings. It spread like wildfire until it reached his conscious thought with a single word - WRITE! That word echoed in his barren heart, over and over and over again, growing louder in a crescendo of hope and laughter. As a boy, his dream was to be a great writer, but laughter and taunts from friends and foes alike drove that dream to the recesses of his soul, to languish in solitude … until now.

write! Write! WRITE! The chant grew in intensity and desire. He stopped shivering, as warmth infused him from within; warmth that would not be denied. The fire that seemingly destroyed his sawmill, yea, even his life, instead purged all the dross that had blinded him to his true calling.

He lifted his head amazed at what surrounded him. Five minutes ago, there was nothing but gloom and despair; now light and hope danced between the snowflakes lifting him to his feet, no longer a victim, but a victor without a crown. Life had thrown its worst at him, but he was still standing. It knocked him over and hammered him when he was defenseless, but it couldn’t keep him down. He shook his fist at life in defiance and shouted, “You’ve done your worst, but I’ve prevailed over you. You no longer have any power over me. I’ve won! Do you hear me? I’ve won!”


That said, he dropped to his knees again with his gaze fastened on the heavens above and cried, “Thank you God for loving me enough to destroy my world. If not for the fire, I would have continued in my self-righteous life, paying lip service to You while living for me. I’m so sorry God…I love You God…” he repeated as tears of joy and laughter flooded the path carved by the tears of sorrow and despair.

I walked away from that metallic memorial that day to face a new life and a new dream; an impossible dream made possible by the God who loved me enough to destroy my world.
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