Sometimes I feel like Jimmy Stuart in "It’s a Wonderful Life," gazing at the
National Geographics and dreaming of adventures in far away countries.
Instead of living those dreams, he stays in his town, filling the role thrust on
him. I vicariously live my life of danger and adventure through my character,
Jade del Cameron, the heroine of Treasure of the Golden
Cheetah. With her running point, I can safely climb Kilimanjaro, charge a
lion, and do battle against evil without breaking a sweat. Via Jade, I shoot
rifle and bow, throw a mean lariat, fly a plane, and kiss a handsome man. (Well,
I do get to do that last part in real life.)
Jade is often described as "larger than life" and that’s probably true. But it
makes me wonder, just what does "larger than life" mean? Frankly, life is pretty
big. Sometimes that can be intimidating. We might find a safe spot and hide in
it, camouflaging ourselves for anonymity. We stay with what’s comfortable and
call risk takers crazy daredevils. So perhaps being larger than life simply
means that a person grows to take in as much of life as possible.
That heroic kind of person sees every new idea as an opportunity to be tried on.
Like a kid, they want to explore every closet, open every box, look inside every
room. They wear life with passion. It’s a favored garment, tailored to their
whims, constantly embellished with something from everyplace they’ve been until
it resembles an adventurer’s travel trunk covered in labels of exotic locales.
Sometimes circumstances force a person to take on a larger role, to wear a piece
of life they didn’t choose. But instead of letting the trouble dominate them,
they wrestle it down and then add that new patch like a battle trophy. But do
these people exist outside of fiction? Certainly
Jade is a compilation of several real women including African bush pilot, Beryl
Markham, explorers Osa Johnson and Delia Akely, pioneer coffee farmer Karen
Blixen (Isak Dinesen). I threw in several WWI ambulance drivers that drove the
front lines under shell fire. All of those women could be labeled as "larger
than life" but in fact, they were simply stepping into what life had to offer or
demanded of them. War and pioneering does that to people.
Being larger than life didn’t stop in the 1920’s. Aviators Jackie Cochran and
Nancy Love found wings when airplanes appeared in the world. They opened up new
vistas for themselves and for other women when they started the WASP and
Ferrying Division of WWII, respectively. Jackie kept on pushing her life’s
envelope, becoming the first woman to break the sound barrier. And all those
women who left the home and went into the factories to help the war effort
expanded their lives as well. None of them would have considered themselves
"larger than life" at the time. They did their duty with pleasure, but I look at
them with awe, wondering if I’d have had their bravado.
Still, I’ve done some big things. I was a zookeeper for a while and possibly
saved my boss’s life when a rattler bit him. I would have preferred to hide, but
life pushed me into a larger role that day. And perhaps even breaking into
mystery writing in my mid-life is heroic to others. We should all strive to fill
up our lives; doing and participating rather than settling for being a
spectator. I suspect, if we look around and get to know someone else’s story, we
might discover that they live "larger than life." And perhaps you are doing that
now and don’t even know it.
Suzanne Arruda is the author of the Jade del Cameron mystery series set in
1920’s Africa. Visit her website www.suzannearruda.com and to learn more
about life in Jade’s time, go to her weekly blog: Through Jade’s Eyes.
6 comments posted.
I would rather read about someone "larger than life" then be one. I'm more of a homebody enjoying my pugs and grandkids. Maybe to them I'm larger than life.
(Theresa Buckholtz 1:44pm September 8, 2009)
We all dream about being a heroic figure. A person who knows no fear, but few of us want to be faced with that situation. If confronted we do what we must do and that makes us 'larger than life.
(Rosemary Krejsa 6:47pm September 8, 2009)
I never knew how I would react in a real emergency. I don't move quickly. I like to think things through. However, last month we were driving 70 mph on Route 70 in Kansas and my husband (the driver) fell asleep. Instead of screaming (which I wanted to do), I kept reassuring him that he was all right and we were okay until he got the car under control. It seemed to last forever.
(Karin Tillotson 10:52pm September 8, 2009)
Sorry, I hit post before I was finished. I think we all have the ability to be larger than life - even in little things.
(Karin Tillotson 10:54pm September 8, 2009)