Tag Archives: flora

Postcards from Camp: Garden fun

Well, the writing progresses at a lovely pace; I’ve reached my Camp NaNo goal, although the story has gone from an approximately twenty-three chapter novel to something a little more involved.  I won’t hazard a guess at this point how many books, but more than three, hopefully not topping the Alvin’s Farm series of six.

March 2012 Putting in the initial spider plants

March 2012; the initial planting…

Some ideas execute successful coups, sort of like spider plants.  Amid the noveling and epic-poem scribbling (poems are all written in longhand which sends joyful shivers down my spine), I’ve been attacking the backyard, usually my husband’s domain.  I prefer potted plants, but last year I put in over a dozen spider plants along the western fence.  They have succeeded in taking over that section of the property, and I know are plotting an actual coup for the house.

April 2013 spiders... Bottom three are new

April 2013… They are looking to move eastward, into Nevada, by autumn. The bottom three are newbies, who will hold down the fort as the rest scale the fence, heading for Vegas.

Part of this month’s writing has been poured into a poem that has awakened my love for that form of expression, and given a home to an idea that I didn’t realize meant so much.  I work on the novel in the mornings, the poem in the afternoons, amid baseball and recent outdoor tasks that will keep me busy over the next several months.  I don’t have an emerald thumb, but I do like to get my hands a little dirty.

Marble pathos with a spider in the centre

The marble pathos draping over the edge are cuttings from a houseplant, a spider hidden in the centre. This pot resides just outside my work window.

Like dabbling in melodrama; the WIP-novel-wise has really caught me off guard by its length, and my dedication to it.  With Alvin, even when I was wasn’t sure just how involved it was going to be, I took three to four months off between tackling another installment.

Back in 2009, I was looking at that book as installments, as I didn’t imagine it would take three novels to finish what I had assumed would be a tidy 50K tale.

This plant was bought weeks ago at a local DIY, and is pleased to rest in a bigger pot.

This plant was bought weeks ago at a local DIY, and is pleased to rest in a bigger pot.

But now I’m a wee bit wiser; just how wordy the current novel will become, I cannot guess.  But the intriguing part is that as soon as I wrap up this initial section, I don’t want to wait until summer to return to the story.  I’ll give myself a couple of weeks; I definitely need some down-time.  But come May, unless other issues arise, I’ll get back to spinning some more of that yarn.

One cherry tomato, as an experiment.

One cherry tomato, as an experiment.

And as for that poem…

The big pot held spider plants last year, petunias and zinnias this year.  Small pot takes the overspill...

The big pot held spider plants last year, petunias and zinnias this year. Small pot takes the overspill…

“The Hounds of Love and War” isn’t going to be completed anytime soon; I write three parts, then plop another poem amid the sprawling saga of the Scotlands and Nesmiths, still firmly entrenched in the mid-1960s.  Not all my poems are sturm und drang; one was about my husband’s recently purchased ninja hat.

Leftover zinnias went into the ground near some flowers that survived winter, alongside the honeysuckle.

Leftover zinnias went into the ground near some flowers that survived winter, alongside the honeysuckle.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, of course.

Just for NaNo Buddy Laura; this peach tree was planted last spring, and the crazy thing has peaches already...

Just for NaNo Buddy Laura; this peach tree was planted last spring, and the crazy thing has peaches already…

And then there is baseball (the SF Giants are playing well), family gatherings on the horizon, and I badly need a haircut.  But the muse has tapped into me with all gears.  I can’t tell which I enjoy more, prose or poetry, although the poems are pretty prose-like.  I’ve also scribbled a couple of short stories; pen and paper have lured me into brief flashes of fiction that I type out, fiddle with, will hand over to Top Writers Block.  One future theme is meringue, and I already know just what that will entail; Rae Smith’s foray into perfecting chocolate meringue pie.  If you’ve read the last three Alvin’s Farm novels, well, all I can say is that while Rae’s husband Tommie won’t be trying a slice of chocolate heaven, Chelsea and Pru think Aunt Rae’s latest Todd Lambert Special is just fine…

R.I.P. Brennan Manning  1934-2013

The inner workings of a writer’s soul

As far as the eye can see

It’s like a field of daffodils, and I just don’t know which to pick, which to leave.  I have more plots than sense, notebooks stuffed with ideas, and paper clips, stories scattered like clumps of flowers on a fine spring morning.  Some will be harvested, placed in vases, for all to see.

Some will wither where they emerged from the ground, forgotten.

That’s one part of it.  The other part of my authorial soul is why I feel so compelled to consider the drama (always drama, most often with a capital D).  That’s harder to qualify; demons I’m chasing, compassion for the world around me, endless curiosity.  An overactive imagination that cannot be quelled without putting fictional names to pretend faces.  What in the world inspires me to spin yarns?

Because for as much as I covet office supplies, that is only one aspect of writing.

I know WHY I write what I do; my brother’s life was wrecked by drugs and the infliction of bigotry.  Themes of love, clemency, and equality are a result of that loss.  But I’ve been pondering plots long before my brother died; what was the impetus back then?  I can only say I had a melodramatic streak that was exacerbated by all the music I listened to, and maybe the soap operas I watched with my dad and grandmother.  (Dad broke his leg in a motorcycle accident when he was sixteen, and during his convalescence got hooked on As The World Turns.  Subsequently, I was a fan from before I knew any better.)  I enjoyed English class as a kid, although diagramming sentences wasn’t much fun.  I didn’t watch MTV because we only had three channels.  Maybe I worked out my own stories to songs, maybe that was it.

The mechanics of writing are easily defined; what sort of schedule one prefers, employing a computer, typewriter, or pen and paper.  First or third person, maybe even second, genres and lengths of manuscripts, all that is pretty straightforward, choices one makes after having decided to walk this plank.  Sometimes it truly feels like being shoved down the wobbly end of a board, wondering what awaits in the abyss.  Not often is it a field of daffodils.

But even the darkest pit harbors relief.  The first book I ever completed was a memoir written after my brother shot himself.  It included song lyrics, journal entries, and memories of our childhood, which had led me on one path, him on a very different road.  I found the end on a visit to Scotland, my youngest then six years old, talking about the loch: Mummy, they call them lochs here, not lakes.  It had been nearly a year since he died, since my life became something else entirely.  When we returned from that short holiday, I wrapped up the manuscript, not that my sorrow had abated, but the book was done.  All my life I had wanted to write a book.  The first one I finished wasn’t what I had ever dreamed.

I didn’t start writing fiction for another eight years.  Then, from the fall of 2007, I haven’t stopped.  I learned a great deal from my brother’s death, about myself and that I could write, but non-fiction wasn’t my heart’s true desire.  I had to walk through many fields of daffodils to find just the right ones; I love those with orange centers.

March 2007, our last spring in England.

March 2007, our last spring in England.

As a mum, I can be a mean mama, a joke in our household.  But I cannot abide cruelty, am baffled by unkindness.  I am stymied at many life choices, but I am also driven to understanding them, aching to realize situations that are not mine, but for God’s grace could be.  I want to know what makes the heart tick, be it in love, aggravation, empathy.  I can’t put an exact finger on WHY I need to write, other than to communicate what I see, what I don’t comprehend.  I came up with a novel idea yesterday, well, I’m always coming up with something that bugs or intrigues me, but today I’m going to start writing it, because, well, because I just have to.  Some books require intense plotting.  Some ask only for the moment.  The book I wrote about my brother started on the morning I learned of his death, within a journal entry, just trying to note the minute beginnings of a new life.  His was gone, mine had restarted.

I didn’t know it then, in September of 1997, but I had become a writer in the most dire of circumstances, just by scribbling words on a page.  That endures right to today.  I must tell these stories, the ache in my soul too great to stay stilled.

A hidden garden (or two…)

A few posts back, I used a photo noting the way in, and Jill Weatherholt asked if that was my garden.  That shot was from an English garden; our village hosted an annual Hidden Garden Day on the first Saturday of July.  Some years, like this year, were sopping wet; we heard from a friend that any sun would be appreciated.  But sometimes England suffered from a hose-pipe ban (water rationing), and in 2006, that was nearly put into effect.  We didn’t know it would be our last summer in Yorkshire, so blithely we tromped from open house to open house, admiring gardens small and large, a variety of flora and ideas.  Back gardens (and a few in front) are all what the gardener has in mind.

Much like a writer; so many genres and novels sprout from our multitude of experiences and perspectives.  Only so many plots, but that never got William Shakespeare down!  Down the centuries stories still pour like the ever-raining British skies, or the endless California sun.  Summer was in force yesterday; I wore shorts and a t-shirt on my road trip, running the A/C on my way home.  It might be the middle of October, but try telling that to the Golden State.

But back to hidden gardens…  Floral beauty was the biggest thrill on that warm, un-Yorkshire-like day, and I took many pictures, which now I treasure like gold.  Of course I imagined we would be there for years  but life has a way of changing on a dime.  Instead of sitting at home, watching Wimbledon, I trekked about our small, tucked-away hamlet, with its school, few pubs, post office, and a branch of the surgery (doctor’s office) from the nearby town, following on our map which gardens were on display.  Friends joined us, a large crowd in our relatively tiny village, not far from York.  Those days are idyllic upon reflection; a warm summer’s day, long sunshine permeating well past nine p.m.  On the day, 2 July 2006, I held my husband’s hand when not shooting the landscapes or chatting with pals.  My eldest came along, but she hadn’t yet told me about NaNoWriMo; my goodness, how events sit as place markers   On that day in 2006, I wasn’t even considering noveling.

Or living in America, only another English day, rather stunning for the perfect weather, if not a bit dry.  It was simply one more event in my British life, as if it would always be that way.  But days slip away, all the more reason to capture words and plots.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

So many lives, moments, characters…  Even in cats, and bassets of course.   They were all loitering behind those gates, as if each was a novel, hoping I would brave the adventure.  Lush blooms on winding vines, or plants in pots, all sorts of stories waiting.

I didn’t expect to leave that village as we did, abruptly and premature.  Or that’s how it felt, at the time.  But I came back with one NaNoWriMo in my back pocket, pictures on hard drives, memories as abundant as the rain there, the sun here.  No correct balance, sometimes that’s how it goes.  Sometimes the gems stay hidden for ages, like no one will ever find them.

But sometimes the gate swings wide, all kinds of gifts waiting.  Maybe you’re NaNo’ing this autumn, or just poking about that garden, waiting for the rain.  It’s all part and parcel of the whole, which is constantly changing in gorgeous, unexpected ways.