"I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast into still waters, will create a ripple."

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spring and the Zen of Gardening

It took moving to Oregon to finally understand the meaning of spring.

In the area of California where I used to live, the days start getting warm in February. By March the days are gorgeous. Sometimes the first 80-degree day hits early, feeling like it's 100. By the time April 21 rolls around, the official start of spring seems like someone’s idea of a joke.

In Oregon, the spring equinox finally makes sense. On target, the earth explodes in the third week of April, its arrival celebrated with grand sales at the home improvement stores. Bags of soil amendment, seeds and flats of perennials go on sale along with everything one would possibly need to grow a garden. Stores hold drawings and giveaways, complete with hot dogs and balloons. Makes a person proud to own a hoe. I’ll be there this weekend, stocking up along with my neighbors. It’ll be like a 4th of July picnic, a harbinger of the season. A celebration of life. A small thing, but really, not. It’s a reminder that the dark months are over. We crawled out from the long sleep renewed and refreshed. We made it.

Spring reminds me that I’m capable of rebirth. I can still wield a hoe and rake and, and by all that's holy, I intend to use them. I have a long list of projects, completed in front of the fireplace last winter, and now I’m hitting the dirt with everything I've got. Being physically fit is the result of good habits and luck. I don’t take for granted that I can handle a hoe and rake for five hours, that I can unload a thirty-pound sack of amendment from the pickup. Many people can’t. For a lifetime gardener the loss of strength and agility is a terribly loss. It will come one day, but I want to hold that time at bay by working up a sweat while I still can.

The sunshine, the crisp spring air, the drizzle of rain that salutes my flowerbed after a morning’s work are miracles. My efforts are a form of prayer, a way of saying “Thanks” to the ultimate Gardener. It’s also a reminder that I need patience to love my enemies, dandelions among them. I tell myself we should be able to co-exist in harmony. Maybe use some of them in tea. I've read that every part of the dandelion is usable and I intend to try.  I don’t want to rage against my nemesis, just share the earth for a time. After all, they'll be around a lot longer than I will.

Yesterday my husband and I cleaned out the ravine previous farmers used as a household dump. With leather gloves we pulled bottles, car parts and pots and pans from their resting place and piled them into the trailer. We hauled them to the recycling and separated them. It feels really good, making one tiny area of the earth cleaner, safer, better.

The least we can do to honor spring.   

 What about you? Any plans?


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Some Quick Thoughts on Writing Before I Forget Them

I’m reading Thomas Moore’s little book, Meditations. One of those gems that delivers a bolt of enlightenment on every page. Like Anne Lamott if she were a monk.  

Small, intense books pave my path to sagehood. They would be my path to sainthood if I paid attention to all the lessons they teach. Instead, I’m cursed with a weakness that lets the world tear away my best intentions.  

That’s it, in a nutshell.

My obstacle to perfection is that I’m two women. (I explore this in my memoir, Ordinary Aphrodite.)  The brainy me tends to over-think issues.  I read deep books and feel the author’s ideas fill my head. But that’s where everything stays. The other me is flighty. I ponder the book for a day or two and then it’s back to watching Nashville or Game of Thrones on TV with a bowl of popcorn in my lap. I’m a wannabe intellectual with an average IQ.

In a nutshell.

My writing group is discussing finding our Writer’s Voice, that illusive combination of phrasing and structure, personality and thinking that makes each writer’s work unique. Some writing gurus claim it comes after we’ve written 1,000,000 words. (I put this in numerals so it will look like a big number. Actually, I think I wrote that many words reworking my first novel.)

I envy writers who find their writer’s voice, their genre and their place in the commercial market. They write a mystery, sell it to New York and start another before the royalty check clears. I suspect they were born knowing who they are and are satisfied with that person. All the while I wander the earth searching for the true me.

This is what I know about my writer’s voice. My writing involves the heart. That’s why I love memoir. When I write about “Me,” the name I give the universal woman who occupies my brain, I let my heart tackle the hard stuff. My ego gets to sit on the fence and watch me share my thoughts with the world in a self-effacing manner that allows women to laugh at themselves as well. Afterwards I feel useful. I feel like I’ve taken a few steps along my path of enlightenment and brought along a few sisters to share the trek.

There is a downside to being both giddy and wise. It’s hard to define what I do. I write women’s fiction. Inspirational fiction that women will read and share with their husbands and boyfriends. Contemporary stories that resonate with modern readers. But, wait. I also write historical fiction set in the American West. And Mexico. I write short stories of the heart. I write for religious magazines. I wrote a dark story about mental illness. What each of them has in common is my writer’s voice, the way I define my path.  

Writing is a way of exploring the big questions. I pick up knowledge along the way, but I still have more questions than answers. I’m finding my spiritual path in a messy world. What’s to be done? I guess I’ll just keep writing. Reading and listening. Take quiet walks in the woods. Find inspiration in faces of strangers and friends. Work on being a better friend. Pray and ask for prayer from others.

Maybe that’s enough.

Any thoughts you’d like to share on your own journey?