Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What's Growing In My Garden


"Bloom Where You Are Planted" -- oh, the lessons a garden can teach us 
(Ashland County, OH)

Summer seems to resist letting go this year. We’re reaching the end of September and still the sun bakes me as I weed like a madwoman and begin preparing the garden for some of that end-of-season moving and shuffling of plants. The lilac that was planted in the spring just doesn’t have as commanding a space as it deserves. It needs to be advertised more and thus will be move next week. My anemone that grew and smothered a lot of my spring-blooming plants as the summer progressed did get moved, but now I realize that small runner plants are exploding out of the ground like a million little volcanoes. The whole anemone must be ripped out and destroyed before it takes over my entire front garden.

My aenemone blooms glow in the night


On the other hand, my zinnias seem to dance continually on their tall, arching stalks, having made a deal earlier in the summer with the butterflies and hummingbirds that they would stay as long as needed. My impatiens have patiently waited out the heat of July and August and are as fresh as the day I planted them.

Almost-opened zinnia and friend
 
 
I seem to be blest with a late summer yellow columbine, a plant I thought was strictly about spring’s cool weather. This week an iris bloomed in the most beautiful pale lavender. I love it but don’t understand its untimely appearance. The same with my delicate evening primrose — as pink and hardy as it should have been in the spring but wasn’t. It’s these unexpected surprises that spur on a gardener.

  Unexpected gift of autumn

As I’m tending to my garden, I’ve also been paying more attention to my life. Hence, my long absence from my online world. I don’t know if it’s been the reduction of carbohydrates in my diet or the beautiful weather we’ve had this summer, but I’ve experienced a drive to de-clutter my mind and re-arrange my life in an attempt to gear up full speed ahead to a writing life.

My summer residency at Ashland University’s MFA program left me exhausted, confounded, and exhilarated. Just when I thought I had defined my writing path, they introduced me to new strategies, fabulous writers I hadn’t read, and new perspectives on the work I had thought I had finished. So now I feel like I’m at square one because I want to pour everything I’ve learned into the first draft of my thesis, which is due in December. But I can’t do it all.

To clear my mind for writing, I’ve become overtaken with an impulse to purge spaces in my house (clean house, clean mind?) and start making phone calls on that whole-house renovation project I’ve threaten to do for too long. Now that I’ve more fully embraced the writing life I’ve wanted for so long, energy for other things seems to lift me and carry me along with house projects, tackling French again, organizing my books (although I admit that it only lasts until about 9 o’clock at night, at which point it’s a cup of tea and TV).

Surprise, surprise. When I tend to my life as energetically as I tend to my garden I seem to be rewarded with unexpected blooms of words, feelings of accomplishment, and creativity. It’s going to be a good autumn, I believe.


Meanwhile, a some books I’ve enjoyed and hope that you might:
Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt — When his daughter dies unexpectedly Rosenblatt and his wife move in with their son-in-law to help raise the three young children. His story of dealing with his own grief and the more important job of helping his grandchildren grow is told in a series of vignettes in the spare, beautiful, fluid language that Rosenblatt has been known for in his lifetime of essay writing and as a political columnist.

Kayak Morning by Roger Rosenblatt — the follow-up to Making Toast. The style is just as spare and beautiful as the previous book as Rosenblatt continues to reflect on the new direction his life has taken.

Carrier: Untangling the Danger in My DNA by Bonnie J. Rough — Rough and her husband are ready to begin a family, but her biological legacy sits heavily on them. As she begins to research her family’s medical history she begins to unravel something deeper in their past. Steeped in scientific research and family stories, she and her husband must face modern personal dilemmas in their own quest for a family.

Safekeeping: Some True Stories From a Life by Abigail Thomas — Thomas eschews straight narrative technique as she examines her life. Through vignettes and stories she tells, with vivid style, the life of an ordinary woman who made mistakes and had successes, who had failed marriages but tended to her ex-husband during his last days with the help of her current husband. She goes from an 18-year old single mother to a doting grandmother who always finds cooking as the answer to many life problems. It’s a confession and a universal story about a woman who figures out who she is and holds on to that.

You never know who you'll meet on the backroads of Ohio

Tell me in the comments what’s growing in your garden. Have you tackled any new projects or completed any old ones? What’s giving you energy these days? What have you read?

4 comments:

Nadine_Feldman said...

Always great to read your work! I know you've been busy -- and challenged, too, from the way it sounds. I've just ruthlessly gutted about the last third of my latest work in progress. As I improve my skills, I have to hold back work I'd love to get out in the world.

I was surprised to see the iris this time of year. Very strange. I'm going to have to move a lot of plants around. When our landscaper installed them, there were lots of empty spaces between, but now they've filled out, and in some spots the plants are all over each other.

Julie Farrar said...

The great thing about gardening, Nadine, is that no project is ever complete, but you can still enjoy it whatever stage it's in.

I'd love to hear more about your geneology research. Looking forward to your new book.

Vagabonde said...

Beautiful flowers and plants are growing in your garden. The planters in our yard are still flowering too. Your list of books has some interesting titles. Lately I have read mostly about the history of the liberation of Paris in August 1944 (70th year anniversary this year.) I found out so many new information that I wrote a series of posts about it and now I am not ready to write another post for a while. The book I am half way through is a book about Paris though, it is called ““Paris Noir – African Americans in the City of Light” by Tyler Stovall. It’s about the great number of African Americans moving to Paris after WWI because of racism in the US. I am enjoying it a lot.

Muriel Jacques said...

You are so much better than me. Plants and flowers just die under my care. Must try harder...

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