Tag Archives: roses

Creating

In our quest to be better writers, dedicated writers, and productive writers, we can sometimes forget that not only do we have to feed the muse but we should also take care to refresh our imagination.

From time to time, it’s helpful to move away from the keyboard and indulge in other types of creativity. Some writers craft mixed-media collages. Others play music. Still others garden or design landscapes. We all have hobbies and activities that give us joy and rejuvenation. The question then becomes, have we brushed those fun, creative pastimes aside? Are we too busy to be creative?

For the past five years, I have been in a whirlwind of responsibilities, work, writing, and errands. At times the whirl is so intense that I feel overwhelmed and overburdened. Neither of those feelings is conducive to writing. A crowded, over-scheduled mind is one that never finds time to process, invert, or synthesize–and without that mental process writing quickly stalls.

Therefore, as much as possible, I am trying to fend off the stress by resurrecting old hobbies and making time for them. Because somewhere along the way, the responsibilities have swarmed me like Bermuda-grass runners overtaking a flowerbed, and restorative hobbies have been crowded out by the weeds of life.

For example, a decade ago, I took up the hobby of quilting–or at least quilt-piecing. I found that when I came home from my day job, I could sew a few bits of fabric together while supper cooked, and my pent-up stress melted away. Two decades ago, I alleviated stress by tending my rose garden. Just walking among the fragrant bushes with pruners in hand, deadheading the plants of their spent blooms, was incredibly restorative. And long before I purchased a house and had a yard for roses, I took up needlework. Before that, I collected rocks gleaned from the New Mexico desert. And before that, I tended horses that I thought I couldn’t live without.

Well, my beloved horse from my teen years has long gone to his rest. I no longer have access to my beloved corner of the desert and must content myself with the rocks I found so long ago. In recent years, vision problems have made needlework more challenging. The horrid rose virus, my mold allergy, and a doctor’s ban against digging holes have pretty much ended my rose garden. I am down to a few scraggly specimens that do not inspire. And when I moved to my present home, I lost my sewing space and put all my piecing projects away.

Small wonder the weeds crept in and took over.

But writers are not like other people. We cannot trudge along in the drudgery of errands and mundane chores of everyday life without relief. We are not made that way. Mopping the floor becomes an outlet for the imagination to plot how our beleaguered heroine will escape the wizard’s citadel. We burn dinner and run four-way-stop intersections while we’re mulling over which viewpoint to use next. And if too many interruptions thwart us from working on our stories, we grow sour and bitter.

And yet, we cannot spend all our time writing either. Writing the well dry without replenishing it is dangerous to creative productivity.

So this summer, to fuel my writing and fend off the weeds, I have taken up a new activity in painting. Choosing a new color is tremendously exciting. Burnt Umber versus Amsterdam Green. Greek Blue versus Raindrop. The names alone conjure up old Venetian houses, mysterious shadows, and all sorts of dreamscapes.  I have become like an eight-year-old stalled in front of a candy display, unable sometimes to choose because it’s all so tempting. Besides color, there are the tools:  who knew buying a new brush could open a door to so many brush shapes and specialties? Rounded bristles, pointed, narrow, wide, taklon, nylon, natural boar, etc. How many can I have, please, please, please?

But I am no minimalist. In my worldview, more is more. One hobby is not enough.

As a result, today I happened to be driving near a large quilt fabric store on a different errand altogether. Although the weeds’ voices were saying, “No, no, no; you don’t have time; you’ll spend money you shouldn’t,” my hungry imagination rebelled. It was shouting, “Go for it! Let’s play!”

I told the weeds to shut up, and I pulled into the parking lot. Inside the store, I found visual delight in all directions. Colors, patterns, fine cottons plus woolens to make little projects like pumpkins and squirrel-shaped pin cushions, quilts hanging from the ceiling, cute displays, adorable baby toys, small projects and large, wonders on all sides.

The weeds whispered, “You can only look for twenty minutes tops. Hurry! Then you must leave.” I ignored them and roamed from one display to the next. The potential to create, to choose and mix, to even contemplate sampling this feast was beyond delicious. Best of all, the checkout line was long and slow.

Clutching a quilt-themed birthday card for a friend, I got in line. But as I stood waiting, I spotted yet another feature I had to explore–and touch. Out of line I dropped, to wander here and there. I picked up another item that stayed in my hand. Back in line, only to notice something else I’d passed by. More wandering. More thinking. More temptations reaching out, calling my name on all sides.

Should I make another flannel throw like the one I sewed for my mother several years ago? What about these darling baby fabrics? Do I know anyone expecting a child? No, perhaps not. Oh, here are the Halloween designs, and do I like the Edgar Allen Poe quotes swirling around skulls and ravens better than the gray little ghosts that are almost mid-century abstracts? But here are the Christmas bolts of soft, dreamy colors, or trendy gray and red patterns, or traditional reds and greens. Look! That woman is buying yards and yards of buffalo-check red and black while chattering about her Harley-loving nephew. But wait … I’ve found the Civil War-era reproduction fabrics–all so Victorian from their deep jewel tones to the pale shirtings for contrast. And hurray! Here are the 1930s and 1940s retro fabrics in bright pastels and cheerful little prints that I love so much. Can I resist the tiny Scotties wearing Santa hats–available in either a green background colorway or a red one? No I cannot resist, and thus find myself requesting yardage for a project that doesn’t exist. I’ll figure something out for it, I assure myself. See the dinosaur toy! Isn’t it precious? Didn’t I just walk past a bolt of orange in a tiny rectangular print that could imply scales? Would a dinosaur look cuter in orange fabric or green? Did dinosaurs have scales? Probably not, but don’t I have a dragon-toy pattern stashed somewhere? Forget dragons; focus on dinosaurs right now. Oh, phooey, the store is out of the dinosaur pattern. Get back in the checkout line and stay there.

Eventually it came my turn at checkout. As I was handing over my credit card, a weed sprouted–all nasty and spiky, covered in burrs, and stinky with disapproval. “What’s wrong with you? When will you have time to make these projects? You don’t even have a corner to set up your sewing machine. Why are you doing this?”

But my imagination was happy and shining from all the eye candy. It sliced off the weed, and I contentedly brought my purchases home.

Today’s feast was more than worth the expense. As for time, could I afford to spend over an hour in that store? No I couldn’t.

Do I begrudge it? Certainly not. My writing will be better tomorrow because of having played with fabric today, and that is priceless.

Whether I sew anything from this outing doesn’t matter. My imagination has dined well on joy.

 

 

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Letting Go

For every thing, there is a season ….

We humans were put in charge of this planet, to tend it, nurture it, govern it, and take care of it. And when you nurture something, you have a responsibility toward it. You owe it the respect of accepting and fulfilling that responsibility. Sometimes responsibility dictates that you must kill and remove for the betterment of others. That is why we humans raise and slaughter livestock for consumption and leather goods. It is why we clear fields and plant them, and later harvest them. It is why we pull weeds from our flower and vegetable gardens, removing the plants that we don’t want to make way for those that will flower beautifully or bring us bounty to eat. It is why we chop tree roots that are threatening our house foundation.

Today, I put aside memories, regret, and sentiment and set about bringing down my biggest, first, most special, and oldest Linda Campbell rugosa rose.

In a past post, I chronicled the removal of a different, smaller rose bush of the same variety–the second plant in my current yard to succumb to the horrid rose virus now rampant across our nation. That bush held no sentiment in my heart other than its beauty and ease of care. Yet I fought the virus, fought the inevitability of the plant’s eventual demise. I kept young Linda going longer than I believed possible before I finally gave in to the ugly “witch’s broom” effect and took her out.

IMG_1366{The deformity isn’t showing well in this photo, but the affected canes are thick and soft, the leaves remain red and strangely shaped, the buds cannot open.}

Several times this year, I have daydreamed about reconfiguring my large front flower bed. It’s probably the worst landscaping I’ve ever had since I rented my first little house in graduate school and could only afford six marigold plants. At my current address, the largest plants grow in the front. Weed trees sprout in the back. The perennials are in the wrong places. The entire composition fails to please me. And if a front flowerbed is supposed to be the jewel of a home’s entrance, this one would be what’s known as a “dead rhinestone.” It has no sparkle. At its very best, it offers a mishmash of brief spring bloom. All last winter, I thought of making a few changes, of adding a bistro set, of moving the birdbath, of installing stepping stones and mulch, of making it beautiful.

Well, be careful what you wish for.

These days, all but driven from gardening of any kind by dicey joints, tendonitis, and mold allergies, I tend to think and imagine more than I actually accomplish. I have let my responsibilities to my beloved plants slip quite a bit. So I’ve been thinking about changes without making any actual push to bring them about.

Old Linda Campbell is the anchor of this front bed. Since I moved here, she’s been my showstopper, growing huge and wide and tall in the front curve of the raised bed next to the sidewalk and covering herself with enormous red bouquets of bloom all summer long. She was the first Linda Campbell rugosa I ever purchased. I bought her for the front bed of my previous home, and she thrived there in the cheap sand the builder used instead of topsoil, sheltered by the sun-warmed brick in winter and bronzed by the sun in the summer. How she bloomed! How she grew! I cut her back constantly so that visitors could walk past her without being snagged on their way to the front door. She evaded blackspot, required no dead-heading, didn’t care whether I fed her or not. We loved each other wholeheartedly.

IMG_1145{Here’s old Linda from a different year, blooming away.}

When I moved, I dug her up and plunked her into a large pot. She thrived. She survived the wind-whipped drive to her new location. She survived being dug up again by a so-called landscaper and left lying on the front lawn with her roots exposed until I saved her in the nick of time. For thirteen years she has been MY ROSE. Some of her canes are nearly as large as my wrist. Because of her, I bought several other Linda Campbells, but none of them have ever grown or bloomed as magnificently as she.

But last winter, she began to fail a bit. Last summer she contracted blackspot and staggered against it. This spring she stood a bit ragged, with dead canes in need of removal and her first flush of bloom for the season less than stellar. And then, a few weeks ago, I saw the mutated new growth that told me what was wrong.

The virus had her.

IMG_1366

I could have cut away the affected canes. I could have fed her, babied her, tried to save her, but it would be to no avail. There is no cure to this disease except destruction of the affected plant. Keeping her longer would be akin to propping up an elderly dog with cancer and letting it suffer just because I couldn’t bear to part with it.

Linda’s quality of life was doomed. So today I got out the large loppers, trash bags, my elbow-length gloves, and set to work. I bagged everything for the landfill trash since such diseased plants must NEVER go into the municipal compost. By rights, the cuttings should have been burned, but we aren’t allowed to burn in the city limits. And as I cut her down, bit by bit, I mourned her.

Roses have existed for thousands of years. They scented ancient Persian gardens and adorned the hair of Roman maidens. Their oils formed the perfume called Attar of Roses and have been the base of many other fragrances. Their petals were strewn before the chariots of triumphant Roman generals and down the aisles toward bridal altars. Roses symbolize love. The Tudors carved them into architectural motifs, and during the War of the Roses one faction sported the red Tudor rose and the other sported the white Lancaster rose. Roses have grown wild and tough and stalwart in old western homesteads, blooming at the broken steps of little farm houses long since crumbled or abandoned. They have grown from cuttings snipped by elderly women and passed along to granddaughters. They have rambled over fences, climbed archways, sprawled over doorways, and graced the White House gardens.

So why are they dying now? Why have we created horticultural messes with our gene splicing and hybridizations? What mite, what rodent, what gene manipulation is responsible? Is it transmitted via an animal? Is it airborne? I can’t bear to read about the latest discoveries because the disease breaks my heart.

In past years, I found effective stress relief from my day job by walking through my rose garden and dead-heading the spent blooms. These days, I let a lovely, nameless little rose given to me for my birthday swell its spent buds into rosehips, thereby blooming only once for the season, all because I can’t bring myself to walk among my plants with a bottle of rubbing alcohol to sterilize my pruners and avoid spreading disease from one plant to another.

In search of easy care, hybridizers created Knockout roses. No dead-heading needed, but then why walk among them? They need no care. They have no scent. Yes, Knockouts are pretty. They serve their landscaping purpose, gracing the borders of parking lots and filling corners of our yards as blooming shrubs. However, could Shakespeare have penned his immortal line about a scentless modern rose? I grow a few Knockouts, but can a scentless rose beguile the senses the way an old Bourbon or Damask rose can?

Am I to be the generation that sees the extinction of roses? Or will they prevail, the tough ones that aren’t hybrids, that aren’t grafted wimpy things that last for one season and die? We humans are modern. We are busy. We are tech-savvy, yet our super-wheat creates celiac disease and obesity, and our roses and bees are dying.

What does that tell us? Or are we too busy to pay attention? The trend du jour is to eat paleo, yet how many cavemen actually ate cupcakes made from almond flour? (We are kidding ourselves and ignoring too many warning signs of looming agricultural disaster.)

All these gloomy topics floated through my thoughts as I chopped and cut. In gardening, you know some plants will never thrive from the day you plant them. If they don’t solve the problem by dying, then they have to go. You know that some plants reach their natural end and have to go. You know that some plants bloom in peculiar, new, garish colors that surprise you–not in a good way–and they have to go.

As I cut old Linda down, I saw that I had been right to tackle this sad task now and not try to prolong her agony. For the tiny new cane sprouting from her very base was deformed. I have loved her, and I loved her today in putting her down.

All that remains is to dig up her roots. It will be a tough, difficult job–perhaps beyond my strength now–yet I will get it done.

IMG_1372{A sad ending to a great old lady.}

And will her disease spread to the other roses in the front bed? Who knows? The first plant to succumb in my backyard–a lovely old rose variety called Penelope–was yanked out and a replacement planted a scant foot away from her hole. And after a few years, the newer bush has shown no signs of the disease whatsoever. No other roses in that bed have contracted the virus. So maybe–fingers crossed–old Linda’s companions in the front bed will escape.

Ready or not, happily or not, the front bed is already being reconfigured.

IMG_1370{Spent blooms from another, lesser Linda Campbell rugosa unaffected as yet.}

IMG_1145

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Eaten by Setting

Are you writing in a genre that requires considerable time and attention lavished on the setting? Fantasy, science fiction, mystery, romance, western, and historical fiction come immediately to mind. And although many thrillers rely heavily on action, their sometimes-exotic locales can require author research.

All that’s fine. In some stories, setting is so important it can be called a character.

When an author establishes a vivid sense of place or locale it enhances the reading experience. I love the research. I love inserting those sparkling jewels of information or detail that can make the setting come alive for me as well as my readers.

However, if unchecked, setting can swell into a monster that engulfs the writing project.

It can so absorb writer attention that the actual writing of story is forgotten or set aside in favor of digging out more research, more details, more obscure pieces of information, more maps, more, more, more!

It can mesmerize writers into abandoning their plot outline. Instead, they change portions of their story to accommodate a fabulous setting that simply has to be crammed into the plot — whether it belongs or not.

And it can grow out of proportion, taking prominence in a story instead of the characters and plot.

These are all danger signals that a careful writer should heed. You don’t have to kill the setting. You don’t have to cut it all away. Just make sure it’s part of the backdrop where it belongs, secondary to the plot action and protagonist.

Let’s compare setting to the morning glory vine. The flowers that bloom all summer, every morning, despite heat, drought, and blazing sun, are lovely. Most varieties come in some shade of blue or purple, or maybe white with blue streaks, and there aren’t many blue-blooming flowers that can handle the merciless prairie climate.

Two homes ago, I tried and tried to grow morning glories. Their seeds are notoriously challenging to start. You have to soak them in water overnight and use a nail file to nick a groove in their hard surfaces. I used to do all of that, and maybe would succeed in sprouting one feeble plant. I tried buying morning glory plants already started at the farmer’s market. I planted them in pots, envisioning them spilling in lush abundance over a stone wall bordering my patio. The vines were puny and feeble. They barely bloomed.

One home ago, I tried again with slightly better success. And then the potted vine managed to seed itself in the ground of my front flowerbed, and suddenly I was pulling morning glory sprouts everywhere.

I moved away to my present home, grateful to have escaped a vine that was threatening to grow larger and larger. Little did I know that the seeds evidently had fallen into my potted roses, and when I transplanted those roses into my flowerbeds, the morning glories took off. Then they took over. Now I feel like I’m constantly fighting the house-sized Crinoid monster from a Dr. Who episode. My rose bushes vanish during the summers, press-ganged into serving as structural support for a vine gone mad. Yes, morning glory blooms are lovely, but I would like to know if my antique rose, Souvenir de la Malmaison, is still alive under that throttling mat of vine and flower.

Last year, I tried to pull down the vines, only to discover that the mockingbirds had built nests within them. I couldn’t disturb their habitat or harm the baby birds, so I left things alone. Now the vines are even bigger and more vigorous. I live with a monster — beautiful, yes — but out of control.

My roses, the intended focal point of my backyard garden, have been engulfed, eclipsed, and visually eaten by a force of nature that just won’t go away.

The vine and its beauty have a place, but only if it behaves. The same principle applies to your setting. If it behaves, and stays where it belongs, and doesn’t seduce you or distract you from your responsibilities to your plot, characters, and pacing, then by all means make it as lovely or as gripping or as gruesome as you desire.

Just don’t let it get away from you.

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A Sad Farewell to Linda

This post is not about writing. I performed a mercy killing today. I didn’t want to. I’ve put off the task for over a year. I kept telling myself, She’s not so bad. As long as she’s still blooming I can trim off the infected parts and keep her going.

Yes, I’m writing today about a rose bush named Linda Campbell. You may be thinking, how silly! Bushes die all the time. It’s the way gardening goes.

Of course it is. Gardeners know that plants have their seasons. They live their span and they die. Or they’re planted in the wrong spot, and they fail to thrive. Some die instantly, getting the mistake over with. Others linger on and on–struggling and yellow, scraggly and sick–until finally you yank them out. Still others fall prey to insects that munch them, strip them, and riddle them into unsightly specimens you’re ashamed to own. Varmints don’t help. I’ll never forget happily planting marigolds in a very tall raised bed, and finding them eaten and gone the next morning by some mystery phantom that came in the night.

But Linda Campbell didn’t deserve her death. She wasn’t planted in the wrong spot. She didn’t succumb to Blackspot or an infestation of Japanese beetles or aphids or a gnawing rabbit. I’d owned her for many years at my previous home, growing her in a huge pot, and she did just fine although no rose truly enjoys living in a pot. I brought her and her sisters (two other Linda Campbells) with me to this home. I planted her at the southwest corner for maximum sunshine. She and one of her sisters bracketed my office window.
Linda healthy bush

The Linda Campbell rose is a rugosa, a hardy shrub variety that’s tough as nails, blooms constantly in huge red clusters, sheds its spent blossoms so that no dead-heading is required, resists disease, and grows into a massive shrub. Give her room and leave her alone, and she will reward you with a summer-long show of color. Any time I come across her at a nursery, I tend to snap her up and find room for her somewhere.

The villain in this lament is a rose virus–Rose Rosette Virus (RRV)–that’s reaching perniciously into more and more gardens and backyards. Horticultural references say it’s spread by a mite, and the blame has been assigned to wild multi-flora roses growing in nature.

Or did it come about from breeding easy-care roses? Rumors and misinformation abound. All I know is that RRV is getting worse, that the new landscaping trend of planting Knockout roses very close together is allowing the mite to spread the disease more quickly, and that once a plant is infected there’s no hope and no cure.

The rose virus wiped out my favorite rose nursery in California several years ago. That’s where I used to order antique varieties, the roses grown by the ancient Romans and the Tudors.

I’d heard about the virus. A friend of mine has been issuing warnings about it for years in her blog reddirtramblings.com, but I’d never encountered RRV until I moved to this house. I brought my roses with me, of course. I always move my roses along with my furniture. One bush, a variety called Penelope that covers herself with the loveliest creamy white blossoms, had been growing in a pot in my previous backyard. Here, at the new place, my backyard featured a long raised bed with in-ground sprinklers, so I put Penelope in the ground and looked forward to seeing her explode happily in size and bloom.

Instead, she immediately contracted the rose virus. Up grew the distinctive “witches’ broom” deformed canes and leaves. I consulted my gardening expert friend, who confirmed the worst. I dug out Penelope and disposed of her.

Everything seemed fine. But then, a year or so later, one of my Linda Campbells in the front of the house sent up a small witches’ broom. I couldn’t believe it. She was–as I’ve already mentioned–a transplant from my former house. I couldn’t believe RRV had struck me twice. I hadn’t been buying new bushes, bringing in contaminated roses from nurseries. But it struck this Linda just the same.

If mites are the carriers, why this bush and not the one next to her? If mites are the carriers, why the Penelope in the backyard when nothing back there has been affected since?

Linda sick leaves
I cut off the affected canes and disposed of them responsibly. (Never put an infected rose into your community’s compost!) I disinfected my pruners, and hoped for the best.

Months went by, and Linda looked okay. I lived in hope and denial. She would send out a couple of witches’ brooms a year, usually in the fall, and that would be it. In the back of my mind, I worried about whether delaying was risking the others, but I couldn’t bring myself to kill her.

Until today. The Polar Vortex arrived, bringing unbelievably pleasant temperatures here to the mid-July prairie. This summer, sick Linda has been sending up more and more deformed canes. She’s tried, pathetically, to bloom and couldn’t. It was time to let her go.
Linda weapons

So I strapped on my back brace and got out my tools for the grim execution. Today is trash pickup day on my street. I had to bag her up and put her in the regular landfill, and I didn’t want her lingering on the curb, possibly spreading the virus to anyone else. The best way to dispose of an infected bush is to burn it, but my city prohibits that, so this was the best I could do.

As I chopped her down and dug her up, I felt anger at whatever’s responsible for this horticultural Frankenstein’s monster. Do I believe that nature has caused this plague? Not entirely. Do I need to read more about RRV? Probably.

Given the chance to choose, however, between what mankind fumbles and nature tries to correct–and given the fact that roses have existed for thousands of years in lovely manifestations of bloom and fragrance–I have to side with suspicion and doubt. The mite may transmit the disease, but I don’t think the cause comes from nature.

So I’m angry. When, I asked myself with every shovelful of dirt, did we decide that roses putting on one annual show of blooms weren’t good enough? When did we decide that they had to have a certain form so we could exhibit them at flower competitions? When did we decide that dead-heading was too much trouble? When did we decide that we’d rather have constant blooms instead of fragrance?

Isn’t fragrance the whole point of a rose?
Linda sick bloom

Perhaps you’re thinking, too bad–so sad–it’s just a rose. Plant another and get over it.

But you see, I can’t plant another rose bush where Linda was. If I could simply yank her out and replace her, I’d be mildly annoyed but okay. In all the years I’ve grown roses, I’ve seen many of them die in this hot, drought-ridden prairie climate.

The trouble with the rose virus is that the roots are infected, too. Unless I can eradicate every piece of root from my flowerbed, no other rose can go in there. And if she sprouts anew from a piece of root–like the undead in a horror film, she’ll have to be executed all over again because she’ll still carry the plague.

Linda sad bush

I knew, when I began today’s task, that I’d never get the roots out. Roses take about three years to settle in and fully establish their root systems. The modern spindly, delicate hybrid tea roses–the ones that produce those lovely, long-stemmed blooms so perfect for formal bouquets–tend to die after one season here and have tiny little root systems because they never become well established. But the shrubs, ramblers, rugosas, and even the sturdy hybrid teas that live on and thrive–all develop generous deep root systems, sometimes nearly as large as the bush.

So today, although I wanted to remove every bit of root, I couldn’t do it without excavating the entire bed and destroying the perennials under-planted beneath the roses. I dug and dug, but eventually I had to cut the long feeder roots and leave them in the ground.

Linda chopped

Linda RIP

Now the symmetry is gone. Will the other rose in this bed succumb next? I don’t know. What will I plant in Linda’s place? Daylilies? Monarda to attract the butterflies? I don’t know. Right now, I’m too disgusted to decide. Because I want Linda there, or at least some lovely rose there, and the virus means I can’t. The virus has taken a little bit of natural beauty from my life.

Linda sister

RIP, Linda Campbell. Today, as I dug you up, the skies wept for you with gentle rain.

Linda healthy bush

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Staying Grateful

Sometimes, feeding the muse has nothing to do with busy little activities directed at enhancing creativity. 

The situation:

Distraction is a bane we writers all have to dodge as much as possible.  Life hands us plenty of interruptions.  But what about those distractions we create for ourselves?

Since last week, I’ve been stewing over how to arrange my living room furniture.  Now it’s never been in place since the Great Move of last summer.  But the recent advent of delivery men, repairmen, and a weekend guest dictated that something must be done.

So I shoved chairs around and cleared trails wide enough for men wearing toolbelts to walk through.  I got the guest room ready.  All fine and good.

Then my guest said casually, “What if we arranged your furniture this way?”

We set to work and shifted lamps, tables, chairs, and stacked-up pictures that I refuse to hang until the furniture is in place.  When we finished, I hated it.

Since the departure of my well-intentioned guest, I’ve been trying to shift everything again.  As if that weren’t challenging enough, I’m also suffering from the desire to cram yet another Victorian cabinet into the mix.  (Smart people collect thimbles or souvenir spoons; I haul home massive hulks of walnut furniture!)  And I although I probably should remove about one-third of what I presently own, I’m determined to make the impossible work.

Determined–there’s a word for you.  As a novelist used to inventing story worlds to my own specifications, I am determined to do the same to real life.  (I think the Greeks called it hubris.)  I am also stubborn, and when I want something I don’t give up.

That’s terrific in landing book contracts and meeting deadlines but perhaps not as desirable when trying to wedge furniture into configurations ill-suited to the square footage.

Still, it’s an unnecessary problem requiring a creative solution.  As such, it’s a distraction of the worst kind because it’s draining creativity from my mind.  My attention is focused more on where to put the coffee table than how to introduce a new character into the chapter-in-progress.

The lesson:

Last night, a storm came brewing from the west just as I pulled supper from the oven.  Suddenly, golf balls of hail were bouncing off yard, windows, and roof.  Wind gusts of 70 to 80 mph whirled across the back patio, and the rain obliterated any view of the neighboring house behind mine.

No tornado sirens wailed, but I was afraid the windows might shatter, so I took shelter in the closet.  Later, it hailed three more times, and the power went out until the small hours of the night.

Today, I surveyed the damage. 

The fern survived; the stand did not. Maybe welding can mend it.

 

 

My flowers have been stripped.  The wooden trim on the house has been chipped.  A lovely flower pot of heavy Italian clay is smashed.  One of my cast-iron fern stands lies in pieces. 

Plastic just isn't the same!

But I am lucky.  No shingles lost.  No windows broken.  I have phone service again.  The air conditioner is running once more.  The power surges didn’t kill my computer.

The point:

So this morning, as I cleaned up some of the flower beds and tried to rescue the vine that’s been growing in the Italian pot for years, I felt gratitude that this scary storm left me so unscathed.  I thought about the folks in Joplin and Alabama who are dealing with much worse.  I thought about my next-door neighbor, whose upstairs windows are broken out. 

Hail left these iris in tatters.

I thought about how there are times in life when it’s best to stop creating problems for yourself and just stay quiet.  To remember to be grateful for what you already have, as well as what you haven’t lost.

Before the storm, this pot held jaunty red petunias.

There are always going to be things in this world that are bigger than I, and I should remember that.

Where my sofa looks its best matters far less than what my character needs to say in the next paragraph.

Sometimes, the best way to fill your well is not to squander what’s already in it.

This rose survived unscathed.

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