This is Moxie. Moxie lives with my wonderful veterinarian friend, Dr. Kathy (the same lucky woman who has Humphrey!). Moxie's face makes me happy. Everything about Moxie makes me happy.
Moxie is a bully, as in she is a Staffordshire terrier and bulldog mix, but she doesn't have a bullying bone in her body. She is sweet and shy and even a wee bit timid at first, but once you pass approval, she's a lovebug. She is sometimes called "hippo" and even "piggy" and, yes, she resembles both a bit (she's about as wide as she is tall). The world is a better place with this gentle soul in it.
Now, here, I'm specifically referring to the plant. Not the beard on an actual goat...although it strikes me that the beards on actual goats are absolutely delightful and would be a very worthy reason to be happy of their own. Hmm. Storing that thought away...
But, nope, I meant the plant, which I have in my yard and which is in resplendent bloom at the moment (or, well, it was, before three days of monsoon-like rain battered them flat). I really love plants with quirky-but-fitting names like this. Like foxglove (which was Reason to Be Happy #8). Or gooseneck strife. Or hens and chicks.What are some others?
When I first started gardening, I did it as I do
most things: I plunged in headfirst. I tend not to do things half way. My
gardening is a little obsessive…friends tease me I have a problem. I used to
worry about the time spent in the garden away from my pages. I felt guilty
neglecting my novel in progress. But now I understand that the gardening
actually feeds the writing in many ways. The most obvious way my garden
enriches my writing is that it gives me something relatively mindless to do
with my hands—which is exactly when the ideas flow. If I’m trying to figure out
what happens next in the story or how to resolve a problem in a scene, I can’t
just sit at the desk and expect the answers to come. The ideas come when I’m
driving or running or mowing or washing dishes…or gardening. I never listen to
music or the news in my garden. I like my mind open and free, while my hands
are engaged. Many a scene has been created in my garden.
But beyond that most crucial gift, the gardening
process is, in fact, quite similar to the writing process. Every step of the
process in one has a parallel in the other.
The first step is to have an idea, right? It
actually makes me laugh a bit when people ask me at signings and readings,
“Where do you get your ideas?” (as if they want me to name a website or secret
store). I don’t mean to be flippant, but I get my ideas from keeping my eyes
open as a human being on this planet. I have so many ideas queued up in my brain (kind of like a Netflix queue,
complete with the “move to top” option) that I will never be able to write them
all in this lifetime. That is exactly how I feel when I look at seed and garden
catalogues (or worse, when I am actually in the store and end up buying
everything I want) “I want this, and this, and ooh, look at that! I need two of
these, one in every color…”
So, inside, my brain kind of looks like this:
But then, you have to eventually pick an idea and focus. You have to look at your space
and decide which plants will actually thrive in your zone and soil and
sun/shade conditions. I don’t have room for every single plant I’d like to
grow, so I have to be picky.
And just like with an idea for a novel, once I choose, I have to commit.
I love picking fresh strawberries from my wonderful garden. They are small and sweet, and such a deep red color all the way through (totally unlike those giant storebought strawberries that are white and flavorless inside). Many of you know I have an ongoing battle with the squirrels in my yard (and occasionally a rabbit and a raccoon). I don't mind sharing, but it kills me to find a perfect berry with one bite gnawed out of it. Gah! (And the raccoons are especially prone to leaving the half-eaten berries all over the yard: on my shed roof, in the bird bath, on top of my mailbox, etc. Little vandalizing jerks!). Last year, I had an abundance of berries...and discovered a little snake in my strawberry bed. I was grateful to the snake, who no doubt helped keep some of the squirrels and bird away. I haven't seen the snake yet this year, but the animals seem to have the memory of him (or her? how do you sex a snake???) and I am enjoying bowls of berries! Ahh...nothing like walking out there barefoot in the morning and picking breakfast.
There's something so lovely about any view from a horse's back. After our brutal, relentless winter, it's so fun to get outside and amble through the fields and woods, hearing hoof beats and the swish of tails, and reveling in the luxurious rocking motion of a relaxed, walking horse. My friend Laura Burris took this photo while riding with her friend Alison. I love how the horses are still shedding their fuzzy winter coats. Early spring rides are usually mighty muddy...but well, well worth it.
Ahhh...The first draft of a novel always feels to me like luring a feral creature into a corral. It's tricky, tenuous work that requires consistency, diligence, and trust. Happy to report that yesterday I shut the gate on the corral. That feral creature has been caught. Now, the work begins to tame it...but first some celebration of the milestone and some time away from it to give objectivity. I thought about tidying up my space to take a nice, cleaned up "just printed" picture, but thought, "Nah." This is what it really looks like: Notes everywhere. Ghirardelli chocolate egg wrappers. Coffee cup. Messy house. Plants that need watered.
You can always make it better later. First you have to make it exist. Making it exist feels really, really good and the feeling never gets old (because the process never feels certain).
I don't know why, but I write like crazy in hotel rooms. I feel inspired and I get a lot of words on the page. Maybe it's because I don't have to worry about anything else—I'm not at home where other tasks might distract me, and no matter how lovely a hotel room is, it's essentially just a room. I don't question it—I just embrace it. When my fella had to be out of town for a work conference and invited me along, I jumped at the chance to spend some days in a hotel room alone while he was at the conference. I told the front desk not to service our room, I fired up the coffee maker, and I got SO. MUCH. DONE. I'm really nearing the end of this draft and it feels so good!
Perhaps the only thing that makes writing in a hotel room better, is getting to eat cake straight out of the box while I'm doing it. This beautiful cake came from the wonderful women at Thurber Housewhere I spent the month of October, and where I began the draft of this same novel (which seems very fitting). I took a writing break Friday and left the hotel (gasp!) to go visit them. Left feeling inspired (but in a food coma). They sent the leftover cake for me to share with my fella.
Well, they even included little plates and forks, so we could eat it in a civilized manner, but I forgot to include a knife, so in a plot twist frenzy, needing sugar, I had to resort to eating the cake with a fork right out of the box. I highly recommend this the next time you're in a writing marathon. I made huge progress on the draft and now safely report that I will finish this draft by the end of the month (and, yes, I know that's less than a week away. It's gonna happen). I'm telling you: cake.