Friday, June 27, 2014

#426: Goat's Beard

Reason to Be Happy #426:
Goat's Beard
 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?
 Anyway...this plant makes me smile.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Gardening/Writing Connection

The Gardening/Writing Connection

How Gardening Connects to Writing Reason #1

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.

Monday, June 9, 2014

#425: Getting Strawberries Before the Squirrels Do

Reason to Be Happy #425:
Getting Strawberries Before the Squirrels Do
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.