A Little Trim Here and There



The trimmings from the side yard, I sure hope it’s the third Monday the trash folks pick up the yard waste.

October is moving at a breakneck pace and I have been patiently waiting for the usually accompanying cool weather. By South Carolina standards that means the upper seventies with a nice breeze and a decrease in the humidity.  Much cooler than that and we might think we slipped into winter.  Yet here we are October 21st and we are in the eighties. Granted, the humidity is not at August levels and there is a breeze so I jumped into the annual fall garden clean-up. The above is just from the side yard and the adjoining front corner by the garage.  I have much more to do, especially in the back, but I’m holding out with the hope next weekend will be a little cooler.

As I trimmed, shaped and weeded I got thinking about how writers do the same thing with their work.  The first spilling out on the page is usually untidy and overgrown in parts. Sometimes whole sections need to be moved or cut altogether. Occasionally a seedling is found and can be cultivated to enhance the story.

As my brain reflected as it seems to always do when I’m working in the garden, I also saw the beauty of how this trimming works in our lives. We trim away old habits or toxic friends. We weed out our closets and other possessions to give space for the things we actually like and use. We examine how we are using our time and try to clear our calendars and to-do lists of the things that detract from a meaningful life. There is something soothing and energizing about restoring order and clearing away the excess. In the garden, In the closet or garage, in relationships and how we use our time.

For me, these clean-ups work best when I do them on a fairly regular basis. I find that the changing of the seasons, regardless of cooperation of the weather are great times to stop, reflect, pick an area or two literally or metaphorically to trim up and weed out. Then discard that excess, the baggage that holds you back, and move on, there is an even better life just ahead.

Happy trimming!


Time To Get Down and Dirty



This is what happens when you go to the garden center on a beautiful spring day.

I went in for a few ivy plants . . . as you can see I came away with much more. That is the risk you take when you visit the garden center on a beautiful spring day. Between the allure of the plants I also had time, it is Spring Break this week and day one was almost perfect.

I say almost because I started the day with a mammogram, but then I treated myself to a latte and then went to get my hair cut. On the way home I decided to pick up the ivy so I could replant the pots by my front door. Once there I had planned out my raised beds and my patio pots. So a car load later I made my way home.

I am on a deadline to finish book three and I diligently sat down and spilled about twelve-hundred words from my soul, before taking a gardening break. After an hour of mowing and playing in the dirt, I returned to write another thousand words before taking a pre-arranged conference call about an upcoming author’s panel I’m participating, in Greenville, South Carolina in May. Then I went back to the chapter and around a thousand words later, I was satisfied with Lizzie’s progress on her journey and I was drained of my creative juices. Another hour and a half in the garden and I feel charged again.

Charged and filthy dirty.  The only thing that could make this day better is if someone of the handsome and kind variety was whipping up dinner in the kitchen.  I love days like these when the ordinary things are enjoyed and savored. This is how I imagine the days will be when I move from teacher and writer to full-time writer.

There is something in the ancient part of my genes that responds to the garden. I don’t think my ancestors were city dwellers. I still yearn to be a genteel gardener whose gloves never get dirt on the inside and manages to still look presentable at the end of a session amongst the flowers. I blame Hollywood for this unattainable ideal. I’m happy to settle for dirt streaked limbs and face with my hair plastered against my head.

Gardening is life affirming. It stimulates the senses and inspires the artist within. I can hardly wait until I get to do it again tomorrow.


In Abundance



Confederate roses in my backyard

It is early November and one one of the pleasures of living in the South Carolina Lowcountry is enjoying the continuing parade of bloomers, while many parts of the country have their plant life fading to brown and bare.

I worried about several of my plants during Hurricane Matthew. My magnolia, river birch and my redbud trees and also my camellias and these beauties. My attachment to the confederate rose bushes is two-fold. First I love that they bloom in late October into November. Second, they were rooted and given to me by a neighbor, which makes them way more precious than any plant I have ever purchased. Luckily none of my plants suffered any significant damage. The confederate roses were bent, some of the branches touching the ground, but the bushes were laden with buds, delivering a bumper crop of blooms.

This abundance speaks to me. It tells me that even when storms rage, there is resilience. It tells me there is hope and beauty among the challenges. The romantic in me even sees it as a metaphor for my writing career, it is growing and blossoming with vigor. Every time I catch sight of the pink roses from my back windows I can’t help but smile.

We stress every day about weather, politics, geopolitical conflicts, the economy, the loss of courtesy, respect, and compassion that seems to be happening among different groups of people. Much of this comes from fear of differences and belief that somehow there is a scarcity of resources. But the truth is the majority of us have more than we need and if humanity could ever learn to share its resources then all would live in abundance. I know that is an ideal vision for the world, but I hope that is what humanity will reach as reality someday.

It will be Thanksgiving in a few weeks, a wonderful time to reflect on all the blessings we have. I just found my reminder to be thankful every day for the abundance in my life a few weeks early.


On The Dirty Side

My Legs after a stint in the garden

My Legs after a stint in the garden

I have waxed poetic about my garden in previous posts, making it sound much more enchanting than it probably is.  Our southern climate makes gardening a year-round activity.  when I bought my house and my yard was a blank slate I spent hours pouring over gardening books and drawing out ideas attempting to design a garden to rival the gardens featured on the pages of Southern Living.  I imagined wearing simple sundresses, a floppy straw hat and gloves as I would putter around the yard, with just slight perspiration and a flush to my cheek.  The epitome of a graceful southern lady in her charming garden. Well, the reality is far from the fantasy.  I do love working in the yard, it is much more satisfying than housework. However, I don’t perspire, I sweat, what seems like buckets, and it stings as it runs into my eyes.  I have learned to wear old paint and dirt stained clothes, as the picture above attests I get coated with dirt from head to toe. My flush is more like beet red as I overheat in the ninety degree weather.  About the only part of my gardening fantasy that meets the reality is a floppy straw hat I wear and the gloves that keep some of the dirt out of my fingernails. As I think about it, my dirty gardening is a great metaphor for life.  Life is not clean and neat and everything in it’s place (Can I use this as an excuse to avoid housework?) it is unpredictable, messy and hard work, but isn’t that what makes it interesting?  My character Addie, the heroine of my trilogy is about to become a first time home owner and I plan to have her dabble in gardening, I am pretty sure she will be a gardener like me. I have visions of some comedic scenes for Addie involving nature, tools and soil. I hope Addie will learn to love it as much as I do. After all, gardening and life are little more fun on the dirty side.