Before I switched gears and headed back to Seattle, I cleaned out the gardens to ready them for winter. Olive and I spent an entire day piling old branches in bins, working compost into the roots of the old English roses, tying up rogue climbing shoots, pruning the blowzy fall blossoms and clusters of yellow and green cherry tomatoes hanging heavy off woody stems. Her nose and beard were caked in dirt and goodness knows what else. My boots were slick with wet leaves. While I worked, I nested my small October harvest into a rough-cut rose granite bird bath that sits at the edge of the garden wall, the stems mingling with a few drops of water, a small feather and a poached worm.
I love October gardening — the sweet smell of leaves, earth full of decay, the tingle of a cooling breeze, the sun low. Perhaps a light sweater. I make a mental list of what I need to remember to do in the spring, what needs a prune first, what needs deep fertilizing, which plant will have to be staked better in 2016. I tuck the garden away as I tuck summer clothes, folded and pressed and boxed, ready for the next circle of seasons.
I can make order of this garden. Not so my writing.
As a writer, I constantly fight that slightly OCD blood that makes a perfect stack of the garden bins. There is no order to creativity, as much as I set deadlines and line up my paper work. Other inspirations — or in the case of this summer, priorities — slither between my brain and my hands, and I begin to feel perhaps I should set this aside, this journey of putting words and thoughts to paper that someone will want to read. The problems of friends, family and the world seemed so important compared to my personal and self-driven journey. This person whispers: I missed a deadline. I missed a course I thought was imperative. I missed a month of my writing groups. I’ll never catch up.
A writing friend wrote me an email today and asked at the end, “did you get in any writing?” First I laughed. I don’t even know where five weeks went, between patient advocating, worry and carrying a tray. I know I read thousands of words in the off moments — Elena Ferrante’s deep and complicated four-book series about two women in Italy, Erica Jong’s The Fear of Dying, A window Opens by Elizabeth Egan, Stephen Kieran’s The Hummingbird, the immensely thought provoking Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf. I do know the reading kept me thinking; about words, ideas, description, writing.
I sit in the Nest in Seattle this morning and watch my first sunrise over the Cascade mountains since July, look over at my new laptop, hear the dog sigh deep in the softest chair, still recovering from the five-hour flight on Saturday. Through the jet lag I feel something that has been set aside for the last ten weeks: a spark of excitement. I open the shiny cover, type in my password. I take a breath and accept the lesson of perseverance, of dis-order, of flexibility. And think about you reading this.
What do you want to do that will make you so happy? How will you do this? Can you let this happen?
I suggest you run, don’t walk. You don’t know when your hip will break, your shoulder will freeze, something will grow in your brain besides a good first line.
That spark ignites life. Light it.