Sunday, June 29, 2014

So I’m going away

but just for a week this time, up to my own Bayberry Island.  On the way I’ll visit my mother, who probably won’t remember me, an aunt who certainly will, perhaps a cousin or two.  Once I’m on my island I’ll have my sister and my nephew, my brother-in-law and his daughter and her twins.

My family has stretched in a different direction, away from my father’s side, most of whom are gone, and the rest far away.  My partner’s family is on the West Coast and I haven’t seen them in years.  On my mother’s side I have family, but illness and proximity have kept me from really getting to know the cousins and their children.  My foster child and my grandchild live seven hours away, an impossible drive for me. They have their own lives; ones that I’m not really a part of now.  And that’s okay, I was there when they needed me to be there.

And so, by virtue of my time on the island my family has stretched into my sister and her husband’s.  It’s funny in a way, because for more than twenty years I ran away from family.  I lived alone, traveled alone, and spent as much time as possible with strangers.  When I needed family I made my own.  Now as I grow older and more frail I am slowly reconnecting with the very people I distanced myself from.  Now I can’t really remember why I ran in the first place, although at the time it seemed the only way I could live my life.

Times change, people change.  Isn’t that the way the saying goes?  And I do believe that. I believe people can change.  Because I know I have changed.

I don't need to hide away on an island 14 miles from the mainland any longer. When I go there I go to reconnect. with people I know, and those I have yet to meet. I go to reconnect with the past that was a vital part of shaping who I am now. And with my nephew, with my sister's grandchildren I can begin to experience a future I would never have imagined in my youth, but which feels like home now.

Monday, June 23, 2014

It's raining lightly

And that’s something the dogs don't seem to understand is an excellent excuse for postponing our morning walk.  They sit at the bottom of the stairs, gazing expectantly upward.  I can feel their eyes through my office door.

Rain, even a light rain, is a blessing for those of us who garden. I make the attempt, as I have every year for the past fifteen, since I have owned my own small patch of dirt, to connect with the earth.  In some places, I admit, it is control as well as connection, as I try to shape small areas with colors and scents that please me.

Mostly, I want a personal, visceral connection to what I eat. There's quite a bit of connection actually, considering how small the garden is, and how little of my food it actually supplies.  

But it's not about that now as much as it is about the fact, the realization, that most everything in that garden grew from seed I planted, tended, watered, and watched over.  I've yet to tire of watching a seedling push through, seeing a pea tendril or bean vine wrap itself just so around a branch I placed for just that purpose.

I have several pairs of garden gloves that watch me from the fence I placed them on to dry sometime in April.  I can't remember to put them on because I want the feel of the earth sucking the moisture from my hands.  I want the calluses, and the permanent stains under my nails from black dirt.  They are badges of honor in the world I strive to belong to.

The land I cultivate now is a fraction of what I started with when I first came to Virginia.  I had grand designs of a garden that would feed us through the year, of orchards with fruit and nut trees, wild food gathered and placed in gardens within easy reach.  I built 8 inches of rich black soil on top of land scraped to red clay by builders.  I planted blueberries, elderberries, apple and pear trees; scoped out wild raspberries and blackberries and patches were edible mushrooms grew.
young apple and pear trees

But it was too much.

It had always been too much for me physically, and although I knew that I kept pushing.

I've always done that, pushed beyond my limits.  What I'm starting to learn is that my limits are changing.  Not only starting to learn, but starting to accept that fact.

We live in town now, and the section of land I tried to bring under control is miniscule.  Most of the hard work was done by the owners before me, who left me vines and bushes, trees and shrubs fruiting and mature.
mature blueberry plants!

concord grape vine
asian pear tree

ripe gooseberries. I have always wanted to grow gooseberries.

 I'm two thirds steward and maybe a third builder.  My empire of abundance is managed by someone else now.  

But that’s cool, most of the time. Because I put the same love and care and intensity in to my tiny garden as I did my huge one. I’m realizing that it’s not about how much dirt I have, it’s that I have dirt I can plunge my hands into.  And I am starting to believe I really can get the same amount of enjoyment and peace from any garden I can connect with. I'm learning to be okay with what I have.

I’ve a small something else I’ve grown from seed, in a manner of speaking.  I’m referring, of course, to Coyote Summer.  I have an acquaintance from college who has a book that’s garnered national attention. 

 Sometimes I look at his posts on Facebook about already being booked for the whole next school year for personal visits,
I read the reviews from major newspapers, and I’m jealous.  And yet I don’t begrudge Chris his awards.  He works hard, harder than I ever could at publicity.  I couldn’t begin to attempt his schedule.  He has a big book, with a big publisher, and he’s earned it.

I have a small book with a small publisher and a small amount of energy.  This week I’m not talking in front of six classes of schoolchildren.  I’m talking to a small local book club.  And you know what?  I’m finally learning that’s what I can do.  And it’s enough.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

So looky here . . .

It's Father's Day.
And I just want to make it clear that when I say I wish I'd had a childhood like my character Jessie in my tween novels, I don't mean I wish I'd grown up with a prescient baby brother, a mother who worked at the post office, and most importantly, no father.
I cherish my childhood with my father, and now that he's gone I miss him at the oddest moments.
Dad and his three bathing beauties, circa '62 or '63

Like now.

When I published my first book of poetry, my father carried the announcement from the newspaper folded in his wallet, and showed it to people as if it were a birth announcement.  Which in my case it was, and I think he realized (although he hated to admit it,) that clipping was the only sort of birth announcement he'd ever be able to show off from me. That he did this has always touched me, almost beyond belief.

He read the galleys of my memoir, but didn't quite make it to see the publication.  Coyote Summer he never got to read.
But I'd like to think he'd have been proud of it too.

It's Father's Day.  And it doesn't really make any sense to get you a polo shirt anymore.  But just in case you're watching, here is my first blog review.  You can show it around if you want.

Review on TweenBookBlog

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I know, I know. Mea culpa.

It's been almost a month.  And besides informing and amusing you, this blog is supposed to keep your interest so that every once in a while I can subtly slide in a plug for my new book.  Which at this point happens to be Coyote Summer.
buy the book, buy the book.

Okay, that's done.

I have no real explanation except that it's spring, and I am in a new house, and that means a new garden, and an actual yard, both of which entail a great deal of physical labor.  Which, at this point in my life, is not my strong suit.

So instead of writing I am playing in the dirt.  

And doing some promotion and publicity.  Nothing compared to Chris Grabenstein 
Wow! The book is already a New York Times best seller, an Agatha Award winner, a Nerdie award winner, and nominated for all sorts of state book awards.
who shames me daily on Facebook, but some.

None of this would be possible without help.  I have an amazing law student helping me with my book promotion, doing all the computer things my hands cannot.

And we have most wonderful caretakers, an old friend from my college theater days who I had not seen for thirty-five years.
dick and dr d replant an almond that got too big for its britches
 He and his wife have moved into the cabin and are caretaking our beloved property.  We went to dinner there this weekend, and it was an odd feeling, sitting in a dining room that had once been ours.  But they have made the house and land a part of themselves with so much love
the "veranda"

that I can almost be all right with leaving it.

Almost. It's always going to hurt.

But I have my new yard to play in, and my tiny garden.  And my friend and I have accomplished many projects,an amazing arbor
dick exiting arbor, stage right
for (hopefully) kiwi vines, and capturing the cherry pie tree

and the blueberries
so they cannot run off.  You would think that the fence would be enough to keep them in, but honestly, think about it.  If you had three dogs peeing on you, wouldn't you want to run?
especially these dogs

Anyway, the world is now safe from fruit. and the birds, let me tell you, the birds are pissed.

The dogs have moved on to more proper city dog pursuits, like telephone poles and even the occasional hydrant. 

And me? I am moving on. I am. I'm just a bit slower than my dogs.
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