Blogger: Michelle Ule sitting in for Cynthia Ruchti–who is coping with snow and power issues.
I paused while gardening one day years ago, to open a letter.
“How’s your writing going?” a dear friend wrote.
Lori penned her letter from San Francisco where she worked for Mother Jones Magazine.
I read her letter while sitting on a rock wall above my garden in Connecticut. My toddlers rolled around the driveway on their big wheels tricycles.
She meant her words kindly, but they pierced.
I had not planned my life the way it appeared to be going.
Like her, I had envisioned graduating from college, getting a job (hopefully involving writing or books), establishing myself in a career, and then entering the ranks of the marrieds with children.
Seven years later I lived on a rocky hillside in an old house where I tended my children and my garden on limited resources.
My Navy guy was usually out to sea.
I filled my daily life by writing letters to my husband and friends, reading books, and gardening.
And caring for the children, of course.
But how to answer Lori’s question?
Was there room for writing, gardening, and life?
On that warm summer’s day, a breeze blew through the trees and riffled the tender leaves in my four garden beds.
The carrots looked like blades of grass, the tomato leaves a gnarled leathery green. I needed to weed and thin.
(The robust zucchini, of course, wanted to take over.)
I needed to double-dig compost into the last bed to make the soil richer and better for growing plants.
Only then would it be ready for seeds, starts and, eventually, vegetables to feed us.
Preparing the soil was important.
The boys whizzed by on their plastic wheels, laughing and waving.
I glanced at the letter and then blew them a kiss.
I had gardening work to do, but also an idea to share.
“The writing will always be there, Lori, but I have more pressing matters right now.
I guess I see my writing life like a garden.
Now is the time to dig in compost, encourage worms, and nurture the soil.
One day, all will be ready.
I’ll toss some seeds into that fine garden bed and strong plants will grow.
I see this time in my life as digging the compost of experience into young soil.
One day, I’ll toss in the seeds of an idea; a book will grow and flourish from my life and experiences.
Until then, just living is enough.”
Remembering those words so many years later, I’m astonished I had such wisdom in my twenties.
How did my writing garden grow?
We lived such a rich life (thank you, US Navy, American taxpayers and more church members than I’ll ever be able to count).
I mulched my life with places, people, experiences and dreams. Gardens, too.
I have an unlimited source of stories.
I’ve dug the compost, the dead enriching matter, into my soul. From those challenges, words grew that reaped benefits for myself and for others.
One day the time was right.
The children were grown, my life had settled down. I could till the garden soil of my experiences.
It felt rich and dark and ready.
I received my first contract the very day we drove our youngest child to college.
The next day, I tossed the seeds of an idea into my computer. A novella grew.
And another, and another, and so forth.
Ten books in all at this point. All my writing dreams grew to fruition.
Every book used all those experiences, dreams, disappointments, children, a missing husband, and even some gardening. So many readers have shared their reactions to bless me.
It’s amazing what a few writing seeds will do.
And a life.
Thank you for that question all those years ago, Lori.
As always, I’ve got a little weeding, and writing, to do.
How does your garden grow to write a book? Click to Tweet
Writing, compost, gardening, and words. It’s all good. Click to Tweet
Tossing the seeds of an idea into the compost of my soul=10 books. Click to Tweet