Rain for the Writer’s Soul

Watering the writer's soulWhite-gray morning sky and the icon on my desktop said rain. I didn’t have to water the seeds I planted last week—the mesclun, spinach, arugula, kale, and peas, the carrots, radish, and beets that came later.

I love spring and summer rain because I don’t have to water my gardens. I love the rain because sometimes I need a day to catch up on errands or inside projects, things I don’t want to do when the day calls me outside.

The rain will sink into to the dry soil. It will help open up those seeds and wake up the peepers.

I’ve been in a writing drought. I’ve found myself resistant to writing. My notebooks are filled with what I’d consider grumblings not writing. I’ve sent out letters. I’ve abandoned my blog. The half written article and the not quite right essay get shuffled from place to place.

I tried writing prompts, but instead of new words, I thought of ones I’d already written.

“I’m tired of my own story,” I thought.

Back in January, an editor had nudged me to submit an essay we had talked about. The timing felt terrible, but I did it. The digital edition came out earlier this month, and the magazine itself, arrived over the weekend. With it came responses—an email from a friend, a call from a neighbor, a FB message, comments on the digital version, emails to the editor. Gentle rain.

Each response reminded me that one of reasons I write is to share experience—to connect.

Writing is discovery and self-understanding.
Writing is capturing memories—or letting them out to let them go.
Writing is communication and sharing.
Writing, over time, allows us to notice patterns and change.
Writing, whether letter or essay or blog post or book, is expression.

The writing in my pile of notebooks and the nested folders on my computer matters. Writing is in part about the process. Writing shared matters in a different way.

This is why I’ll struggle with the stubborn essay on my desk that isn’t taking shape and find my way back here again, why I’ll keep trying to find a home in the world for an essay that did come together, why I’ll keep coming back here even when it feels like it’s been too long.


Whether it’s writing or something else you’re feeling stuck with, go back to your whys.

Tell me about your why.

 

 

Is it the right time?

I planted spinach last week.

First I googled What does as soon as the ground can be worked mean and Is it crazy to plant spinach in March in zone 5B? Answers were non-conclusive as might be expected. I wanted an OK to start planting even though it feels crazy early. Didn’t get one.

Gardening, like life, often doesn’t have clear cut, black and white answers.

The weather has been telling me to get outside, start planting. I find it hard to trust this weather though—and for good reason. March is notoriously fickle. I’ve been tricked before into packing away snowsuits only to have several inches dumped on us. Last week, I sat on the porch sipping coffee and reading and writing a letter. Yesterday, snow.

Most years the ground can’t be worked this early. It’s frozen or a sodden mess or still covered in snow. But this year, it’s tempting and well . . . maybe it’ll work.

Either way, it’s going to be OK.  Seed isn’t expensive.  And I’ll plant more spinach either way. Is it the right time? I’m not sure, but it’s not a big risk to take.

Two years ago today, I wondered if the time was right for something else. And then, like the spinach, I decided to go for it. I signed on to work with a business coach. I sent the email, made my deposit—and wondered what the heck I was doing.

I started freelancing in 2000 after a layoff, and while I’ve learned a lot in that time, I never invested much in my business—a new computer, one fabulous conference years ago, the occasional workshop.

Seven years of babies and grief and changing markets left me knowing I wanted something different. But what? And when?

“Maybe,” I thought, “I should wait until both kids are in school.” It was just a few months away. Maybe I should wait for more clarity. But, no. I was stuck. I needed to DO something.

Sometimes you plant your seeds. You water and wait and hope. Usually things sprout. If not, you try again. Two years ago, the seeds I planted flourished. The spinach from last week? I’ll let you know next month.


What seeds are you ready to plant?

In the almost spring

In the almost spring, winter coats and snow pants are left behind in a heapIMG_0385
sweatshirts litter the lawn.

I peer each day at the green shoots by the door.
Look! A snow drop. Tight this morning, opened wide in the afternoon.

I haunt the rhubarb patch looking for bulbous round red knobs,
precursors to wrinkled leaves growing, growing, growing . . .

I can’t play hooky so I sit on the porch and marvel
at the warmth—it’s still March.

A neighbor calls: “The bears! Headed your way!”
Watch from the porch as they waddle silently across the street.

In the almost spring, my kids dig worms, build forts
come in with brown knees smelling of dirt.

I breathe it in and smile.


What signs of (almost) spring did you find today?

A year of growing

It’s finally spring, though some days it feels we’ve skipped ahead to summer. It’s the smell of something on the grill and waving to neighbors walking by during dinner. It’s kids stopping to play and moms sharing a drink. It’s thinking we can stay out all evening in the golden light, only to remember school tomorrow, early morning, bedtime.

This spring/summer weather means smoothies outside instead of movie and popcorn after school. It means helping buckle bike helmets and pushes on the trapeze. It means washing feet and checking for ticks every day.

It’s the season for checking my greens every day to see if I’ll need to buy spinach or lettuce next week. It’s dragging the hose to water the little pockets of my garden I’ve planted so far. It’s getting ready for planting all the stuff that doesn’t like the cold (and the stuff that does that I haven’t managed to get in yet).

Monday so many things seemed to come in to bloom all of a sudden. The violets that I wanted for a science experiment flowered. My tulips bloomed. The cherry tree down the way was abuzz with bees. It felt like a long winter. Finally, really spring.


 

One year ago today, I launched this blog. I set out to create a space to write about growing and food and family and the connections of all those things, and I guess I’ve done that even if it doesn’t look exactly like what I was imagining.

I’m going to be playing with this space over the summer. I may be less regular and trying new things as I continue to focus on the themes of write, nourish, and grow. Thanks for reading and sharing with me this past year.

New life / lost life

Writing prompt: use a poem as a starting pointI read this poem recently and loved the imagery and sensory details, the full sense of spring and life and death.

This line stuck with me:

New life heals lost life

Does it? I could argue both ways.

I could tell you about how having a baby one year after my first baby died broke me open to joy again. Or how the everyday life things—diapers and feeding and soothing—took the place of life and death issues. How even as I continued to grieve deeply and fully and actively, I had to focus on life, the new little life that needed me.

I could tell you that now, almost eight years since I became a mother, seven and a half since I became a grieving one, that I am healed—and not.

Here’s the thing: there is great joy in my life. I love my girls fully and deeply. And I miss their brother. I wonder who he would have been. I wonder who I would have been as his mother if he were here. I’m not stuck in what would have been, but sometimes something within me is stuck. And then I break open again. Things move. Life happens.

New life heals lost life.

This line at another time would have filled me with anger. One life does not replace another. But new life does bring its own wonder and joy and energy. It doesn’t replace, but yes, maybe it heals.

***

This time of year is full of new life: the yellow spills down the forsythia bush, the hops and rhubarb expand daily, my garlic has turned from single small spikes to little green v’s. I water where I’ve laid down seeds and count the days until I cut spinach and lettuce for a salad. Its a time of growth. It’s a time of possibility and potential.

This time of year, I mark the growth—the violet plants greening my garden, the tulips swelling before bloom, the little girl who once chatted with me in the garden today a teenager, the baby I brought to story hour at the library in her car seat now walking there with her preschool class—and hold the potential of the seeds and once baby turned preschooler with time racing her toward teenager.

Late April, early May I am so aware of the potential around me and I remember the potential that was in me. Even having that potential cut short, I believe in life. I believe that the seeds I sow will sprout and grow. I believe that the baby turned preschooler will grow to be a teenager like the one I walked down the driveway to say happy birthday to this morning. I believe that they will keep going, keep growing.

This time of potential, this time of new life, this time of hope. It keeps coming, keeps growing, and I watch it unfold. I keep growing and hoping and opening to that potential.


New life heals lost life. What do you think?

 

 

 

 

What sticks with us

“Can we go out an play in the puddles?”

“Not today. Too cold.” It was gray all day and grew rawer as the day went on. Our wood stove is cranking out heat again after a few days off. And I know my kids and our neighbors didn’t just want to splash in puddles in their rain boots, they wanted to run and romp and roll in them. They wanted to dump murky water over each others’ heads and need an outdoor shower before they could come in the house.

They did that—with our okay—last year. We okayed it because the spring sunshine made it hard to head home and get ready for bed and there was a little wine left from dinner and they were so excited about it.

I okayed it because I remembered my mom saying yes, some 30+ years before on vacation in New Hampshire. I remembered the sheer joy of jumping and splashing and lolling in the mud, the soft-grittiness of it. I smiled thinking about lying down in the puddle like it was a tub. I remember laughing and dripping in my teal terry cloth romper (forever stiff with dirt after that), my favorite outfit that summer.

Today was too late, too cold, but one day last spring I said, “Yes.”

“Remember when mom let us roll around in that big mud puddle?” My sister and I both do.

Write with Me Wednesday: Write about a experience from childhood that has stuck with you.

My little one asks me for stories about me when I was little every day on the way to school. I always begin, “Once upon a time, when I was a little girl . . . ” stalling, trying to come up with a story I haven’t told her. She doesn’t care though, as long as it’s not too short, so I tell her about the mud puddle and the time we went camping and I woke up in my own bed. I tell her about the time I went missing but was in my garden the whole time and about my sister’s rabbit that peed on me and the time the neighbor’s horse charged at my dad while he was getting our new bikes out of the car.

I wonder what stories she and her sister will remember and retell.

What memory has stuck with you since you were a child? What family stories do you retell?

Share your stories in comments or with somebody in your family.


 

Grow is an online writing retreat—www.sarabarry.comTake some time to write today—and join me for a month of writing with Grow. We’ll connect with those stories that have stuck with you and the moments right now that you want to stick. You don’t have to say yes to puddle jumping, but say yes to some creative time and support for you.