I am upstairs in my office — by the window where I like the light — taking a photo that is completely staged. Sometimes I do this when I’m cleaning my desk. Maybe I am avoiding the actual cleaning part? Or maybe, I think, if I arrange a few lovely objects that have been obscured under piles, I will be inspired to create something with them.
I printed out the Unravelling the Year Ahead workbook by Susannah Conway a couple of weeks ago, and it has been looking at me longingly ever since. This will be my fifth year journaling my way through the pages, and I’m thrilled just thinking about it. Tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow I will make space to purposfully reflect on the year past and envision the year to come. One of the questions I’ll ask myself is “Why do a 365 project?” To nurture my creative voice? To encourage myself to see beauty in our everyday life? To be an active part of a photography community? To see my family more deeply, with more dimension, and with more reverence?
I think of the quote I so love by Brenda Ueland: “For when you write, if it is to be any good at all, you must feel free — free and not anxious. . . Yes, it has made me like working to see that writing is not a performance but a generosity.” In that spirit of generosity, I want to venture out on this 365 project. Thank you to Jenny, one of the most generous people I know, for inspiring me to begin.
Yesterday I finished most of my office work before the girls woke up. And so I thought we might go out on an adventure. Or a picnic. But we stayed home instead. We picked cherries in the orchard. We sketched and painted Nasturtiums. We did a little reading and a little knitting. We gathered flowers and settled fully into the summer day.
Later in the evening I finished reading The Chosen. I remember it from years ago (did I read it in college?) and for some reason had been thinking about it earlier this summer. I even searched for it on my bookshelf but found I only had the sequal (The Promise). So when I happened upon an old hardback copy at the July library book sale, I gratefully brought it home.
Chaim Potok is every bit as wonderful a writer as I’d remembered! Each time I pull myself out of the world that is his book, I return to my kitchen — or my garden, or my children — with a deeper level of awareness. I linger in the details. I find myself narrating in my head: the scrape of the spoon against the side of the bowl or the shape of my child’s hand as she reaches up towards me.
I love his writing because even as he weaves a story rich with imagery, Chaim Potok doesn’t shy away from taking up the question of truth in the context of the world’s contradictions. He inspires me to write with intention and courage.
In the middle of reading The Chosen, I was hit with sudden inspiration to rewrite my own young adult novel in first person. The new version of my story has taken on a life of its own, and (dare I say?) I finally feel like I’m doing justice to the characters. Thus I’m reminded again how good reading and writing are so inextricably intertwined. And now I’m looking forward to waking early again to write.
Four weeks ago we started our first batch of seedlings in a friend’s greenhouse. We escaped the chill of a 17-degree afternoon for a balmy 60 degrees and surrounded ourselves with trays of emerging shoots and the promise of spring. Four weeks ago it was quiet in the greenhouse.
Yesterday we went back to a completely different scene. Our baby plants were “huge” and the greenhouse was bustling. I’m surprised that our farmer friend still generously lets us start plants in his space because my how his operation has grown over the past few years. Inside tables were completely full of plants, and dozens of trays had already been moved outside under row cover to “harden off.” As many as seven people were inside the greenhouse at once: transplanting peppers, starting tomatoes, watering, moving flats of seedlings. I managed to snap just a few quick photos when we first arrived (at the end of the lunch hour), before the hustle and bustle resumed.
We have a mini chamomile forest again (I can’t blame the girls this time; I seeded the chamomile plants myself!) as well as some new flowers that we’ve never grown before (Sweet Alyssum, Statice, Chinese Forget-Me-Not, Bells of Ireland). We brought home two trays of brassicas all ready to plant in our garden under row cover (kale, broccoli, and brussels sprouts), and so we’ve got our work cut out for us at home this weekend.
A month ago it was 60 degrees in the greenhouse but yesterday it was over 80! Ellen suggested that we take off our boots and go barefoot.
I have to pace myself in the bright light and heat (and I no longer care that my sunhat looks rediculous). Fortunately, the girls were a great help yesterday. They worked with me to make the soil blocks; write labels for the trays; and seed many varieties of tomatoes, basil, peppers, cabbage, cucumbers, parsley, squash, watermelons, pumpkins, sunflowers, zinnia, and cosmos — among others. All together we started another 400 baby plants. This is our third year starting seedlings in the greenhouse, and it has become a tradition that I look forward to all winter. So much of our garden begins here. We are so grateful to be welcome on Reid’s farm and to be part of a new growing season coming to life.
Reading to Amabel and Ellen at bedtime is my favorite part of the day. Snuggled up between my girls, warm and wiggly, lost in the adventures of our imaginations . . . this is bliss. But last night, I took our bedtime ritual a step further and read three chapters from a book I’m writing. A book I’m writing for them. I’ve been working on a chapter book, on and off, for over a year — ebbing and flowing with the seasons of mothering and work. I started in a yellow composition book two summers ago, but it was only this fall that I began (reluctantly) to transcribe the chapters into digital files. I love to write by hand; I’m very old-school that way. But my story was becoming unruly and I couldn’t hold all the threads together in a paper notebook anymore. I needed to type them up in an organized fashion to get my head around the plot. So I’ve been spending (roughly) one afternoon a week in my parents’ guest house, where I set up my little iPad alongside this reassuringly solid, powder-blue typewriter. Writing in this peaceful space, with nothing else calling for my attention, is another sort of bliss. Reading and writing . . . perhaps my two favorite things?
As much as I love the writing part, I was nervous to start reading the story — still so young and raw — aloud to my daughters. What if it didn’t hold their attention? What if it was too serious? What if speaking the voices of the characters out loud didn’t match the life I’d imagined into them on the pages?
I needn’t have worried. I couldn’t have asked for a better pair of listeners. Amabel and Ellen piped up with simple, honest reactions and curious questions. And after they fell asleep, each girl breathing in her own rhythm beside me, I snuck out of the bed and took notes. I have an idea now for the next scene; maybe the aunt could be a bit funnier — if I can exaggerate the dialogue without going overboard? Ellen said she liked the part in the woods best. And Amabel tactfully pointed out that I used the word “lips” too many times. My budding editor!
After we finished reading, Amabel asked, “Do you ever get writer’s block?” Her question caught me so off guard that I didn’t answer directly. Writers block? Where did that question come from? Well, to tell you the truth Amabel, it’s not so much that I have trouble with the writing part — it’s more that I have trouble with the sharing part. But reading and writing go together! How could I forget? Thank you and Ellen, for reminding me why I started to write this story in the first place. This project is a lot more exciting now that I’m sharing it with you.