Someone before my time here planted the grape hyacinths. And I’m glad they did.
Spring break is always touch and go in the Midwest. But this year takes the cake when it comes to crappy weather. It snowed at least a little every day, and sometimes it looked like this:
Now, I’m normally not one to complain about snow; I consider it part of my mission on this earth to balance out everyone else’s constant whining about it. But everyone has their limit. Thankfully, it is mostly melted now and the forecast for Wednesday through Sunday is phenomenal. This weekend I hope to finally finish clearing away to old leaves from the gardens and get the yard bags out to the street for pick-up.
During the rotten weather this past week I did use my time well, adding about 8,000 new words to my current WIP. This week I’ll have to put that on pause as I go over I Hold the Wind one more time before sending it to my agent. I’ve also been putting together my first newsletter, which should be going out at the end of the week! If you want to get this subscriber-only content, you can sign up here.
I’m cautiously optimistic that spring truly is coming to stay this week, which puts me in a generally hopeful mood, as does the news that, for the first time in a long time, we may actually be getting a tax refund this year. Now, if only the housing market in mid-Michigan would bounce back a little more…
Ah, well. One thing at a time.
Remember in this post how I mentioned I’m neither plotter nor panster while writing, but a planter? Imagine my amusement last night as I flipped through the May/June issue of Writer’s Digest (which came in March) to find they had a fairly long article talking about plantsing. Great minds and all that…
Well, I’ve found myself busy planting again. Not in the garden, though that time is drawing near, but in a fresh document on my laptop. And frankly, I’m a bit surprised at myself. I don’t tend to start writing something new as spring supplants winter. I’ve done most of the drafting of my novel manuscripts during the dark and snowy mornings and evenings between November and March. Then I set things aside for a bit as I tend to the yard and the gardens — you know, real planting. And once that’s all under control and busy growing, I pick literary things back up in early summer to revise.
Yet this year I find myself ready and excited to draft a new project as March rolls into April. To be fair, I did start it at the very beginning of autumn last year (though because I was in Albuquerque at the time, it felt like summer). I had to put it down a while as I worked on edits for The Bone Garden for my agent and then worked on a big revision of I Hold the Wind, which I’m hoping to send my agent’s way in the next month or two. But now that my mind is off those projects, I find I’m itching to get back to this new story.
Except, it’s not exactly new. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m taking parts of an old concept and changing up the plot and characters into something new. I’m borrowing the old setting, a few characters, and part of the conflict, but combining them with new characters, new conflicts, and new, more personal themes. I finished the first chapter this morning as the birds sang and the sun rose. And though I had to stop and get to work, the next chapter is coalescing in my mind.
This is the thrilling, intoxicating part of the very long and arduous process of creating a novel — where the premise you’ve been nurturing in your head begins to take the form of written sentences and paragraphs and pages, like watching the slow, steady growth of the spring bulbs in the back yard. First they are just scattered points of green among last year’s rotting leaves. Then they are the length of your fingernail, then they reach to your first knuckle. Slowly, each day, they gain ground, press up toward the warming sun. And finally they flower. And that’s the point you know spring is here, this story is going somewhere marvelous, and you’re dying to take others along with you.
Nothing quite stirs the Midwestern soul like spring. The prospect of temps in the 50s and 60s and we start taking down the storm windows and dragging all the cardboard boxes from the last six months of deliveries out to the recycling center. We suddenly want to take walks and organize closets and clean out the garage. The sound of water trickling into the storm drain makes us nearly as giddy as the sound of birds looking for mates. Yesterday afternoon as I drove to get my son from school I smiled (and may have audibly sighed with contentment) at a weather report announcing possible thunderstorms in the evening.
Reality check. Don’t get used to this. It’s just for a day or two, then it will get cold again.
But then you look at the extended forecast and see this:
Glorious spring! God is merciful! Even at night it’s not supposed to freeze! Within a day or two, even the disgusting mountains of dirty snow and busted shopping carts at the centers of parking lots could be gone!
If the meteorologists are correct (stop laughing) this could turn out to be a marvelous March indeed.
The world melts around me
as the sun caresses
the contours of my city.
A robin addresses
blue sky studded by
clouds hurrying past —
Don’t linger here! Fly! Fly! —
Do I spy a blade of grass?
Or is this mere flirtation?
A sly come hither glance?
Who cares? On this temptation
I’ll blithely take a chance.
Have you ever told yourself you’d change and then actually done it? This weekend I really lived my new “to-be list” philosophy. I did do a lot, but I never made a list of things to accomplish and then checked it off, item by item. With everything I did, I felt no rush, no pressing need to do it now, no guilt in the doing or the not doing.
I spent time with my son at Van Atta’s Greenhouse and Nursery, I mowed and transplanted and weeded, I filled a dozen or more pots with annuals, I managed to keep the kitchen pretty clean. Saturday morning, Zach and I were talking about finally putting in a new fire pit sometime this summer. By afternoon, it was there! Suddenly we were roasting hot dogs and marshmallows in the backyard.
On Monday, the boy and I went downtown to visit the various war memorials and monuments and statues, and to check out the “fuzzy” Capitol building (the dome is currently covered with scaffolding as they do maintenance of some sort). We were practically the only ones downtown. We talked of war and sacrifice and men and women who served. We talked about how our state became the Arsenal of Democracy, turning auto factories into factories that made munitions and tanks and Army vehicles; how women built the machinery and the ammunition that finally subjugated the axis powers in WWII; how some wars must be fought and some do not make a lot of sense; how some people come home heroes, some come home to sneers and derision, and some never come home at all. We talked about men in our family who fought and those whose number never came up.
The wind was gusting and it started to rain on us. By the time we were home again the sun was out. We watched Charlotte’s Web for the second time in two days, and now the boy is a spider (with just four legs) who gives spider hugs and spider kisses and makes his webs out of the pile of dirty laundry his father gathered at the bottom of the stairs.
In the coming days we will celebrate the boy’s seventh birthday, his class will take a field trip to the zoo, we’ll take him to his first Brandi Carlile concert (shh–it’s a surprise), he’ll have a birthday party at the park with his friends, and we’ll celebrate with some family the next day.
May is always a big month here.
But I’m not sweating it. I’m loving every minute of it.
Spring has truly sprung over the past week in mid-Michigan, and the shade garden I expanded in the back yard last year is beginning to bloom…
I’ve been busy outside destroying and covering up my neighbor’s sidelot (with his permission) because I’m tired of looking at the mess of English ivy, poison ivy, weeds, dead leaves, weed trees, and trash out my dining room window.
Now it has been mowed, poisoned, shrouded in black plastic, and covered over with mulch.
Over the next year or so it should suffocate.
Then the mulch can be raked back, the plastic can be removed, and the remaining mulch and dead matter underneath can be worked into the soil.
At that point, it should be ready to sustain something beautiful and/or useful.
In the meantime, I’m on the lookout for some cheap or free pots and will try to stage a nice array of containers full of flowers on top of the mulch.
Two days after that big project I am still sore from moving edgers, swinging an ax, and shoveling and dumping and spreading mulch.
But the view is much improved.
My, my, how the week just gets away. April slipped out while I was busy with other things and now it’s a full week since I had the good fortune to be here.
Compared to many of you, I’m sure, I have lived a very sheltered life close to home. It’s not for want of desire to travel. As a child I was wildly jealous of my best friend and her frequent travels to places beyond our small town. She summered in these mountains at a camp called Cheley. You can see it here if you look hard.
Don’t see it?
She spent her summers riding horses (something else I longed to do, as all girls do at some point) through this landscape.
Now, I love my state. I could never live in Colorado because of the water factor. It’s hard enough living in mid-Michigan when you grew up with sailboats and freighters and seagulls and drawbridges. But I understand why Colorado sucks people in.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by this?
It is fantastically beautiful, inspiring us to stop and reflect on our own cosmic insignificance — were we not made by the same creative and loving hand as each of those mountains. Yet we are known as intimately and cherished as closely. The same God who caused the earth to push up Long’s Peak…
…causes the earth to push up the mountain crocus.
He bids us leave our homes, get out of our cars, get off our duffs, and start to climb.
He calls us to seek higher ground, not for safety’s sake, but so that we can see the world closer to His vantage point.
He calls us to love and care for this incredible planet, and for all of the living things He put here for our enjoyment and education and inspiration.
And to pass that love and sense of responsibility down to our wide-eyed children.
He calls us to notice the shade of the dirt…
…the sound of the river…
…and the chaotic flight of the swallows.
My first trip to the Rocky Mountains was entirely too short. But I will be back, with husband and son in tow. Because beauty like this is meant to be shared.