Rain, Rain, Go Away….Video from the Coast of Maine

Sunday, June 12, 2011, 6:24 a.m. EST, 50 degrees F



“Rain, rain, go away,

Come again another day.”


As soon as we got in the car, it started pouring

Specific origins of this old couplet poem are unclear, but this and similar poems are found in several countries (according to Wikipedia), including Spain, England, and Greece. Certainly I might have written this poem myself if it hadn’t already been….because it’s been a rainy few days here on the coast of Maine. But somehow we lucked out in the few minutes we drove out to the bridge overlook to make the video—no rain! Almost as soon as we got back in the car it started pouring.

Not much to look at in today’s video, but the sound of the incoming tide, lapping against the shore, is both unrelenting yet at the same time peaceful and calming.

In the garden this week, first we had extreme heat (over 90 degrees) which gave everything, especially the tomatoes, a much-needed shot in the arm; now very cool weather (only in the low 50s yesterday) with rain, rain, and more rain—which of course will slow things back down. And that’s the way some summers, and gardening in specific, goes in Maine.

This week in the garden: it’s up and down, first heat now too cool!



How’s the weather in your neck of the woods? 


Cheers,
Julia

…And Meanwhile in the Garden…

Life as a writer, writing at home, is a mix. We write, we do housework, we write, we take care of kids, we write, we cook, we write, we do laundry, we write, we garden. There are a million variations, depending on your own personal style, where you live, how many children of what ages you have at what stages in life, not to mention how much of a slave to schedule you are.


For me, one of my distractions and demands is my garden, specifically my vegetable garden. But it’s also an inspiration. And as I wrote those 20,000 words in the month of May, the garden was having it’s own blogathon, if you will.  Here in Maine, summer is short: it arrives suddenly all in one day in May. And it leaves just as quickly in August. With a short growing season, every day in the garden is precious. And if the rain (or a blogathon) slows you down from planting, you may never get a ripe tomato or a crop of beans. 

The turnips are just coming up this morning!

This year we seemed to time it well, with the “greens” going in middle-of-May; followed by tomatoes and potatoes late May; finally last weekend we planted turnips, beans, beets, and a few others. It was in a rush before a rainstorm so we didn’t even have time to mark the rows! We were sure the seeds had been washed away (we fear this every year!) But sure enough, this morning, there are the turnips: beginning to pop up. 


And now the garden is beginning to look like the familiar quilt of green and brown.


Do you keep a vegetable garden? What are your distractions and demand from your writing schedule?


Cheers,
Julia



First Boat Sighting Video from the Coast of Maine

Sunday, May 29, 2011, 11:53 a.m. EST, 69 degrees F

A beautiful day on the coast of Maine—although the first time we went to make the video, at 8:30 a.m., it was so foggy we couldn’t see anything!

We returned a little before noon, and what a difference. It was mid-tide so only part of the sand beach is exposed. Still, people were walking on the beach (only one dog walker can be seen toward the end of the video, but take my word for it there were others right out of view!). And for the first time, you can see a boat in the water speeding through the shot at about the :22 second mark. An exciting hint at the summer fun to come! There was also a lot of car traffic on the bridge, which is a little distracting in the video, but we opted not to turn sound off completely.


This week in the garden, the lilacs are blooming!






Why Today’s Blog IS about Arugula


A few months ago I wrote a blog about arugula. Actually, it was NOT about arugula because it was the middle of winter. I had just bought a packet of arugula seeds, and then: more snow.

Well, good news. Today it is 54 degrees outside, the snow has been gone for about a month, and on the first of May we turned the soil and planted the arugula seeds. More importantly, now, today, there is arugula growing in the garden!

Ideas and arugula alike, things start small. The seedlings are tiny but growing steadily, and I know that in a very short time, maybe a few weeks, we’ll be having spicy, almost-bitter arugula with balsamic vinaigrette—one of our favorite early spring delicacies from the garden.

It’s just like my writing: day-after-day, what started as a tiny seed of an idea, eventually grows into a blog or a short story or maybe into a full-grown novel.

How does your garden of writing grow? How do you encourage your tiny seedling ideas?

Cheers,

Julia

Inspiration (And Distraction) from Subtle Signs of Spring

Star crocus, years-ago naturalized in the lawn, come back
every year, our earliest flower of the Spring 

“April is a promise that May is bound to keep.”

  – Hal Borland, American author and journalist


My garden promises that spring is coming. Winter lingers in Maine, and it meanders. For a few days, it might be 50 degrees, then the next day we’ll have snow. But now, after the surprise 8 inches of snow on April 1st, we’re rounding the final corner into Spring.

Sometimes you need to know what to look for, but the subtle signs are everywhere, and the garden is awakening. The view out my office window is changing, and I am both inspired and distracted!

Wild strawberries are one of the first green signs of Spring;
soon these will be everywhere! The tiny berries are a delicacy
that are not nearly as sweet as their cultivated cousins.

I was thrilled to see this catkin on the Pussy Willow bush. We rooted the
branches of a bouquet we bought at the grocery store last Spring.
Now the branches are coming to life!

I suspect this is a mole hole.
And although it is not one of the happier signs of Spring,
it is one that we’ll be dealing with as we attempt to trap
the little critters (at least I may get a good blog out of it!).

It doesn’t look like much right now, but these are buds on the
HUGE Forsythia bush right outside my office window
(the same one featured in the wordsxo blog heading).
In a few weeks, this bush will be aflame with a mass
of intense yellow blooms!

The lilacs are budding out, too! These are the beginnings of
the beautiful purple blossoms that will soon surround this old house.
An earlier dweller of our house, their house, had the unbelievable
 foresight to plant these lovely shrubs along almost the entire
 perimeter of this lot. Beautiful and fragrant!

What are your subtle (or not so subtle) signs of Spring? Or is it already full-blown summer where you are? How does the weather and change of seasons affect your writing?


Cheers,
Julia

p.s. The quote I featured in today’s blog was written by Hal Borland, who lived from 1900-1978. He wrote books and editorials about the outdoors, and like me, he lived in both Colorado and New England. He is a kindred spirit, as evidenced by the title of one of his books: Sundial of Seasons.

Yesterday When It Was Spring


Yesterday when it was 65 degrees, a lot of snow melted so that a corner of the garden was exposed. It made me hopeful, and I started thinking about planting. So much so that when I got up this morning at 5:30 a.m.—and it was dark, thank you daylight savings—I started to write a blog about planting the garden.

My plan was to go out and take a picture of that corner of the garden, to include with my blog.

But then, when it got light, and I looked outside, IT WAS SNOWING. Yep, that’s Maine in Spring. And, as they say in Maine: “Deal with it.”


Cheers,

Julia

p.s. Blog about Spring canceled due to snow.

What surprises did you get this morning that changed your plans?

Have a Wabi-Sabi Wednesday!

Wabi-sabi: a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional.

– From Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koran


When we bought our house, the yard was overgrown. The house is about 120 years old, and a lot of people have made their marks on the garden—with sometimes good and sometimes not so good results. But it’s an old garden, so to be fair to gardener’s past and present, let’s just say if the garden and gardeners were in a relationship on Facebook, the relationship status would read “It’s Complicated.”


One particular garden bed, right outside our kitchen door, really needed help. It was overgrown by the most beautiful Siberian irises. But it also had the craziest patchwork of other plants: some Pot of Gold, Antique Bleeding Hearts, Ajuga, Lady’s Mantle, but mostly the overgrown but still beautiful irises.


I had a vision of a kitchen herb garden, and I started out strong, planting three big clumps of chives, transplanted from our old house. I knew the lilac-blue of the chive blossoms and the hollow tubular leaves would go beautifully with the intensely blue irises and their spiky leaves.


But then I got stuck. I wasn’t so sure what to do because I didn’t want the crazy quilt, “Clown Pants” garden I was stuck with, but I am also not a hater or a killer of anything green. Plus, this garden was old, old, OLD. Like the house. With a lot of history. Which is what I wanted, right?


A friend of mine—an artist and an amazing gardener with a fabulous eye—lives right around the corner. I got up my nerve, and decided to call and ask for her help. Boy was I nervous. Her yard is absolutely beautiful. And perfectly cared for. With lovely river rocks forming the driveway, each individually placed by the artist. And if anything looks out of place, I assure you it’s by design. Her garden is also her palette, I reminded myself, and each journey begins with a single step. I picked up the phone.


“How ‘bout this afternoon?” She jumped at the chance!


I wondered how much weeding I could get done before she arrived.


That afternoon, I stood in the garden, side by side with the artist. This is not a talkative woman, rather reclusive by nature. And we stood silently, taking it all in. Her arms folded over her chest, finger gently tapping on the sleeve of her work shirt.


She asked only one question: “You planted these chives?”


“Yes?”


“I like the choice of three.”


Whew! Then back to the silence. Finally after what felt like hours, when I couldn’t stand it anymore, I asked her what she thought.


“Wabi-sabi.”


“Wabi, wha?”


She laughed. “Wabi-sabi. The Japanese aesthetic centering on our acceptance of our transient time on Earth. Embrace and find beauty not just in new but also in decay—in the flowers’ deadheads, the paint peeling on the garden fence, the rust on the lamp pole, even the overgrown weeds!”


My friend smiled and stretched out her arm in a sweeping gesture. “Can you not see the beauty in the old?”


Since then, every summer as I contemplate the peeling paint, the withered plants that haven’t made it through a brutal winter, the deadwood in the lilacs, the invasions of volunteer Maple trees, the creeping weeds and grass—the reality of gardening in an old garden in Maine—I work hard to embrace the Wabi-Sabi. At the same time, I try to forgive and appreciate myself (and all my gardening predecessors) for all we can (and cannot) do.


Cheers,

Julia


p.s. Is there anything wabi-sabi in your life? Do you embrace it or does it drive you crazy? Are there ways that Wabi-Sabi can be incorporated into our writing lives?


This week I was reminded of Wabi-sabi when I read Melissa Crytzer Fry’s blog: End of Mighty Saguaro. Then, when I searched the web to clarify my memory, I was surprised to find an article posted this week at Mother Earth News about Wabi-Sabi!