Monday, June 18, 2012

Encourage Profusion

Back in the late eighties, legendary director Mark Rydell optioned my first screenplay, The Man In The Moon, and flew me out to L.A. to get acquainted.  We talked about the story, my family, my life.
     At one point, he leaned forward and said, “If you couldn’t ever write again, what sort of work would you do?’
     Without a moment’s hesitation, I answered, “I’d be a gardener.”
     He sat back, frowning slightly. 
     “No,” he said, “I mean really.”
     And I said, “Really.”
     When he asked me why, I told him that writing and gardening (and painting and dancing and all the other arts) are basically the same thing.  In every case the artist is creating beauty – which I believe is something we are all sent here to do.
     That conversation took place over twenty years ago.  At the time, I didn’t have a garden.  As a matter of fact, I didn’t have a home.  But I had HAD a garden before, and I remembered very well how much I’d loved it.
     Still, that answer I gave him was downright pitiful.  I mean, it was true enough, but it was a far cry from the whole truth.  All that talk about beauty and art – it sounded good, but I’ve never been a master gardener, and I don’t know that my garden (yes, I have one now) is beautiful to anyone but me. 
The thing is -- I love to garden because of the way I feel when I’m out there.
     “Out there”, the air is sweeter.  It’s where I feel most alive. I’m using muscles that don’t get used when I’m sitting at the computer.  I’m getting dirty, I’m sweating. I’m climbing over the fence ten times a day.  (I have a gate, but to use it, I’d have to go the long way around, plus I’d have to go through two gates, not just one, and one of those gates is wired shut, so I’d have to undo the wire, then do it back again – you get the idea.)    
I love to get my hands in the dirt.  I love helping plants flourish.  I love the absolute magic of watching life unfold and knowing I’m helping it along. 
Over the years, I’ve become a cross between Calla Moses and Ruth Stout.  Feed the soil until it’s so rich there’s no need to dig.  (All I have to do is scoop out a little dirt with my hand and stick a plant in the ground and pull the soil back in place around it.)  Make life easy for the earthworms.  Throw mulch on top of weeds instead of pulling them. Plant flowers and herbs here and there to discourage insect pests.  Encourage profusion.    
That’s what I did this weekend.  I encouraged profusion.  And climbed over the fence a lot.
And felt 100% alive.

Monday, June 4, 2012

True Confessions

               Listen, I’ve got a confession to make.   If you’re going to be reading this blog, it’s important for me to let you in on  this, up front.  I’d rather you’d hear it from me than from somebody else. 

                I – am not -- perfect.

                Now, my family and friends have known  this for years, and I have it on very good authority that it’s something they talk about among themselves.  Once in a while, they also counsel me about it – usually in the gentlest of tones, prefaced by  a brief mention of the fact that they love me anyway

                Their constructive comments are many and varied, but there is one recurring theme:  the fact that I’m a Sucker For Animals.  I’ve got that on my profile (not capitalized, of course)  as a kind of light-hearted description of myself, but let me tell you:  there is nothing light-hearted about being a Sucker of any sort.  It’s serious business, and it can make a mess of best-laid plans.  My best-laid plans have included such things as getting organized,  organizing my life better, and becoming a more organized person – none of which can be readily accomplished while remaining a Sucker – especially for animals!

                See, Suckers  just can’t say no.  Well, they can say it, but they can’t make it stick.  They can be on their way to a fancy dinner party, dressed in all manner of finery (not that I’m much on finery), and they can see a starving dog (or cat or whatever) beside the road, and they will forget that they only have fifteen minutes to make a twenty-five minute drive (which wouldn’t be the case, if only they were, you know – organized), and they’ll stop the car and leap out into the mud (there’s usually mud, it’s like a Universal Law), and they’ll spend the next hour trying to coax the Hapless Creature into trusting them and coming along peaceably.  It goes without saying that they generally turn out having to pick the H. C. up in their arms (there goes the finery) and carry it to the car (there goes the upholstery) and drive it home or to an emergency veterinary clinic (there goes the budget and the dinner party).

Then said Sucker will call the hosts (who  aren’t in any real mood for explanations; after all, they have dinner guests who actually bothered to show up), and he/she (the Sucker) will  apologize profusely.  Usually doesn’t work, but Suckers do try.  It’s terribly important to them for other people to understand that they didn’t let them down on purpose.  They couldn’t help themselves.

                Of course, the destruction of best-laid plans is only beginning at this point.   New rescue dogs tend to chase Resident Cats.  Cats (both Newbies and Lifers) hide in cabinets  (which any self-reliant cat can open with the flick of a velvet paw).    O’Possums (in case you’re ever foolhardy enough to bring one home)  try to bite the hand that’s trying to feed it.  And any live thing you bring into the house will amaze you with the situations it can bring about  that you never anticipated and really didn’t want to happen.  

                And, yet – if you are a True Sucker – you ‘ll do it all again at the next opportunity, and all the constructive comments in the world won’t keep you from it, because you – are not – perfect.

                Now,  the above admission is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a full confession, but I have a kind of washed clean feeling for having offered  it up.    I have many  other flaws, none of which I feel compelled to talk about at the moment – except this one: 

I am not the best book promoter in the world.    I  have  a book  out, and  I’m sure my editor, publicist, agent and manager (all of whom encouraged me to do this blog) would appreciate it I would at least mention the sucker.

                So here goes. 

                The name of my book is The Homecoming of Samuel Lake.  It’s out in hardcover, and on July 10, it will also come out in paperback.   The story is set in rural Southwest Arkansas, in the 1950’s, which I happen to believe was a magical time in our country.  It’s about good and evil and strength of family and the unusual, even miraculous ways that love can overcome its opposite.  I hope you read it.  I hope it makes you laugh and cry. 

And I hope you come back here soon for another  visit.