Pushing 60 degrees today in Nashville and forgive me my dear mountain man of a husband of mine, but this Gulf Coast Girl doesn’t mind! Neither does Big Dog as I will actually take him for that word he knows how to spell, a WALK in the sunshine.
Most of you know I’ve just returned from the fabulous Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Getaway Weekend. I had to arrive many road miles tired but there is something so special about Jefferson, Texas in January! Maybe because there are hundreds of women converging who are avid book readers, and some of the most creative people I’ve ever known. I’ll try to lead you to some of the websites of the incredible authors in attendance but there were too many for me to grab them all. I also wish I could fill this page with photos of the book clubs and their costumes. But I can’t. Not enough time till I find HELP! (And thanks to all those who have offered your talented services. As soon as I find time to describe the help I need, I’ll get right back with you. Seriously.)
Last weeks Clearstory Radio program was a montage of some of those writers and their comments about the event. The most important thing I think I heard was that it was a special gathering of a book event where the walls were truly broken down between the reader and the writer. There are no magic curtains, no dividing lines. Somehow founder Kathy Patrick has formed a family of sorts and the book club event is in many ways an annual reunion of the great family you never had or wished yours was . Year after year readers pour into the charming town and fill up the historic hotels like the Jefferson and the Excelsior, all of the b&b’s in town so that there isn’t a room to be found – and celebrate the power of story and the gift of reading. Tickets are already being sold (and bought!) for 2013 so if you have a desire to discover this wild and wonderful even for yourself you might want to purchase early and make reservations soon. This year’s theme was The Greatest Show on Earth so the costumes varied from this shot with two of my favorite queens, Andrea and Mary Yetta (daughter and mother) dressed as a white tiger and a lion. All those pink pictures are from the Pink prom night but that too is another story. Follow the blogs, find it on facebook. It’s called Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Getaway Weekend and it has happened once again. The Greatest show on Earth for certain. I attended this year and spoke primarily on the latest book, Praying for Strangers to a warm, receptive crowd of women (and some men) who were a great blessing to me. Praying for Strangers was a sell out at the event and I thank you all for buying and sharing with friends! This year’s event featured the author of In the Garden of Good and Evil,
Robert Hicks, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Karen Harrington, Carolyn Turgeon, Michael Morris, Nicole Sietz, Robert Leleux and so many more that I’ll try to backtrack and get them posted for you.
Yes. Baseball. With the Superbowl upon us and temps in the high 50′s my attention turns to – baseball. Spring Training. Buying tickets to the Sounds games in Nashville or sneaking off to South Florida to watch the Phillie’s in Spring Training. Look – warm, sunshine, baseball. What’s not to like? I have a thing for baseball. Maybe it was those old nights at the neighborhood ballpark, the sound of the bats to the ball, the announcers, the smell of popcorn and hot dogs, the actual families and kids that were out in this safe environment full of life and fun. My sister and I both have really fond memories of the place, the season, the smell, and sounds. We were allowed to walk there alone! And hang out for hours. And we were good kids. We went right there. We watched the games. We loved it so much it wouldn’t have occurred to us to go elsewhere. And yes, I have a passion for the poetry of baseball movies. I decided this year I’d like to have a collection of my favorites on dvd just so I could watch them on days of drear and we all get them. The Natural, The Sandlot, Bull Durham (yes, I know it’s what it is but . . . c’mon it’s baseball), Angel in the Outfield, Field of Dreams, For the Love of the Game, and even the recent Moneyball. Wait, wait, and A League of Their Own and you can just email me the list of all the great ones I’m missing or not remembering. (Oh, yes, that other one but I’m just not that into Charlie Sheen) – and the NPT total collection of the series on the history of baseball. And, you guessed it, right at the top of my reading list. The Fielders Handbook. Spring it cometh - which leads me to . . .
The Golden Hoe
This is an old story but it’s a repeated one in my life and bears remembering because – I’ve been looking at seed catalogues – again. Wanting to order something to plant. Now, never mind that I’m challenged to keep my one aloe plant alive which I NEED because I burn myself so frequently, I am possessed with a desire to PLANT this time of year like some sort of through back to my rural farmer family genes. You think I’d be able to keep things alive but no, it’s just the urge to plant that gets me. I kept telling the husband that we need to plan our garden. He asks – “What garden? “Exactly! I tell him. That’s the problem we don’t have a garden and the farmers almanac says it’s time to plan what you are going to plant NOW. He sighs. “Whose going to work the garden considering we both work 14 hour days now and you are on the road speaking and touring?” I tell him not to bog me down with the details. When a woman has to plant, she has to plant. (And at this point I’m going to try to go dig up an old blog that illustrates this better than anything I can say here. – Oh, look. I FOUND it buried in an old blog no longer published. For all you hopeful planters out there, I offer you -
The Seeds of Change!
It was a wintry, grey day in the city. (Which may sound something like a kick-off line from an old Sam Spade novel or maybe an opening from a Calvin and Hobbs cartoon – the Tracer Bullet -phase.) But that day has passed. It seems only a week ago I landed in Nashville with a snow and ice encrusted car and now, 70-something beautiful degrees today and what to my wondering ears appear but the sound of crickets. The sun has past and the windows are open as I relish every second of this early Spring night and yes, I hear them. This may pass with a last cold snap or two. Even a freaky, late snow but it won’t matter. Not a bit. Spring is here. It arrived a few weeks ago when I dashed in from a biting wind, stuck my hand in the mailbox and pulled out the days mail. It was filled with seed catalogues filled with pictures of blooming flowers, plump vegetables, ripe fruit.
I order them every year like a farmer. As if I’m going to get really serious now about planting.
I am looking at trees, at blossoms, at berries. I read names like Desertgold Peach and Kadota Fig and Purple Passion Asparagus. I study trees like the Bonfire Ornamental Peach. I tasteEmperor Francis Sweet Cherry’s and smell Frangrant Purple Lilac and Variegated Weigela and I run my fingers over the colored map, find the planting zone I live in which promises to help me select the best varieties for my area. (I’m in the lowest part of the blue zone just above the pink zone.) I search out the Farmers Almanac which I know within a reasonable doubt can tell me the exact day that I’m supposed plant – anything – anywhere. And I thumb back through the gourmet greens section tasting names like Arugula Sylvetta and Bellesque Endive and Persion Garden Cress. Huazontle. Komatsuma. Magenta Spreen. I’m imagining eating from the good earth and my skin just glowing, pumped twenty-four/seven full of natural minerals and vitamins. Why, I would be able to look down at my veins and see the healthy blood flowing freely which on some days (particularly after family reunions) feels a little greasy and clogged.
“Why do you order these?” Husband asks. “You’re not going to plant anything.”
“Well, I am.” I turn the page and study germination stations. “I think I really am.”
“Honey, face it. You don’t have a green thumb, you have the opposite. You have a brown thumb.”
He’s making a joke. Kinda. And because I love him a lot I don’t hit him with a shovel when his back is turned. (Well, he’s kinda big.) I drop the subject and put the catalogues to the side and go to sleep. But I am dreaming of flowers. Big Yellow ones. Furry Purple ones. Large pick antique ones. And I wake up with the brown-thumb blues which is what I have still when the husband finds me moping, sitting on the steps and staring out the window at the grey day.
“What’s wrong?” he asks like he doesn’t know because he really doesn’t.
Tears well up in my eyes and I say, “I really wanted flowers.”
And he laughs, but it’s not a mean laugh, it’s more of a chuckle and he says, “I was only kidding, honey.” And he was. Kinda.
My mother has a green thumb. My Mother-in-law Nancy has a green thumb. My sister’s thumb is showing some serious promise. (I should realise my situation when I visit her and say with surprise – “Your flowers are still alive.”
The only thing that I had that was THRIVING was a fern I named George of the Jungle and I had to leave it in Florida. Ferns are easy. They need a) lots of water and b) lots of water and c) shade and D) more water.
Other plants seem so temperamental to me. They thrive by the window and then one day I look at them and they seem . . . distressed or maybe . . . depressed so I move them. Or water them. Shade them. Or sun them. I bring them in if they are out. I put them out if they are in. But in the long run we both know there are signs that it is the beginning of the end of our relationship. One dropped or droopy leaf and I might as well give them to Goodwill where they will have at least a chance for survival.
(The truth is – maybe I watered them a lot for a week and then I started writing a story and in the story all the plants are flourishing so that is that and there is my focus. If a flower in a story wilts a character shows up and waters it. They always know exactly the right thing to do at the right time. Or they know a friend who does – and then I have another character in the story which is very warm and wonderful as my plants lose another leaf around me.)
Later in the day Mr. Wonderful walks in the door with a present. A peace offering. It’s a hoe, painted gold and wearing a large red bow. And I laugh. A lot. To which my husband is grateful – he says, “You know, that could have gone either way.” And he’s right.
But I’ve noticed something special about Nashville. People get serious about Spring. About planting and putting new things into the ground. I mean really, really serious. In Florida something is always in some stage of blooming or about to be – Camellias in the Winter that were planted by someones great-grandmother who had two green thumbs that are still winning awards all by themselves- just flourishing – and about the time they stop blooming, the azaleas come out that were planted by someones great-grandmother. But Nashville has what one might call a bit of dormant, sleeping stage – and OH the Glory that causes when it is time to reawaken. It’s a veritable feeding freezy at the garden department! Trucks and trunks loaded down with dark rich dirt and tiny heads of blooms that promise to multiply and bloom all summer long. Just come visit and see if what I’m saying isn’t the truth because it is. And it’s catchy. And even my brown thumb is getting twitchy.
So, I have the catalogues, I have the hoe, and a friend, a movie-buddy friend mind you, just called as I was writing this to invite me Saturday to a LAWN AND GARDEN SHOW (she doesn’t have a yard.) “We can look at seeds and flowers and herbs she tells me,” and the sound of that Spring planting fever has taken her, I can tell.
“I’m writing a novel,” I tell her. “I can’t leave home until it’s finished.” But my fingers are twitching. Herbs, I’m thinking, Maybe I could grow herbs. And I imagine fresh basil and endive and cilantro. “Call me back. Give me a last minute chance.”
The thing is – I believe in the power of renewal and transformation. In the ground and in people. Even in me.
Maybe this year, catnip. But someday soon, with the right amount of hope and joy and determination, York and Lancaster antique roses, bringing a little bit of story, a little bit of history forward in the process.