Tag Archives: writing

It’s 5:31 p.m. and as dark as midnight

I haven’t posted much since early spring. But I have been writing every day.  As I go about my chores, sit and stare out the window, hang out with friends, I’m composing at a furious rate.

I’ve written about my “a-HA!” garden moment, when I realized that all of the things I’ve been doing to be a “good organic gardener” have gotten in the way of being a sane organic gardener…and therefore, kept me from being a particularly good one.

I’ve written about my excitement over growing more than 19 carrots (10 pounds!).

I’ve written about the presidential primaries, and the candidates on display for our amusement entertainment education.

I’ve written about my frustration, sadness, and impatience with the fact that Larry’s company won’t let him work from the farm, though it’s fully possible.

I’ve written about the abundance of flowers that grow around the house and land, and how they make every day better.

I’ve written about being overwhelmed by peppers and spaghetti squash, and finding recipes to help use them. (Jalapeno-Bacon Poppers with an Avocado, Cream Cheese, and Cheddar filling.  Trust me.)

I’ve written about working as a personal chef, and having it go well while being absolutely exhausting, and figuring out how I want it to look so that I enjoy it.  (Cooking in other people’s houses for them, and putting it on their tables family-style, and hearing the hum of conversation and laughter.)

I’ve written about the hesitation I feel about becoming “an official business.”

I’ve written about missing-not missing the classroom and teaching. Wow, do I miss talking to kids about good books.

I’ve written about the amazing (mostly) books that I’ve read.

I haven’t written any of it down, though, because I have really felt that the world is so very loud and full of words already.  It seems like we are all so busy trying to be heard that no one is listening anymore.  I’ve enjoyed (mostly) just listening.

But now it’s 5:31 p.m. and as dark as midnight, and I’m going to need to fill the dark with something, because the garden is almost done and winter will be long.  So it’s possible that I’ll be here a little more often.  At least until spring, when the light is back and there are seeds to plant.

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A** in Chair

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Ass in chair.

I don’t completely remember who gave this writing advice to whom; I think it was either Donald Murray or Donald Graves who gave it to Nancie Atwell. But it doesn’t really matter, because from the time I heard the story the phrase has stuck with me. It doesn’t just apply to writing, does it? It applies to anything we don’t feel like doing in a given moment. Ass on riding mower, ass down to weed the rows, ass in front of canning pot… Well, the last one could be someone passing judgement on me while I’m canning, but you get the point.

I have, in fact, been mowing, weeding (though not so much…) and canning in order to avoid writing. I have an idea for a story, and have self-doubted myself into staying away from the computer. Because who am I to think I have a story anyone will want to read? For that matter, who am I to think that anyone will want to buy my vegetables/eat my cooking/support whatever business I decide to engage in? The self-doubt is strong in this one.
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But today, after I canned pickled eggplant and hot pepper rings, froze a pound of Romano beans and a pound and half of green beans, and started blanching corn–after taking the dogs for an hour drive in the Jeep–I asked myself what I was avoiding. The first answer is, “Thinking about the fact that if I were still teaching, I would have gone back to work today.” Just not touching that one. The second answer is, “Writing.” So, ass in chair, indeed. I thought I’d warm up with a blog post, since there hasn’t been one since the last third of July, and then I’ll move to that story.

Grow:
Tomatoes. Please ripen. I need you so I can continue avoiding writing can lots of tomato sauce and salsa and jam.

On a happier front, I got beautiful, juicy peaches from our older tree. Not a ton–about twelve–but they’re delicious. Fingers crossed that the peach tree borers don’t kill it; they’ve moved in pretty good, which is disappointing.

I also have beautiful peppers growing, which is a first for me. I’ve always bought seedlings and watched them fizzle out, but this year I started them from seed, and most of them are producing well. The trick is to be patient enough, and to get the weather, to wait for them to turn red. More fingers crossed.

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Cook:
There’s been a lot of that going on. Peach Jam. Peach Chutney. Dilly beans. Pickled Zucchini. The aforementioned pickled eggplant and hot pepper rings. Tomato Jam with Smoked Paprika.
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Dear Universe: Thank you for Tomato Jam with Smoked Paprika. And for author Marissa McClellan, whose book I found the recipe in.

If you like canning, I highly recommend Food in Jars (the blog and the book) and Preserving by the Pint, both by Marissa. She’s keeping me happily busy. The recipes I’ve made have been delicious (and the eggplant will clear your sinuses while it cooks) and I haven’t at all minded the odd amount that didn’t fit in a jar for processing. Especially that Tomato Jam. It took everything I had not to open one of the cans I’d just processed, so I could keep eating the stuff. Her recipes are easy enough to keep newbies calm, and interesting enough to keep non-newbies coming back. I fall somewhere in between.

Read:
I’m late to this party, I’m sure, but I recently finished The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, and I adored it. The Grimke sisters are fascinating, and I’ll be looking up some of the recommended reading Kidd provides.

I also read The Town that Food Saved, by Ben Hewitt. It’s about Hardwick, Vermont, which is the location of High Mowing Seeds (love, love, love their seed varieties), Pete’s Greens, and Vermont Soy, to name a few of the food-related companies that have taken off there in the last decade. I enjoyed it a great deal, and thought Hewitt did a good job of naming his biases and writing through them.

Right now, I’m reading Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos. It’s pretty hilarious.

Write:
Yeah. I’m working on it.

My space

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One of my favorite spaces to create each time I move is my “office.” There was a time when that was a literal term. I did a lot of work at home for the literacy institute I worked for, and then the reading program that I wrote for (Hi, Janet! I love you!). Now, though, my office has a lot less to do with work and a lot more to do with writing, reading, dreaming, and staring out of the window.

The office space that I created in our Massachusetts house was lovely. The room is tiny, and its walls are a buttery yellow with white trim. I had tchotchkes and flying ladies and books in every space. It felt homey, and cozy, and comfortable. I have been sad to think about losing it, but I began to gradually move all of the bits and pieces to the New York house about a year ago, and the disassembling actually made it easier to let go.

The one thing I knew I needed so that I could pull the space together was the desk. My stepfather built the desk in my Massachusetts’ office, and as much as I love it, it won’t fit in the new room. (We’re keeping it, and Larry will have the benefit of its awesomeness now.) Larry and I talked about him building me a new one, and then yesterday, poking around in a shop in Vermont, et voila!

I don’t know exactly why the desk is so paramount, but there is something about a beautiful and serviceable writing surface (or, as in right now, typing surface) that makes me happy. This one absolutely glows in the light (well, now it does…it required a fair bit of cleaning…) and is perfectly imperfect. The surface is one large piece of pine, about three inches thick. The edges are in varying states of roughness, and at the back, there’s a chunk taken out on the left side.

But I can sit at the desk, tucked in the bay window of the room, and watch the sun sink behind the mountain to the north. I can sit at the desk and watch deer and wild turkeys cross from the hill behind the house to the woods across the street. From my vantage point, surrounded by windows on three sides, I can watch the headlights of cars approach and pass, briefly illuminating the darkness. I can watch the twin fir trees wave as the wind buffets the house.

And I can see the pool. Swamp? Frog-breeding ground?
We really need to decide what we’re doing about that…

But that’s okay. Because I have my desk.