Monday, April 19, 2010

Where Everything Grows

by Sophie


Oh, how I love to play in the dirt. It's the most soothing interlude to furious bouts of writing that I can imagine...but it wasn't always this way. It took a move to northern California to convert me.

Garden tours were popular in Evanston, IL, where we use to live, probably because the growing season was about twelve hours long and anyone who could coax anything out of the ground in those harsh conditions was roundly admired. Garden novices ourselves, we didn't even try.

Then, ten years ago, we moved here.

Our neighbor Sylvia gave us a sprig of geranium and suggested we poke it into the ground. This is what happened.

People sent us amaryllis at Christmas. I figured What the heck, and stuck them in the ground, too. They bloom every 6 months.

We went to the old mission in Sonoma and poked around the gardens. I snapped a tiny paddle off a giant cactus, rolled it up in a cocktail napkin, stuck it in my purse and forgot it for three days. Then I found it and stuck it in the ground. Here it is three years later.

I ordered a weeping cherry tree online. When it came, it was a two-foot-long dead stick. It worked out fine.

In my latest book, I have a character whose love of growing things is in sharp contrast to her bleak, hopeless state at the beginning of the book. As I write this, it seems sort of heavyhanded, but I tried to use language to work it in more subtly.

Once, Cass would have been able to tell from the wildflowers growing in the foothills where she ran. In August petals fell from the wild orange poppies, the stonecrop darkened to purplish brown, and butterweed puffs drifted in lazy breezes.


Rachael Herron said...

Lovely, lovely, lovely. And I have GOT to stick the rosebush that's been in a pot in the ground soon.

Juliet Blackwell said...

I had the opposite experience -- I'm from California, and never had much interest in gardening until I lived in upstate New York. After a hard winter, I couldn't wait to be outside, digging in the dirt, watching plants that looked DEAD come back to life, bright green heads poking through the still cold earth. They grew fast and wild with summer rain and heat and humidity...then, by the time my infatuation with gardening was waning, autumn set in and I was off the hook for several months. By the third month of snow, I was dreaming of gardening again...

Sophie Littlefield said...

oh Rachael, definitely get it in the ground. I love my roses, and you have the perfect microclimate for them! nothing turns me into a domestic creature like a rosebush :) My favorite is "Sultry"

Sophie Littlefield said...

Ahem Juliet darlin, your garden is going to be the backbone of a book I will someday write. I hope you are going to post pictures of it this week!!

Anonymous said...

This might cost me my Man Card, but I love gardening! Of course, I can catalogue many times when I've had, uh, different results. You stick barely living things into the ground and they thrive. I stick healthy, vibrant things into the ground and they die. I definitely garden by Darwinian principles -- only the strong survive in my soil. But I still do love watching little seedlings yearn toward the sky!

(And, with that last comment, I have officially LOST my man card).

L.G.C. Smith said...

Sophie, you have an almost magical green thumb. I'll bet you could become the M.F.K Fisher of gardening writing if you weren't already so frigging good at fiction.

Brad, think of gardening as yard farming. You can get your Man Card back.

Pop Culture Nerd said...

Brad, your Man Card was revoked a while ago when pics of you in turtlenecks hit the Internet. So garden away. Continue your knitting without fear.

Sophie, this is just lovely. I have zero gardening skills but still dream of someday having a yard full of roses. When we first moved to this country and were poorer than rats, my mother would buy packets of seeds for 10 cents and my dad would plant and nurture them. One day, I woke up to roses in different colors in our backyard. My mother then cut them and arranged them around the house. It suddenly seemed fancy with all the fresh flowers. My parents made me realize you don't need a lot of money to have beauty in your life.

Sophie Littlefield said...

Brad darlin, there will always be a place for you in ManLand! If Kieran can wear an apron, then i say you can wield a nice pair of Corona pruners with aplomb.

LGC...i can't wait until your post so the world can see how it's *really* done!!

and PCN, that just gave a little sniffle. The nice kind :)

Barbara said...

I love the idea of your character's situation contrasting with her surroundings. I'm a little dense so context clues like that make me feel all smart and stuff.

Unknown said...

The stick it in the ground and it will grow only seems to apply to Sophie's yard. 'Stick in the ground and take bets on how long it will take to die' would be MY yard. :) Luckily Sophie offers to prune my roses regularly and they are doing quite nicely.

Unknown said...

Sophie, you do seem to have a magical gardening touch. I stick things in the ground, and they grow, but I do have to spend a fair amount of time babying them.