Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I'm Writing Even When I Look Like I'm Not...

You see, here's the thing. I'm a writer. Writer's work very hard, the problem is, you just can't see it for the most part. Henry thought I should explain, and he's here to help me. We're just up and I look very much like what I am. A writer who just rolled out of bed (and got 4 dogs out and in and fed, and 6 parrots fed and out and kissed, and 2 beta fish fed, and went out to check the garden...) and even through all the morning chores I was writing in a my head. I looked like a normal person. I can assure you I was and am not.

Henry, African Grey Parrot, Dragonfly Cottage Office
Manager, and man of the
house, not to mention manager
of Maitri, the absent-
minded Professor. It's a horrifying
job but some bird or other has to do it.

Henry said, "Ahem, aren't you forgetting something? You look dreadful. Seriously, we need to make a
latté." He knows me well and fears I am about to try to write something, even as simple as answering e-mail, which simply isn't possible without the sacred latté. One shudders at the very thought. So off we go into the kitchen. I am staring dreamily at the kitchen counter/latté corner because I actually cleaned up the kitchen last night, and the branch of yellow roses that broke off the bush and now takes up half my tiny kitchen really does look lovely. I should do the dishes more often.

We seldom ever let anyone see the kitchen. We took this opportunity because everything is so clean. Don't hold your breath for another picture anytime soon. Henry busied himself grinding the beans, and getting the milk out and filling the pitcher, and getting out the latté bowl which is bigger than Texas. My son told me I should just use a wastebasket and have done with it. Others have politely suggested I stick to herb tea to which Henry replied something like, "You don't have to live with her. She's crazy as a loon and even with the pills she takes she's more cuckoo than cocoa puffs without her latté... leave her alone!" All the while he is busy making the latté I am still staring at the roses...

It was a sad, sad thing indeed that a whole branch broke nearly off during a storm, but it makes practically a whole garden in my kitchen. I could hear Henry frothing the milk but I was just mesmerized. I was thinking of metaphors, similes, and favorite quotes about roses and flowers in general. Why, dear Iris Murdoch, God rest her soul, said, "People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with Joy the whole time to have such things about us." I began to wonder if that had something to do with the way that I am, and, as I have an appointment with my therapist on Friday, shall ask her what she thinks then.

Well, I simply couldn't stand it and so I bent over to bury my nose in one beautiful blossom...

... at which point I started to swoon, and Henry yelled, as he reached out a wing to hold me up, "Stop that! I can't froth and prop you up at the same time! Get your nose out of the roses." Well, you don't argue with a bird that makes such grand foam, so I stood upright but then my mind wandered.

I was writing in my head again. I was going all romantic-minded and thinking of Kit Marlowe who said, sometime in the 16th century, "I will make you a bed of roses, and a thousand fragrant posies." I frowned a bit, thinking how no one had ever made me a bed of roses and I'd planted so many (hundreds) I ended up having to have foot surgery (the shovel foot) and that was the beginning of a long history of foot mishaps that led to me being gimpy and falling over for no apparent reason at all every time I got up out of the chair (or nearly). Especially when I am always thinking about everything under the sun except where I'm going, coming up with all these wonderful new twists and turns and prosaic thoughts for the new chapter just ahead. Henry's right to keep an eye on me. The dogs usually just scatter in every direction to get out of my way if I'm up teetering about on these feet.

No, nobody makes me posies either, but I enjoy making my own, like the one I showed you yesterday (or sometime or other)...

... and I'm only showing them to you again because this morning on my early morning foray out with the dogs I gasped as one of my beautiful 'Pat Austin' English roses was in full bloom. She had to come in and join the crowd...

Some dear soul wrote in and asked me if my roses were fragrant. I don't plant any that aren't, as I only plant old-fashioned, antique roses, or my beloved David Austin English Roses (Of course I had to plant the gorgeous 'Colette' French rose, one of the
Meidiland "Romantica" series which is a newer rose but grown like the old roses in size, shape, and fragrance. She is just outside the front cottage door, currently coming into bloom with wisteria dangling above her. My Muse, Colette, whose collected works are my writer's bible, would have heartily approved, I'm quite certain. What a glorious sight, the salmon pink roses and lovely lavender wisteria.). Ahhhh... The ones I've planted here have been in the ground 3-4 years, own root roses (I don't plant any other kind... just think, I've got descendants of roses that grew in Josephine Bonaparte's garden.), and I, ever the serious rosarian, who reads garden books (not to mention food books -- expository, aka M.F.K. Fisher, as well as cookbooks that have a literary bent...) like other people read novels, must take the early morning garden stroll first thing to see just who might have opened, or be in bud, or... Oh Lord! I just remembered something I was thinking this morning while pulling a few weeds outside. I've got to put that into the book! (Scribbles something illegible in a little Moleskine notebook.)

Henry is squawking that the
latté was ready and we'd best get on with it -- there's never enough time to get everything done as it is -- so he hopped up on my shoulder, I picked up the latté gingerly as it was hot, and luckily we made it back to my desk without incident and I sat the latté on my little electric warmer which comes in handy as, with my mind wandering here and there, it is nothing to be finishing it 2 hours later, although it tastes best at first, it is nice to keep it warm. I was touched to see that Henry had drawn a heart in the foam with his beak. He knows I've had a hard time lately, what with the broken wrist and ankle in a gargantuan Frankenstein boot up to my knee. He is a sweet bird after all even though he plays curmudgeonly very well.

As Henry took his nip of foam and I was turning on the computer I was remembering one of my favorite ever books on roses, Thomas Christopher's In Search Of Lost Roses. I read it years and years ago, and it was about the Texas Rose Rustlers, a wily old somewhat odd group (I would have fit right in) who went hither and yon to find the old roses before they were gone completely, which included places like roadsides, graveyards, and knocking politely on little old ladies doors to ask if they might have a few cuttings. Without the efforts of those wonderful people, we wouldn't have many of the roses we have today, and whole nurseries are going wild with antique roses now, which are passed down through cuttings. When you get an "own root" rose you are getting a wee slip of a thing at first, or perhaps a bit larger if it's grown on a year or two (It is, for the most part, a rooted cutting.) and people who buy all of their roses at commercial nurseries tend to turn their noses up at them as they carry out their roses to plant, all the modern roses that are planted on some understock or other that won't hold up. Own root roses may be here for centuries. But I digress.

So there I was, sipping my
latté and thinking of such things and the gardens I've planted (Everywhere I've ever lived I've planted roses as well as all manner of perennials and everything under the sun, and cried to leave them, but started all over again. I like to think that I've left something of beauty that will last, and I get right to planting wherever I end up next time.), and how sometime or other in the near future I shall begin on what I'd like to think will be my last garden, the one I can stay put in, and spend the rest of my days planting and fussing over. The cottage I am in now (as I said in the last entry and someone wrote in today to ask, No, the cottage at the top is not my cottage, but my dream cottage, or one like it, but the garden certainly resembles the many gardens I've made...) is laden with roses and there are roses everywhere, and subsequently their drying petals, everywhere here in the cottage.

So, finally, settled in with my
latté, my grey parrot on my shoulder, stacks of books all around me, I sat dreaming my way onto the page. I was laughing a little thinking about hearing the writer Natalie Goldberg say that she used to tell her students that she had incredible muscles, why, she could run the marathon, but, sadly, they couldn't see them. They were, of course, her writing muscles that she was talking about. And yes, they are the most flexible part of my body.

I started going through books and making notes and went all gaa-gaa over Whitman again but thought I'd best not touch The Body Electric that early in the morning and with so little latté in me yet, so I ambled along, thinking old Walt had hit the nail on the head in Song Of Myself when he wrote about "Tramping the perpetual journey..." because truly, that's why writing is to me. It had no beginning, it has no end, for me, writing is just part of who I am, like the skin on my body, the air that I breathe, the animals all around me, coffee spattered books and drips of ink from my fountain pens, and then I thought, Wait! Wait! Even better...

I think writing might best be explained perfectly in a line from Song of Myself, one of my favorite lines ever from Whitman, whom I love so dearly that my copy of his collected poems and writings is dog-earred and falling apart. He wrote ~

"I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars..."

Yes. Yes! That's it. Writing is journey-work, and each word on the page a falling star. Did you ever stop to think, really, what an amazing thing a single leaf of grass is? Or a rose petal? Or a parrot on your shoulder having the morning
latté with you. I think of these things. I think of these things all the time.

So if you see me bumbling about in the garden, or staring out the window, or arranging flowers, or eating animal crackers staring off into space, don't think that I'm sitting here doing nothing. You may not be able to see it, but I, too, have strong muscles, and I never stop writing, not even when I cuddle a pug, kiss a parrot's beak, or hold my grandbaby in my arms, I am writing. I couldn't live any other way.

A bird feather just fell out of Whitman, and old, old dried pansies fill the pages of Colette. My books have been my best friends, my writing my anchor, my family and friends my dear loves that keep me going, and my animals, my beloveds, my familiars, who keep me company on the journey. It's okay if you still think I'm just sitting here doing nothing. Henry knows better, and really, thats all that counts...

Warm Regards and Deepest Blessings To All,


P.S. It is now nearly midnight and Coco asked if I'd please turn off the light. She's trying to sleep. One can't keep pugs up or they are grouchy in the morning. I guess I'll go cuddle up with Sampson who is waiting for me in the reading chair, having fallen asleep and snoring. There's just nothing like sitting here at midnight, in a dark, otherwise quiet room, save the snoring of pugs, and clicking of the computer keys. Time to turn this thing off, and let the little ones sleep...


Margaret said...

Oh dear! With a few exceptions, we are so much alike! I have my faithful companions, Taji, Reilly and Camilla (a Moluccan Cockatoo, an African Grey and an Orange Wing Amazon) "helping" with chores around the house and the ever present Whippets, Reba, Sebastian, Delilah and Tiger to make sure the floor is kept clean of crumbs. Then there's cheeky Chinese Cresteds Payne and Tiffany keeping everyone else in line.

What would my life be without my critters?


Niña said...

I write in my head too. I organize practically all my thoughts in my mind.

I truly love your choice of words. You're such an inspiration to somebody who dreams of becoming a writer someday.

Have a great day...:)

Franx said...

Please be patient and motivated your self that you write for happiness although not many people now about that. Take care and smile

Rene' Morris said...

You have made me cry. I'm not sad, it's just rare to find someone you've never met who seems so familiar. When I'm not writing, I'm working in my own garden. I love roses though I've never known anything more than I want to be surrounded by them. Your writing, this one entry, will now send me searching and learning. I understand what you mean about writing at all times. I get so caught up in "mind writing" that I forget that people around me can't read what is written inside my noggin. I really enjoyed reading your blog and will definitely be back!

Erica said...

I'm a writer, too, and I also write in my head constantly. It's a never ending inner monologue told in novel format :)

Writing Nag said...

I love your roses, your animals and your delightful cottage. keep up the writing it's a wonderful cozy way to wake up on Sunday morning...now I want a latte.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who appreciates David Austin roses is bound to be a friend of mine!! We have led a nomadic life but wherever we go we plant some roses, and only David Austin will do.

And an Africa grey too. We had one when we lived in Africa (where else :)) but my main memory is of being bitten when I was offering my hand as a perch. Clearly he didn't trust little girls :)

Grandma Julia said...

Lovely blog! I enjoyed it. I would come back for more.

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