Friday, June 29, 2007

Best Turnips Ever

Just plucked not 20 minutes ago from the divine garden!

Middle-Aged Pleasures

I have two kinds of tomato plants this year: deliberate and accidental.

Two Bushy Beef plants, bred for containers, I planted in an EarthBox that a brochure persuaded me to buy. I didn't plant any Tommy Toes, a cherry-sized Ozark heirloom vine tomato, but this spring their seeds, left in the compost pile, gave birth to six fine plants -- a surprise.

I watered every evening -- saw no fruits. I checked the plants every morning for deer damage -- no fruits. I went away overnight and suddenly -- after 4 inches of rain in 24 hours -- appeared those lovely green pearls that are tomato fruits in bud. I am especially thrilled, I guess, because this is my first tomato garden.

Gardening is such a middle-aged pleasure. It's like crafts, or collecting, or taking up watercolors, or birdwatching -- those things middle-aged people do. They are fun, but they're not really about fun, or teenagers would want to do them. Middle-aged pleasures are about appreciation. Everyday things, everyday tools, everyday sights, just plain dirt and water, can miraculously become portals to something much larger: nature, art, history, the universe. Welcoming my new tomatoes is more fun than I ever had when, way back in time, I was trying to unravel the great mysteries by means of cars, parties, and beer.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Lord Love a Duck

I was driving, pulling out of a parking lot in the city, when something ran across the asphalt in front of me. I hit the brakes. A mother duck and four (or five) very, very small fuzzy ducklings ran across the asphalt lane, heading east, toward a park. The mother was intent on leading her babies -- who were too young to follow in an orderly way. They bobbed up and down like fuzzy bubbles, ran after her, stopped, and bumped into each other, scattering like billiard balls.

I was delighted. At such moments I turn back into a little kid. "Duckies!! Hello, duckies," I thought -- or maybe I said.

It was only later that I began to think that they had half a mile to go to get to the park and its pond. The little ones were on duck feet they hardly knew how to use. They would have to cross a notoriously busy, accident-generating intersection. And I began to think: Crossing there is tricky even for people! How will the ducks make it? Will drivers even see them? Will somebody call a cop to stop the traffic and let them pass -- as in the kids' book Make Way for Ducklings? No, not likely. . . Maybe they'd just run the ducks over! Maybe just the babies! Maybe just the mom! And then what would the babies do?

I wonder what happened between my sense of delight and the formation of a useless worry? What habit of thought took over my mind -- and turned a sudden moment of delight into a fear?

I assumed that other drivers would not delight in the duck family, and not brake for them. What a judgment -- on people I've never even met! And in this scene I cast myself as one of the sensitive, appreciative people, the rare ones. Ech! What a swamp of ego and assumptions and snap judgments and self-deceptions! Sheesh!

If I wrote this as a scene in a story, in the third person, about a fictional character who thought she was one of the sensitive, perceptive ones, while most others were coarse-grained and brutish. . .

Next time, let me say "God bless you" to the ducks, wish them well, and leave it at that!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What the Online Swami Said

The online swami would answer one question for $10. I said what the heck -- I was on vacation from work, why not splurge? --and sent him this question: When will I be successful in my writing career?

I found this astrologer through a Hindu astrology site called and he is legitimate. I know he actually cast my birth chart because I know what my chart is (being interested in both Western and Hindu astrology myself), and he also cast a chart for the time I put the question. That's called "horary" astrology. Then he compared the two.

His answer came today. Turns out the message of the sky is mixed. I will have to work hard. Yet if I keep working, the present time is favorable, particularly August 07 to September 08, but he predicted that the best time will be the years 2011 to 2016.

Well, better to be on the upswing than the downswing! Better to have success late in life -- rather than too early! I believe him. He said 2006 was a successful writing year for me. He is correct.

To propitiate the planets and gain their favor, particularly Mercury, planet of communication, the astrologer directed me to wear an emerald set in gold. I should begin wearing it, he said, on a Wednesday during a waxing moon. So I will begin tomorrow and see what happens. A billion Hindus can't be wrong. An emerald is a billion years old and so it must know a thing or two. And the planets and stars come straight from the hand of God and they can't be wrong.

It's nice when someone knows, and tells you, exactly how to improve your lot!

Monday, June 18, 2007

What Worry Is

Yesterday I was determined to clean out the bluebird box. House wrens had come and dropped into it about a half a pound of sharp twigs, for reasons of their own, all the way up to the entry. It's a habit of theirs, and I watched them do it, worrying. The wrens are handsome birds, but have long sharp beaks, and -- who knows why -- if they find a box with a bluebird nest and babies, and feel mean or territorial, will stick their heads inside and kill each baby with a peck to the head.

This is nature and I can't do anything to stop it.

I knew that if I wanted bluebirds to use the box as their home again, I had to take the box off its post, open it, and clean out the twigs. I didn't want to. I was afraid -- I worried -- that beneath the twigs, in the bluebird's teacup-sized nest, always made of yellow grass, I would find dead and rotting baby bluebirds. This would fill me with grief and horror; I love bluebirds, would see a dead nestful of them as tragic, and I have a horror of creatures that are dead and rotting. I can't even take a dead mouse from a trap.

So I prepared the soap and bleach to clean out the box. Then I opened it, and pried the twigs out, trying not to look more deeply inside. Eventually the teacup nest came out. It was clean. There were no bodies. The bluebirds born in that nest had lived and fledged.
I was relieved and wondered, why did I worry? Think of the mental energy I wasted worrying! I filled and blocked my own mind with sharp twigs!

Still -- some worrying must surely be natural. Soon after removing the bluebird house from its post, I saw the male bluebird himself standing on the post, puzzled, looking around for his familiar house. He was worried! "I'm going to clean it," I said to him. "Once that is done, you can raise another bunch of babies in it. Trust me, your box will be back up today..."

Worry is nothing but a lack of trust. That's why it feels so awful to worry; it's a lack. Worry is powerful; if it were a drug it would be prescription only -- and habit-forming and dangerous.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Rain in My Heart:, Anagram in My Name

Where is the beautiful rabbit I saw in the yard every day for three weeks -- the one that let me get closer to her every day, until we could look each other in the eye? Haven't seen her for four days. I was happy earlier this week. There was beautiful weather and hope. There was the rabbit, and bluebirds nesting in the bluebird box. Then I saw house wrens take over the box, and wondered if the wrens killed the bluebirds or just ran them off. Now I've gotten some other writing ideas rejected and I think my life has been spoiled.

I get unnerved, thinking I must have done something wrong and God is withholding until I change my ways. But what did I do wrong? Why give me talents and not let me show them? Why give me ideas, and not let me realize them? Where are the rewards for my faithfulness, hard work, loyalty, my grit in withstanding torrents of abuse, hanging in there, being the last to give up -- those Girl Scout kind of virtues, the ones I'm so good at? I'm not a Christian -- to me that's a very serious commitment, not just a label or a bandwagon-- so I don't have, nor do I claim to have, the set of virtues Christians have, such as sweetness or patience, or knowing when to send somebody packing. Oh yes, and what is this chronic physical pain all about? (It IS, thanks to physical therapy, better than it was -- it almost ate me alive -- it's better enough so that now I am pestering God about other things.)

Well, one thing I know, feelings do change. (I'm waiting for the E-mail swami to answer my question. He uses Jyotish (Hindu) astrology.)

Oh yes: I ran my name through the The anagram of my name is: INNOVATE RARE CHICK.

Surely that means something! Everything does!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Coffee With the Birds

I bought a programmable coffeemaker so I could have coffee first thing in the morning without fumbling around with stiff hands, by the light of the refrigerator, spilling the water, and so on. But the question was, what time should I set it for? I get up at different times every day, whether I am working or not. -- Usually out in the sticks here, one of three things wakes me up:

-Sunrise. (5.45 a.m. in summer; in winter I can loll in bed until 8:30 a.m., no problem.)

-Cars on Highway F -- roaring by, driving too fast because the drivers are late to work.

-Woodpeckers pecking on the eaves of the house wanting me to get up and serve them their cake of suet. They know what room I sleep in. They peck on the part of the house that's right above my bed. They'll keep doing it until I get up! Downy and hairy woodpeckers mostly, although the redbellied woodpeckers can be very impatient, too.

I set my programmable coffeemaker to start up at 6:10 a.m. This turned out to be the perfect time.

If I get up before 6:10 a.m. I can get the morning chores out of the way: feed birds their seed and suet, change water in the birdbath, check garden, take daily meds, unlock doors, lay out my work clothes, start laundry. . .

If I get up after 6:10 the pot keeps the coffee warm for two hours so as long as I don't loll until after 8:10 a.m. I get nice hot coffee. ("LOL" around here, in the green and bunny-filled Ozark foothills, is just a misspelling of "loll".)

Try coffee with the birds at 6:15 a.m. sitting at the checkered picnic table on the porch. I enjoy this small ritual from late March until late November, by candlelight or kerosene lamp if necessary. I wear a bathrobe or even a parka on over the pajamas if I must. I sit and think and grow awed: I have been granted another day. A totally new day.

This is perfect happiness. Especially if the day to come can be devoted to writing.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

What is So Rare as a Day in June

June is my favorite month. Divinity is everywhere you look: sky, clouds, grass, daisies, elusive little skinks, rabbits up to their ears in uncut grass. God has it all heated, cooled, tooled, jeweled, furnished, decorated -- he's an artist. All he wants our appreciation. I appreciate your work, God.

I live where there is beauty. I want it said of me, "She loved beauty." I love this quotation that is originally from an English gravestone:

The wonder of the world,
the power and glory,
the shapes of things,
their colors, lights, and shades,
these I saw.
Look ye also while life lasts.

I'm a writer. Totally without irony, God gave me the gift and drive for poetry -- with one book in print, called Fierce Consent, published by WingSpan Press (and were they ever good to me!). However, I'm known in these here parts, the bunbun-filled Ozark foothills, for my essay writing, too.

Yesterday a sheaf of poems came back from The Georgia Review. This was the same sheaf that came back from Boulevard -- with a note saying they ALMOST wanted them. I was crushed. But now that I've self-published a book, and made an eBook of it on, and can post my poems on or on any of many, many Internet sites -- well, this is the first rejection I ever got that did not bother me one whit. In fact I was glad they sent it back sooner than they said they would (they'd said five months).

I'd still like them to appear in print. So I'll keep trying for that. But in the meantime -- for the first time of the thirty-five years I've been publishing poetry -- because of the internet, self-publishing, eBooks, and more, the POET is in CHARGE. The WRITER is in charge. Things are changing for the better.

Right now I'm collecting nonfiction for a book I hope to publish this year. Queried my first choice of publisher today. More about it, and my other books, later.

I sent a question about my future to an online swami. When I get it, I'll tell you what the answer is.