As is typical, the summer months here in the north-country are quickly flying by. With August upon us, we’ve already lost, since the summer solstice, almost a full hour of sunlight per day. (So sad . . .) Still, this is a good time to reflect on the issue we Quills are pondering this month, which is: when we are away from the writing desk, what do we do? What gardening or improvement projects keep us busy? Are they inspirational? Do they help us to focus? Or ... ?
I'll go first, then present posts from my fellow Quills, Robin Lythgoe and P.S. Broaddus.
I used to be quite a gardener. I had a huge plot. I can’t even estimate its size. I grew berries, beans, corn, squash, melons, peas, and on and on. Admittedly, even at the best of times, I tended to lose a fair amount of my crop because I couldn’t eat it in time and wasn’t big on storing methods (although drying herbs or beans was always a hit with me). (That said, I usually had an abundance. Don't believe me? Check the pic here of just one wheelbarrow full of tomatoes from one year.) Also, in truth, I lost some crop to overzealous weeds that would come along about the same time that I threw my hands up and nearly quit, as I was no longer having fun.
But I don’t garden like that anymore ...
Some years ago, I designed a new front to my home with steps down to the lawn and tiers for gardens. From time to time, I revise the space. It is quite lovely. Here are a couple of different looks from over the years:
However, this, too, has become almost too much for me these days. I find with age that I do fine for snippets of time, but I don’t want to spend my days on projects of this nature—like I once did. Notwithstanding my fairly vigorous workout routines, my body just won’t put up with it anymore. I guess it’s time to hire someone. (?)
So that leaves home improvement projects. I’m re-doing a bathroom now. It is a creative outlet, but anyone who has ever engaged in such a project can appreciate the difficulty of being without a bathroom for any length of time. So yeah, that’s ... fun ...
Actually, I’ve a new project of late that I can’t say I find exactly inspirational, but I hope in the end that it will help me to focus.
These days all the rage seems to be about “de-cluttering” and minimalist living. I’ve read about how I should go on a one-year plan to remove everything from my home that I’ve no longer any use for. Well, one year is grossly insufficient for me. I’ve lived here for 30 years (and my generation, it seems, was about acquiring stuff). Also, I have a home that has become the repository for things my children have no room to keep. So when my youngest dropped by recently and left a bag of ... I don’t even know what ... behind, I asked what I was to do with it. “Oh, I’ll get it later,” she said as she ran out the door. That had to have been at least six weeks ago and it still sits here ...
So there is no way I could fully de-clutter in a year—by which I mean go through everything. But I’ve set a goal to go through things one room at a time, starting with the upstairs bedrooms (yes, they are the easiest). I’m finding clothing to give away, throw away, and try to sell at consignment stores; books to go; children’s projects to store for them (yes, I’ll store them for awhile yet); old prescriptions to bring to an acceptable drop-off location; eyeglasses to donate; and so very much more. If I get through a single drawer or cabinet in a day, I feel I’ve accomplished something—which is more than nothing—and so whenever I manage to do that, I’ve had a good day.
In fact, just a week ago, I addressed the issue of the two finches I’ve been keeping for my middle child for the past year. She can’t have them where she lives, so they’ve been here. In truth, I don’t want them, or their mess, or the responsibility of feeding them or of cleaning up after them. I didn’t think she’d let me, but she said I could give them away—cages and toys and all! And better yet—I think I found a taker. So yes, today was a good day (although I still have her former bedroom to go through, the closet of which is full of things she decided it is too early to take with her as yet). Still, with the finches gone (I hope), I'll be one step closer to gaining some focus—and to appreciating the freedom I should (but all too often do not) have at this age to be able to come and go as I please.
How about you? What’s your project de jure (or de l’annee, or even de la decennie, as the case may be)?
Now that I've unloaded, I'm anxious to hear what Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, has to share with us. Well, Robin? What's your current non-writing artistic (or other) outlet?
My writing desk follows me everywhere. Virtually, anyway. Overheard conversations make good fodder for dialogue. A turn of phrase from a television show or movie often suggests an entire scene or plot point. I realized during a discussion about some people in my life that one of them in particular would make a fantastic model for a character. (No, I will not say whether protagonist or antagonist!)
I try to jot these ideas down on my phone, but sometimes I really have to tell my desk to go to its room and give me a break. Have you ever noticed that not thinking about a thing is like a magic solution for finding an answer to it?
“Whim” has often been the instigator…
And finally, we hear from P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse. What say you, Parker?
I don't often get the question, "What keeps you busy?" That's usually because I have three little boys running around and through my legs. I also work as a full time real estate agent, running my own business and managing property for myself and others. I have a master's degree in film, but I've taken a step back from film production and editing to give more time to my love of writing.
And while I enjoy real estate and homes and remodeling and flipping, that isn't necessarily where I get inspiration or rest. I don't garden - the wonderful wood nymph I married is in charge of that department. Likewise, film and film editing is work - enjoyable work, but work nonetheless.
There are a couple of things I do that fill me up, that aren't work, and sometimes even provide inspiration and encouragement...