Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Being There

Earth laughs in flowers. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

My rain barrel is empty. We've had a dry spell.  This morning I found myself outside watering-- dousing a few of the tender things--moonflower vine, tomatoes, phlox. And this day lily.

It's like writing: You have to be patient with yourself through the dry spells. Spot water when you need to. Nurture the creativity.

It made me think of the movie Being There. [It came out in the late 70's, but I watched it again the other night. It is not to be missed.]

Chauncy Gardner, a simpleton at total ease with himsef, talks in garden metaphors, and the world thinks he's brilliant: "In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again."

And then the president, who seeks economic advice, says, "I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I've heard in a very, very long time."

The Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction

This is what I think about literary awards: they come about from selfless acts and are created and run by generous people. They are vital to writers and the literary world because they keep writing  important. Literary awards shine a big bright spotlight on novels and nonfiction and poetry and short fiction--they keep it all vital for authors and readers.

Can you tell I'm leading up to something?

I just received word SECRET KEEPERS received the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction. A huge honor, an annual prize "for the best novel set in the South." The award includes  $2,500, an expense-paid trip to New York City, and a luncheon at the Yacht Club.

It was the kind of email that would have set my heart galloping, except it already was-- I'd just come in from the garden and was already out of breath, with a racing heart. It was 100 degree out there, and I had been shoveling mulch, and was smarting from fire ant bites. This sounds like I'm complaining but I'm not-- I love those hard chores, the sweat, and the sore muscles. It clears my head. It strengthens my writing. It is, I realize, my meditation practice.  So-- I came inside finally, because I was out of my 100+ strength sunscreen. I have this Irish-English-Welsh skin--from my forebears generations ago-- skin that prefers foggy moist days.  Outside, I wear a big floppy hat and sunglasses and gloves and a long-sleeved shirt outside-- I look the Invisible Man (pictured here for your convenience)  if he were a woman. 

  I glanced at my email while I guzzled another glass of water and my knees went weak, and I sat down, trying to keep sweat drops off my laptop. After shock wore off, gratitude filled me, and that's one of the best feelings a human can have: gratitude.

So, looks like I'll be heading up to NYC in October, and meeting the judges of this fantastic award.

Writing is a solitary business. And then you send your novels out in the world-- like they are children who must make their own way.
How gratifying to know Secret Keepers might qualify for this award that is, as the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction explains,  "chosen for the quality of its prose, originality, and authenticity of setting and characters." Or in the words of the writer Willie Morris, the spirit of the novel might bring "hope for belonging, for belief in a people's better nature, for steadfastness against all that is hollow or crass or rootless or destructive."

Thank you doesn't even begin to cover it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wishing You a Happy Midsummer Night's Eve

Tonight is Midsummer Night's Eve, also known as Mead Moon, also known as St. John's Eve.

It's  called St. John's Eve because--who would've thunk it-- St. John is the patron saint of beekeepers!

And now, as I can pretty much vouch from the activity in my front yard, the bees--and butterflies--are busy and the hives are full of honey. [Honey used to be fermented to make mead.  Hence, the term "honeymoon,"--a time for lovers.]

So tonight is the best night to gather herbs. Magical herbs, which I assume are illegal, except for in California.

Drink the dew-- Midsummer Night Eve's dew has healing powers. 

Sleep with a flower underneath your pillow tonight: You'll dream about your future lover. [Okay, that's for you youngin's.] But remember:

"The course of true love never did run smooth."
-- Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Eve

Tonight is Midsummer Night's Eve, also called St. John's Eve. St. John is the patron saint of beekeepers. It's a time when the hives are full of honey. The full moon that occurs this month was called the Mead Moon, because honey was fermented to make mead. That's where the word "honeymoon" comes from, because it's also a time for lovers. An old Swedish proverb says, "Midsummer Night is not long but it sets many cradles rocking." Midsummer dew was said to have special healing powers.
In Mexico, people decorate wells and fountains with flowers, candles, and paper garlands. They go out at midnight and bathe in the lakes and streams. Midsummer Eve is also known as Herb Evening. Legend says that this is the best night for gathering magical herbs. Supposedly, a special plant flowers only on this night, and the person who picks it can understand the language of the trees. Flowers were placed under a pillow with the hope of important dreams about future lovers.
Shakespeare (books by this author) set his play "A Midsummer Night's Dream" on this night. It tells the story of two young couples who wander into a magical forest outside Athens. In the play, Shakespeare wrote, "The course of true love never did run smooth."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

If Only They Were Scratch & Sniff

Fragrance in the garden now is ...almost describable. Almost.

It seems the only way you can describe a smell, is by referencing another smell. 
New mown grass. Beer. Bread. Rotten eggs. Those seem to be a few of the "primary" smells you use to describe others smells.

I know. Sounds funhouse mirror weird.

But take this magnolia, for example.

If you've ever smelled one, or floated one in water with a candle, you might describe it as a lemony honeyed aroma. It smells like heaven.

 The gardenias-- wow. Thick seductive sweet vanilla-ey.

I remember reading Mary Karr's memoir-- the first one-- and the way she described the smell of the factory town, paper factory probably:
it " smelled like a wicked fart. "
I got that.

From Richard Price: "A greasy aroma drifted down from the third-floor food court — spare ribs and Cinnabons..."

Okay, from one of my own--SECRET KEEPERS. Emma and her grandson:

Emma stepped beside Kyle and breathed in the scent of his neck--soap, a little sweat, a whiff of smoke and something else, something boyish and budding, tickly as pollen. He smelled delicious.  

Sensory detials i
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