Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Writer in the Garden: Private Edens

It's the tail end of Garden Week with the Novel Bakers.
On Saturday and Sunday, we're looking at an extraordinary book: 
Private Edens:Beautiful Country Gardens
by Jack Staub (photography by Rob Cardillo).

The Novel Bakers presented me with this book on my 60th birthday, and it has been my constant companion. When I'm working hard on a project, I always reward myself with a cup of tea and a few pages of Private Edens.

Unless you live completely alone (picture a hilltop cabin, no neighbors for miles, and a gated driveway), the writing life isn't solitary. I work around a busy family, and the process is maddening for them. I've tried to explain the craziness of publishing, but it's like pouring water onto the ground. It's incomprehensible to my husband when I refuse a trip to the symphony because a slight shift in my focus may derail a fragile plot thread, and no power on earth can call it back.
It's gone, baby, gone.

Strong ideas have exploded and imploded whenever my husband sneaks up behind me and yells, "Where's the toilet paper?"

A manuscript will eventually become impervious to outside threats, and thank god for that small mercy. People can scream, and you barely hear them. Some part of you has left the earth. You're living inside the book.

But that, too, is hard to convey.

Someone once asked the great jazz musician Louis Armstrong to define jazz. "If you've got to ask," he said, "you'll never know."

Writing is something the author and the book feel together.
Reading is something the reader and the book feel together.
Two wonderfully different experiences.

Whether a project will succeed or fail has always been beyond my control, but when I'm working, I'm in a sort of Eden. I get so caught up in the process, I'm lucky to make it to Publix. I won't make it to the symphony, either, but I guess I'm not the symphony type. I do love to garden, as it keeps life in perspective, and baking is an especial joy. But I have a deep, abiding love for words.

As I near the age of retirement, I'm still going to scribble, but in a slightly different way: I'm looking forward to a new and exciting shift to my first love: food writing, and maybe a little bit about gardening, too.

 Thank goodness for books like Private Edens. I can step through the page, straight into sunny meadow. I can brush my hands over a clipped boxwood hedge...and never leave my house. 
In a way, a book is like a garden.
You plant an idea, only to discover that it just won't grow. Well, not where you put it.
Does it need more sun? A touch of humor, perhaps? Shade might do the trick--add a little darkness and see what happens. 
 New ideas are fragile.
A bamboo stake will keep the wind from snapping off the top-heavy flowers of a delphinium; maybe your idea needs support, too. Or perhaps you've planted it in the wrong damn place. 

No one said it would be easy, this life. But writing is the best time you've ever had, so don't give up. Each project teaches you about the process.

Some ideas need a little coddling.
Others need to be weeded.
But wait just a minute. Take a breath or two. Make sure a weed is a weed and not a young, tender plant that has not flowered.
The trick is knowing the difference.
(How long does that take, the knowing? A lifetime.)

As with gardening, you must first learn the basics. 

Don't plant sun-loving characters in a dank, mossy place. 

And you shouldn't put a shade lover in blinding light. 

Characters will keel over or succumb to root rot. If you pay attention, they
will tell you what they need.

Creative projects benefit from a little pre-planning.  
First, you must prepare the soil. Dig your hole deeper and wider than the pot. 
Take a deep breath and "tease apart" the idea's tightly compacted roots. Pray that you aren't too rough (or too gentle).  But don't ever be timid and leave those gnarled roots alone.
Fill the hole with dirt, tamping it down, removing air pockets. Water the root ball generously. 
Do not be surprised if an idea suffers from transplant shock. If it is strong, and if you don't neglect it (not even for a day), then your idea will take root.

And it will grow like crazy.

The creative soul needs a fearless heart. 
I was told that poppies wouldn't grow in Tennessee, but they thrived in my rocky soil.
People laughed at when I started writing, but I kept working.
If you love something, do it anyway. And if you stop loving it, pray for the courage and grace to walk away.
Success is measured by joy. And nothing else matters.

Since I am an armchair traveler these days, I'll leave you with a tour of Cerney House Gardens, Gloucestershire, England.

For more private Edens, visit the Novel Bakers: Jain- ..a quiet life and Mary-Home Is Where the Boat Is.

 I'm linking to Metamorphosis Monday  and The Scoop .

Pin It

Social Bookmarking

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Foodie Friday: In and Out of the Garden with the Novel Bakers

Welcome to Foodie Friday!
I'm celebrating Garden Week (May 27 - June 1) with the Novel Bakers:
Jain at ..a quiet life

 Thursday and Friday, we're reviewing In and Out of the Garden by Sara Midda.
This morning, I posted a tablescape, along with a recipe for comforting vegetable soup.
You can find the recipe HERE.

In and Out of the Garden was published in 1981. 
Thirty-three years later, I had the pleasure of discovering it, thanks to the Novel Bakers' organizer, Jain, author of the beautiful blog, a quiet life
 This small book is very wide and deep, filled with enchanting illustrations and tips that would delight anyone who loves to dream about gardens. 

The book was an especial delight, because we'd already planted a large, wild potager. In the past, we'd had no luck raising anything in the hard, Tennessee clay; but raised beds saved elbow grease and allowed us to amend the soil.

It's a secret world.

 A place of wonder.
Look: a baby bell pepper.

A pepper-to-be.

 The seeds will eventually end up inside the pepper, which is pretty amazing--seeing nature work its way inside-out and outside-in.

A tomato-to-be.


Since our garden is in its infancy, 
I bought tomatoes at the market and made a Cheese-Ham-and Cherry Tomato Tart.

I saw a divine version on Pinterest at The tart is delicious and portable, just the thing for a picnic or potluck. You can find the recipe by clicking on the link (above). 

As a side item, I made a garden salad. Bandwidth's lettuce is huge (but not bitter).

 Won't you join me for lunch at the edge of the shade garden?

 I added bacon, homemade croutons, and seasoned pecans.  

Don't Miss a Single Day with the Novel Bakers
Come along with me and visit Jain and Mary. 


An Invitation to the Garden with tablescapes for every season with  Jain ... a quiet life


In and Out of the Garden- ..a quiet life

In and Out of the Garden- Home Is Where the Boat Is

In and Out of the Garden- Rattlebridge Farm


In and Out of the Garden with Jain- ..a quiet life

In and Out of the Garden with Mary-Home Is Where the Boat Is

In and Out of the Garden- Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge.

Saturday and Sunday, the Novel Bakers will take you on a tour of Private Edens.


Are you familiar with the MYSTERY INGREDIENT CLUB?
Here's how it works: A secret ingredient is assigned to members, and they incorporate it into a recipe (sweet or savory). 

The next club meeting will be held Monday, June 2, 2014. Email me by Saturday at midnight if you'd like to cook with us; or stop at any participating blog to see the mystery ingredient.
**This isn't a weekly meme. The MIC meetings happen mysteriously!


Are you contributing a recipe to this week's Foodie Friday?
 If so, locate the blue Inlinkz icon in the lower, left-hand portion of this post. Click on the icon and follow the directions. After you complete the process, you will see a red "x" beside your name. This allows you to delete your link if you made an error; the red "x" is visible to you only.
You can read a complete guide to this linky party HERE.
If you'd like to share your food photos--or photos of other FF participants on Pinterest, join the Pinterest foodie board, Consuming Passions. Leave a message on the most recent "pin" if you'd like your name added to the list.

Every Friday, we are joined at this big, virtual table--thank you for stopping by today. I'm grateful to all of you who spend your days cooking. I'm grateful to old and new friends who contribute recipes every week. I'm grateful to friends who leave a comment. I'm grateful for the silent folks, because you are brought here by your love of all things culinary.

We are food people. And that's a marvelous thing.

The Foodie Friday Link-Up

Have a fun, food-filled weekend!

Pin It

Social Bookmarking