I’ve been silent here for a while and nothing like the potential catastrophe of tectonic dinner plates smashing together to draw me to my blog dashboard.
Granted I planted late this year.
But it was so cool till mid April.
Only to turn so very hot.
Eight out of 10 of my Clemson Spineless plants coded.
A prime example pictured above. Alright, a miracle might happen but it is on life-support.
This is very, very bad.
A quick, non-scientific google of my blog post library revealed I’ve blogged on okra more than any other vegetable.
I guess you don’t know how much you love someone till they are gone or continue to shrivel up in spite of all attempts to help them thrive.
In 2014 it was yellow squash. Usually squash sprouts forth like Legos on the floor of a 7-year-old’s bedroom floor but in 2014 — nothing. The first sentence of that blog post read: Don’t ask me to choose between going all summer without sex or without a squash casserole.
This year the squash potential looks good. So I’ll need to come up with another excuse about the other.
But a summer without roasted okra for lunch? No fried okra for dinner? A pain to fix but something I endure because the kids love fried okra so very, very, very much. (Did I say how much the children love to eat fried okra?)
We’ve had a very hot, dry two weeks. But I’ve watered every night. And yesterday it became apparent, only three okra plants might make it.
Three okra plants in summer does not a happy Jamie make.
So I put on my old, crumpled farmer’s hat and thought . . . Gryffindokra.
No silly. I thought . . . seed.
Maybe a seed cracking open, pushing its roots down into that clay, lapping up my water, growing bit by bit, stretching its leaves, unfurling those yellow flowers. Maybe with seed the odds of having more plants mature would be in my favor. And less expensive.
For those wondering, Clemson Spineless has been around since 1939. Genetically engineered at Clemson, logic infers that Tiger scientists thought spineless was moniker of pride.
With okra it is. As for a football team not so sure.
While buying these pictured seeds today, I mentioned to the woman ringing up the purchase.
“Every okra plant I’ve planted this year has shriveled up. Burnt to a crisp. Anyone else having problems? Any idea why?”
“Soil’s too hot,” came from a tall bespectacled fellow standing behind her, behind the counter.
“I’m going to plant seed hoping it will do better,” I offered in a hopeful chirp.
Silence from the tall fellow in the baseball cap. Well, silence and then he walked away.
Sometimes you get sucked into being the city-slicker-with-faux-dirt-painted-underneath-her-fingernails-in-the-farmer’s-store asking questions looking like the city-slicker-with-faux-dirt-painted-underneath-her-fingernails-in-the-farmer’s-store asking questions —
but I’ve done this a while and realize he’s probably right.
It has been too hot. Too early. But it’s worth a shot.
For pity’s sake, I found a recipe for okra casserole that I’ve got to try.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1
Forty-four years ago in Mrs. Brown’s 4th grade reading class, the homework was to create a poem using each letter of your first name to start a line.
When class started, Mrs. Brown called on her pets to read their poems aloud.
I was not one of them. Which was fine and expected.
Then the unexpected happened.
After everyone handed in their work and we were busy at our desks, Mrs. Brown graded the stack of poems at the back of the class.
“Tracy?” Mrs. Brown’s brown eyes looked up and she called my name.
“Did you write this?” she asked.
“Yes,” said fourth grade me who-went-by-my-middle-name-Tracy.
“It’s really very good,” said Mrs. Brown with the lovely brown hair and intense brown eyes.
* * *
I had chosen Time as the subject of my work because Tracy, my middle name, started with T.
I only remember one line of my ditty. The verse starting with the letter C.
Can time be made to rule us?
The question I’ve wrestled my entire life.
When I saw the Finish the Sentence Friday prompt this week:
If I only had . . .
popped into my head faster than the next second clicked on my Fitbit.
More time to clean house.
More time to get to the pool for a swim.
More time to shop for groceries and more time to prepare the greens from the garden for dinner.
More time to sleep.
More time to read.
More time to talk and laugh with friends.
More time to practice that darn backbend for yoga. It’s a backbend for pity’s sake. Forty years ago I could sidle my way to school in a backbend. Attempting one now makes my head spin like I’ve had too much tequila. Half a bottle too much.
More time to slow down.
More time to write.
The irony is if I really had more time, I would spend more minutes puttering around Walmart and Ingles staring at the ibotta app. Do more laundry. Stress more about how I am stressing out. Sign my children up for more activities to fill more time. Lie awake at night more wondering why my body is doing this or doing that. Wondering what the next 20 years hold for my children. Resenting not being able to spend the more time I’ve been given — doing what I want to do.
Time frustrates the hell out of me.
In 4th grade, we measured things by the length of an episode of Gilligan’s Island or how long the wait was for Space Mountain.
Today we measure life in exacting increments.
I slept 5 hours and 0 minutes the other night.
Yes. I scratched out my weight because I’m a coward. Who never has enough time.
I burned 108 calories in a 21 minute, 21 second walk of the dog.
Yesterday took me 3 hours to write two sentences on my novel.
No. The last one is untrue. I wrote at least two paragraphs.
Can time be made to rule us?
I’ve certainly let it lord over me most of my life.
At least I got a good grade on my poem that moment in time 44 years ago.
Looking over this past week, I’m embarrassed to admit what first pops to mind are the things that didn’t happen.
Mainly the lack of writing.
Poor, poor me.
My head screams what a silly ungrateful woman. So many great things happened.
Why does the lack of writing time hang as fog on my positive mojo?
I have quite the powerful inner Eeyore.
Pooh on that. Time to link up with the Ten Things of Thankful crew.
Ten Thankful Things for the week that was.
10. This dog.
A selfie with a dog is a little more difficult than first imagined. Even the world’s best dog.
9. This day.
As you can tell from this photo, it is amazing out on the porch today.
8. This time of year. When everything blooms.
Driving the children to school, walking the dog, any daily task is an opportunity to take in the beauty.
7. Birds still build nests.
This one is in a smilax screen right over my left shoulder. A mockingbird’s work. Haven’t heard any babies yet but she darts in and out every so often.
And yes, that is a Christmas light. I wanted the new mama to have peaceful amibient lighting should she need to feed her babies after the sun goes down.
Or it was impossible to remove 12 strands I stuck in there last December without tearing out the entire hedge.
6. I earned $16.00 yesterday with the ibotta app.
A huge payday for me. Equal to about three decades of ad revenue from my Blogher ads.
I took a 8 mile run yesterday in preparation for a half marathon next Saturday.
This coupled with a Power Yoga class on Friday and my glutes are screaming — as well as the part on the front of your body where your arms attach.
I didn’t even know that was a part. Both left and right of said nameless parts are very angry with me right now.
4. Spell check.
Ibuprophen. (that’s how I first spelled number 5.) An emotional speller, I vagually picture a word and attempt a shot at it. Or I vaguely picture a word and attempt a shot it. With ibuprofen, even spell check couldn’t figure out my first attempt so I had to google it.
My poor spelling analytical ability probably costs me 200 hours of productive scrolling through Facebook or Twitter a year.
Monday mornings since the time change kick my posterior.
There was so much I wanted to accomplish this morning but I got up late — pressing snooze on the alarm for an hour. All morning I felt two, three steps behind. Sluggishly making my bed, a mental flog-fest ruminated in my brain.
How could I start another week feeling down-in-the-mouth and mind?
Then from whence it came from I don’t know . . . the strains of “you’re gonna make it after all” began muscling away at my negatives thoughts.
You know — any of you born early enough to appreciate 1970s network television.
Mary Richards and her hip apartment in Minneapolis. Her job at WJM-TV. Something always going wrong and Mr. Grant getting mad. But not really mad. Rhoda her bestie.
With goofiness and gumption, everything always worked out for Mary.
Have you ever seen this?
I’ve never loved Oprah any more than this clip of her talking about her adoration of Mary Tyler Moore. Watch till she is surprised by Mary around 2:40.
You can’t be a little girl who grew up watching Mary Richards and not love this.
Or be a midlife woman and not have a listing Monday suddenly righted.
New Year’s Day 2015, I resolved to clean out the attic.
This week I made that happen. BAM. One year and three months after my resolution.
We’ve lived in this house 15 years and that’s a lot of time to stuff things into an attic. A recovering pack rat, I tend to hang on to baby clothes, law school textbooks, 1975 televisions and my children’s third grade, third semester report cards because . . . you never know.
I hired the services of a great organizing, cleaner friend and we set to work. After a half-day’s aggressive, ruthless purging, the job was done.
Dust makes a jolly good showing in flash photography. The weight of two carloads to Goodwill, a carload to storage and two and a half trips to the dump lifted off our shoulders (and above our heads).
You know what also caught my eye in the above photo?
These doors. Filthy. They’ve been there covering gaps in the attic flooring since we bought the house. At one time, someone toted them up to the attic but no doubt they’ve been in this house since construction — approximately 125 years.
You wonder what they would look like without 125 years worth of dirt and paint?
When we built a garage apartment a few years ago, we pulled two forlorn doors out of the attic and had them restored.
Pretty amazing that beautiful wood is under all that cr@p. If only the human flesh held up as well.
I’ve been writing as well. Trying to place myself in rural 1940s Georgia.
If only I could go up to an attic and pull a 15-year-old girl from 1948 and ask her what was school like? Follow her to around and see white folk and black folk interacting. What was a segregated society in the Jim Crow South? Water fountains marked Whites Only, and the like.
The old writing adage is write what you know. But what if you want to link the past — or the future — with what you know?
I guess you research as best you can and then put your characters and your creativity in the setting.
My husband loves the Godfather. I doubt anyone would say those films weren’t completely immersed in the mob culture of the time. A brilliant film generated from Mario Puzo’s novel generated from Puzo’s imagination.
That’s why as a writer, I found this quote so inspiring.
“‘I’m ashamed to admit that I wrote The Godfather entirely from research. I never met a real honest-to-God gangster. I knew the gambling world pretty good, but that’s all.’ Who then served as the model for the Don Corleone Marlon Brando played? Puzo looked closer to home. ‘Whenever the godfather opened his mouth, in my own mind I heard the voice of my mother. My mother was a wonderful, handsome woman, but a fairly ruthless person.'” pg. 103, Modern Library Writer’s Workshop
Don Corleone’s personality based on Mario Puzo’s mother? Creative people rejoice!
A black shroud drapes our television. No telling how long it will remain. At least a week or so till March Madness cranks up.
For what is there worth watching? Downton Abbey is as quoth the raven . . . nevermore.
* * *
I woke up Monday morning with that dream hangover feeling. Fighting through mental cloudiness of was that real? A cerebral fog usually reserved for mornings after political debates and Gator losses. Then it came clear to me — yes, Downton Abbey is no more.
Trying to interject a positive to my first thoughts of the day, I reminded myself it all turned out so very well.
A boy for the Bates.
A baby on the way for Mary and her mechanic.
Lord Grantham has his puppy and Cora found her legs standing up against Grandmama and championing noble causes.
Isobel got her Duckie — who doesn’t have that pernicious disease after all. Wonder how many people googled pernicious anemia last night?
Tom is making I-could-be-vulnerable-and-find-love-again faces at Edith’s editor.
Carson’s got the palsy but is saved by Barrow. YAY.
Mr. Farmer Man (can’t think of his name right now) is making eyes at Miss Patmore.
Daisy cut her hair that Anna mercifully saved with that new blowdryer contraption and Daisy finally is giving Andy a little opening.
Mr. Molesley got a full time teaching position and is sweet on Baxter. As she is on he.
What else happened?
A used car dealership for Mary’s cute mechanic and will-find-love-again Tom.
Rose is a mummy.
Anything else? Hmm.
EDITH got her Bertie.
So very not women’s libby of me to hurrah Edith’s landed gentry matrimonial goldmine, but this was 1925 and for a woman with a snippy beautiful sister, Edith hit it out of the park.
The second thing I thought this morning.
They are all so very happy with no knowledge of the future. Those of us with the benefit of having lived in the 21st Century know the effects on Britain of the Great Depression and WWII.
Immediately, I started calculating the age of all the baby boys in 1940.
It says a lot about my emotional investment in a television series when I start my day worrying about what happened 75 years ago and the ramifications on fictional mothers and fictional babies.
First thing I learned when I started watching midway through Season Two was that it’s Downton Abbey not Downtown Abbey.
Last thing I learned. Great writing, great acting, great setting can put me in a small community and make me care a lot.
What are we going to do next January?
I’m betting Downton the movie will be about The WAR.
If the Reverend Donald A. Harp ever reads this I’ll simply say up front, you were right. So very right.
I started visiting Peachtree Road Methodist United Methodist (PRUMC) in the heart of Buckhead as a law student at Emory University needing prayers before a four-hour Tax exam. Then I got married to a fellow law student and we joined PRUMC. This was about the time Don arrived to pastor that grand, aging building with the steeple perched on Peachtree Road.
I grew to love PRUMC. I grew to love Don. I remember so many little things in those 10 years – but this post is not about the many things. It’s about one thing in particular. The one thing here over 25 years later, I laugh about.
Don was raised south of Atlanta in the town of Fayetteville. Today part of the Atlanta metropolis, back then almost as many acres of farmland and pasture as miles separated Atlanta from Fayetteville.
We – the congregants of PRUMC – heard many sermons referencing life growing up in Fayetteville. Stories of wisdom gleaned from the well-worn bible of his Granny Harp.
Every now and then Don referred to his doctor, Ferrol Sams. The doctor he left all the fancy internists in Buckhead to drive the 40 some miles for a check up. The good physician who had been his doctor for most of his life. During sermons, Don mentioned Sams’ late-in-life literary exploits. Books this country doctor wrote and published while in his 60s.
Not only books. “Bestsellers.”
The copy I’m reading from the library.
Bestsellers? Even long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, I understood making the NYT Bestseller list was a big deal.
But . . .
Can we talk?
At the time, I stuffed this bestseller information in a file marked from the overly-enthusiastic lovable person that was Don. I was certain his doctor was a nice man. One who wrote books in his 60s. Even a 20-something Jamie thought Ferrol Sams sounded cool albeit ancient. He was a nice physician who wrote books bought by his patients. End of story.
Till 2016 when surfing the Interent when I should have been researching and I saw a book by Ferrol Sams listed as one of the top Southern novels.
This piques interest of now decades older Jamie Miles struggling to pen a first draft of a Southern novel.
* * *
Reading Ferrol Sams Run With the Horseman, I can’t help but laugh. As in this little joke is on me.
After each page of this book, I pick my jaw up off the floor and push it squarely back into joint. How does this doctor from Fayetteville, Georgia – one who swapped stories with my Don Harp over a sheet of white paper rolled out on a table — write like this?
Beyond gifted. Words that paint scenes so nuanced, almost painful in their perfection. Effortless writing about such things as the flatulence of a stubborn mule and a boy and everything that is meaningful and humorous in rural Georgia in the midst of the Great Depression.
As far as the cavernous racial divide existing in the 1930s South, he writes from the viewpoint of a young white male in that region and time:
By the time he was four or five year old, the Southern white was so subliminally convinced of his superiority that later Supreme Court decisions, demonstrations, and riots served to only confirm his belief. Nowhere could there have been a keener consciousness and awareness of race and racial differences than in the close associations of daily life on a Georgia farm.
There it was all laid out. One didn’t talk about being superior; one lived it.
Love goes out to you Rev. Harp. And to the departed Dr. Sams. Who, btw, is in the Georgia Authors Hall of Fame along side Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Flannery O’Connor.
I swear. I didn’t see this one coming but I’m glad I finally did see the light.
Joyously adding to my collection of insanely large teddy bears that sit about our room staring at John and I as we sleep. Along with other creepy things they might be doing like French braiding each other’s fur and clipping each other’s toenails in the shape of diamonds. Snip, snip.
Conversation Hearts. I don’t eat them but my boys (young and old) love them. Their pastel chalkiness in a heart-shaped dish on the kitchen counter warms my heart. This is especially true because they are no temptation to me. Mine is a purely aesthetic love affair.
Definitely a minor holiday, I love that decorations are neither encouraged or dissuaded. No pressure to have a pink and white laser show on the front door every evening. Though I’m sure plenty of Valentine-ophiles search Pinterest day and night for the perfect lamb chop recipe or special sundress pattern to sew for the ginormous teddy bear sitting under her Valentine tree.
That said. I love a little red, white and pink frivolity scattered about the house. And on the porch.
Nostalgia. Great memories of Valentine’s Day at school. You know what’s weird? I loved making the construction paper mailbox we stuck on the front of our desk as much as keeping a stiff upper lip when the cutest boy in second grade said my card flew out of his satchel and under the wheel of the school bus that morning.
Notice I didn’t include chocolate. This is because Valentine’s Day often falls after the start of Lent as it does this year. I don’t belong to the school of you-can-break-your-fast-on-Sunday, because it’s like cheating to me. No judgment of any Sunday break fast observers. It’s just almost impossible for me to get the horse back in the barn once the doors been flung open and he’s out gallivanting in the pasture.
To be completely honest, my most favorite thing about Valentine’s Day is what it represents.
It’s the middle of February, which means we have inched closer to the Great Warm Up. I hate to wish my life away, which I’m not — but of course I totally am.
I choose not to think of it that way.
We’ve pulled the Groundhog out of his lair. Downton Abbey is nearly over for the season (and forever *sob*). The Super Bowl can be checked off. Now the holiday celebrating candy hearts and those we love is in the books for 2016.
What’s that I see on the horizon?
An icy mug of green beer. And green shoots of daffodils appearing outside my kitchen window.
Sooo here’s to the week that was and to the week that will be . . .
The editor reports Ms. Miles averaged 494 words for six days this week on her novel. The poor girl felt sure she had written something on Thursday the 11th but no notations can be found. Alas, that zero dealt the death blow to her average in what felt like a most productive week.
But they bloomed and are beautiful so all is cotton candy.
As far as the seeds in the garden, I think a few have sprouted but not certain so will hold off popping any champange corks for that.
My daughter loves to shop the racks at Goodwill. Again I must confess, what I usually do is head to the books.
I leave with about three or four — or five. They accumlate, stacked by my bed. I try to read them one-by-one. No skipping around. Last week, I finished The Hours.
When deciding what books to buy, I take in account everything —
What POV is it? Do I know the author? Is it a current best seller?
At times I take into account nothing at all.
This book was much more in the I-know-nothing-about-it category. I did know it had been made into a movie. One that received Oscar nominations. I saw Meryl Streep on the cover along with Julianne Moore and an unrecognizable Nicole Kidman. Why do I put this book on my things that stuck with me last week?
Well, if you aren’t a writer you might want to skip this.
I started reading this book I knew nothing about and the writing blew me away.
It opens with Virginia Woolf and well, if you don’t know anything about her life as I did not — all of a sudden you find yourself googling her to find out if this really happened.
The story follows three woman. Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Brown and Clarissa. And how their lives loosely weave — yet fiercely tie — together.
I try to engage my writer’s mind when reading. With The Hours, I shook my head at how Michael Cunningham put me places. Clarissa entering the building where her very dear friend Richard lived. Richard a gifted author, sucumbing to AIDS.
At Richard’s building she lets herself in through the vestibule door and thinks, as she always does, of the word “squalid.”
The next page described the lobby perfectly squalid. Not as you or I would have thought it squalid.
Perfectly as Clarissa would have observed it on her daily visits to see Richard squalid.
After reading more about Cunningham, I was relieved to learn he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Hours.
I wasn’t crazy. This was writing to be studied — if only the best I can study is rereading a page in the carpool line while looking up frequently enough so to not rear end the white Tahoe inching along in front of me.
Finishing the book this weekend, one of the climatic scenes had me close to tears. Not the action, though it was heart wrenching. It was the writing. Like one looks at a brilliant sunset and is moved just because of its beauty.
A book that moves me to do nothing.
Only to appreciate the skill with which it came to be.
For truly I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain,
‘Move from here to there’, and it will move, . . . Matthew 17: 20
Most of the week, I gazed upon this:
Green, promise of spring kind of stuff.
About Thursday, I looked upon its puerile beauty and thought I haven’t seen any blooms yet. Nothing that even sniffs of a green shoot that could morph into a bud.
Suddenly I questioned everything I knew about the natural world. What if all chickens stopped laying eggs? What if the sun didn’t rise tomorrow? What if my skin started growing younger instead of insisting on well — aging? Which would totally be sooo very great.
Why on earth did I pick the one plant with nary a bloom so sure that bud will sprout and open into a hopefilled bouquet of tulips?
Why was I certain they were tulips? They could be daffodils just by looking at the leaves. Sure I selected this pot from a group of pots with blooming tulips but?
Why do I assume so much?
For instance, take this spot of dirt in my garden.
About a month ago on impulse, I purchased two inexpensive packets of seeds, Spinach and Mustard Green, while at the store.
Once out in my plot, the soil gave away easily as I created a deep row with nothing more than a few drags of a pick axe.
I dropped in the seeds, covered them up and thought with all this rain and a few warm days, who knows I might have spinach by March?
Well, we’ve had nothing but rain and cold so as that photo attests the dirt looks pretty much the same as it did a month ago.
Every day as I pass my little plot, my eyes search for the spot. Knowing one day I see clusters of teensy greens.
Why am I so sure that when the temperatures rise so will my seeds?
Maybe the question is why did I buy that pot of tulip shoots or take the trouble to scatter those bitty seeds in the first place?
That’s easy peasy. A longing for the beauty of spring. The promise of fresh spinach with my eggs in the morning. Knowing that though outside the window gray abounds, life is there.
The expectation of faith fullfilled is a huge part of who we are. Who I am, I guess.
Here’s to a week of tulips blooming, spinach sprouting and no shadows for groundhogs.
Editor’s note: Last week’s novel perservering resulted in an average of 785 words for six work days.