Saturday, March 29, 2008


When I learned that my grandfather would accompany my parents to our home in December, I was thrilled. My delight was not only because my grandfather had never visited this house, but because the timing of the trip was perfect. Panhandle gardens go dormant during the winter. I was relieved my grandpa would not discover how negligent I'd become with gardening tasks. At 92, my grandfather works in his yard like a man thirty years younger.

Some of his neighbors called my mom last spring and told her, "Your dad was shoveling a load of dirt out of his pickup." He'd fallen in love with amaryllis and was building a huge bed for bulbs in his front yard.

Years ago, before I started writing, I, too, was a passionate gardener. A bed filled with roses, plumbago, periwinkles and crepe myrtles curved along my back fence. Our dinners included dishes with rosemary and mint grown in my herb garden outside the kitchen door. I greeted each day by watering my plants. I even planted the grass in my backyard from seed.

No one had to tell me when to pull the weeds or prune my rose bushes. I knew. Those years, tending my garden was my bliss.

Then I moved to Amarillo and began to write fiction. I still piddled in the yard, but more and more, pens replaced shovels and pruners. I toiled with words instead of soil. Writing had become my bliss.

I'm not suggesting that writing should replace all other pleasures. As writers we must remain participants in life. Or how would we have anything to write about? But, I believe, to do one passion well demands selfish amounts of time. For me, that passion is writing.

In her book, Writing Alone and With Others, Pat Schneider tells how she came to this same conclusion. "Suddenly I saw that I had to make a choice. I said to myself, you can't have it all...that day I folded up the quilt patterns and scraps of cloth. I stopped making jelly; I gave up sewing forever. Because I wanted most to be a writer."

Knowing that writing deserves my attention doesn't keep me from wincing at the weeds surrounding the grape hyacinths. And I occasionally dream of the day I'll return to the garden with the same gusto as years before.

Last winter, when my grandfather arrived at our home, he studied our backyard and said, "Your roses need a good cutting back. You should do it now before spring settles in."

It is spring. The roses will bloom soon. I didn't heed my grandfather's warning. But last month I did finish a new manuscript.

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