Monday, June 15, 2009


When I lived in the Houston area I made frequent trips to visit my grandparents in Forest Hill. All of my grandparents were living then. I was a lucky young woman because of that, and I knew it. I wanted to catch up with the childhood years when living around the world meant rarely seeing them.

I never left those visits empty-handed. My grandparents would send me on my way with treasures in the form of fig preserves, Avon products, or plants.

The camellia and azalea plants my grandfather gave me from his garden transferred beautifully in Houston. Not only were those plants adapting well, but also the wild dogwood my dad dug up from my other grandfather's land. When he died the following October, that dogwood meant even more to me.

Two years later my husband's new job brought us to the Texas Panhandle. The change from zone 8 to zone 6 caused a halt to my plans for a garden that included blooms with family ties. I didn't give up so easily though. Logic told me it would be impossible, but on the ride to our new home, some of those plants were squeezed in next to the luggage. Of course once transplanted, my efforts failed.

My grandfather's roses will grow here. But usually I fly, and packing thorny rose shrubs would prove tricky. So these days when I walk through my grandfather's garden, my mind is filled with pipe dreams and what ifs. I settle on his bench staring at pink camellias and wonder if maybe global warming could work in my favor.

A few years ago my grandfather fell in love with amaryllises. Instead of receiving ties at the holidays, he opened boxes of bulbs. Bulbs grow well here, too. Last week, I didn't come home empty handed. Before I left, my grandfather split open a pod from one of his amaryllis plants and dropped the seeds into my hand.

So often when I'm writing, I come to a roadblock that keeps me from moving in the direction I'd planned. For a while it's frustrating. Just like I stubbornly transported those plants north, I try to make my original plans work. Of course, I fail.

Then something will happen, something seemingly insignificant. Maybe someone will say, "The best time was in the summer when the ladybugs arrived," or maybe I'll notice a group of little kids walking around with flowerpots on their heads. A few days later my observation grows into a possibility and is transplanted onto the page. Many times the new way proves better. And the discovery will feel as triumphant as my grandfather dropping amaryllis seeds into my hand.


  1. Kimberly, I meant to comment on this yesterday because I thought this was a very beautiful analogy of most writers' (or at least mine!) struggles with writer's block. It does seem true that forced ideas never seem to grow (like those transplanted plants). Yet other ideas that we overhear/observe can almost take on a life of their own.

    Great post, Kimberly! It really made me think!

  2. Crystal,

    Thanks for your comment. It's interesting how when we let things develop organically, the outcome is usually better. That's why I believe that writers must continue to interact in the world--eat sushi with friends, climb trees, take a walk around the block. I have to remind myself to do that sometime. I'm always happy when I do.