Friday, June 25, 2010

Chapter Twelve - Part Three - Cultivation of Shadows and Light

Nothing is more delightful on a hot, summer's day than a deep dark shadow, dappled shade or a passing cloud. Yet, in our lives we resent these obstructions of the light in our path. Refusing to look at them, we gaze at the sun stubbornly, the "good" parts of our lives. The result is obvious in a material sense, we become blinded, and in a symbolic sense we project those shadows onto the people around us, blind to the fact that they are our own. These projected villains must play one role only in our lives, and that is to make us look at our own shadow finally.

This is a big reason that I'm choosing to plant an orchard rather than melons or some low-growing, faster-developing crop that casts only the smallest shadows in the brilliant sunshine. I plan to enjoy the dark shadows that fall beneath the canopy of my storied place. My goal is to fall in love with the villains as much as the heroes finally. Because without the villains poking the heroes like voodoo doctors there would be no chance of the heroes' transformations. I plan to sink down to the tips of my tree's roots to find the nutrition of this fertile field.

When you think of the combination of shadows and roots, as compared to the trees, leaves and branches and fruit, it really comes out about equally in terms of light and dark. The birds and butterflies interact with the canopy. The worms and ants interact with the roots. All told there are stories abounding above and below in a constant rhythm of life. And, me? I get to walk in the dappled sunlight between the worlds, looking up to the backlit green, and looking down into the pithy earth. My role is to be a caretaker of words, and let them flow and grow, and nurture them as well as I can.

How does one let writing happen? In the past it was all about forcing the growth, plotting and planning some idea into shape and size. To think of it as cultivation rather than production is something new. Cultivating an atmosphere in my brain where life can take hold and courageously grow means that I am more a channel than a manufacturer. It means that all I can do is hold a vision in my mind of that full grown peach tree, the blossoms, the leaves, the deep roots and finally the fruit, and do things like water, prune and fertilize.

Like I've said before, I've got the fertilization part down.

There's a spring-fed stream at the bottom of my field. It has sometimes become choked with debris and causes a soggy flooding of my field. So as the shadows grow longer this summer, and the sun creeps down South, I'll be working at clearing the stream and investigating ways of irrigating. How does one irrigate up hill? It must be possible. A tree may need 5 gallons of water per watering. How can a writer divvy up the emotions of experience so that there is just enough and not too much?

Right now I'm not at all worried about pruning. When the time comes to edit my work, I will turn to an expert for help. Now, I just want to set up the field so it works for an orchard of trees to grow from pits. The sun is at its zenith today. It is really summer solstice finally. For the next three months, I'll be looking at the potential pits, preparing the field, and getting the irrigation set up finally so that it doesn't overwhelm the orchard next spring.

I'll keep in mind the delightful shade of an orchard as my intended end-game while I work away at the endless chores of a writer that seem sometimes more like delay and procrastination than like the preparation they should be. Writing, surprisingly is not all about putting the words on the page. Writing is more about the cultivation of space, time and the flow of emotions.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chapter Twelve - Part Two - Non-material Light

Though we cannot hold onto material light because it comes and it goes, non-material Light is a different story entirely. What is it then? How can we hold it? Some wise sages have compared non-material Light to Love. Yet, even this becomes confusing as we imagine a grand romance between light and dark. It is not that kind of love, though certainly that is very ... uh ... lovely.

What I believe that non-material Light is is really closer to a shadowless day where everything is neutral finally, without contrast, where we can see both sides of the proverbial coin equally. Non-material Light is a fulcrum point upon which the world balances, kept in check. It is this point of peace that feels something like Love or acceptance or compassion for all. My favorite authors have achieved a sense of this by the end of their stories where the hero and the villain are equalized by the final outcome. Though it may seem the villain is "down," in fact, if the story is well-crafted this moment of gloom is the beginning of his or her journey to true balance.

In this balance of karma, of cause and effect, the zenith of power in the villain's life comes to an inevitable end, and the hero's darkest hour is redeemed. This is the story we read over and over again, and the movie we see over and over again, and we can't seem to get enough of it. It is quite simply as necessary to our existence as the nutrition of a well-grown peach. Understanding that we willingly re-order this show on cable and snicker over it in politics and hope for it when we spend $24 for a hard-cover novel, is accepting that this is what we came to earth to understand. We spin on a neutral axis, but we experience day and night. This sacred triangle of life is ever-moving, interacting and evolving (hopefully) so that when we're to the end of a life lived we have the sense that we've climbed a few of those spiral staircase steps, and have some perspective of our former innocence and our wisdom gained from the very trials we, at the time, wished we could avoid.

Down deep in the earth a peach pit is in a very dark place, yet something inside of it begins to grow. This life folded within the woodiness, begins to reach for something it only senses is good and necessary. How does it know? How can it imagine that one day it will be something more? Light. Curled in upon itself, like a new born in swaddling clothes, the strength of the seedling is able to break through the hard shell around it, and enter an unsafe world, reaching down for sustenance, reaching up for life, stretching and growing into something more than it was. When that seedling surfaces with a leaf, a single leaf, it finds the light, and strives for it. It must expand, become more than it was before, and it cannot stop this growing, adding a ring for every trip around that material light, until its journey is completely over. And, as it grows in the light, in the weather, and in time passing above the ground, so it is also growing down, and spreading into the seemingly impenetrable darkness. Without those deep, darkly surrounded roots, the peach would never happen.

So, it is that non-material Light, the Light of the World that is represented by these actions of pure intent, brings about peaches. Light, non-material Light, is appreciation. Appreciation from the heart is Joy. Joy is Contentment regardless of the circumstances. Contentment is Acceptance of the journey. Acceptance is Forgiveness of all the steps we took and missed. Forgiveness is Love for all that we are in our light and dark moments. Love is Light.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chapter Twelve - Part One - Summer Solstice

The longest days of the year are filled with light, but is it only material light? If it is material light then it can be taken away. We can grasp at these long days and wish for them to stay, but the earth continues her yearly sojourn around the sun, and the days will begin to dwindle in just a short time. The temporary nature of our joy, our light is always present even at its zenith. Thus, we celebrate to imprint the moment in our memory so that it shant be forgotten even in our darkest hour.

One day, someday, this empty field will be filled with ripening peaches at summer solstice. Today, however, I celebrate its rich, dark soil, empty but for a cover crop of rye grass. The rye was so green last week, and already I can imagine it tinged with gold. The smell of the earth is intoxicating to me today. It reminds me inextricably of childhood days that rambled along so slowly as I gazed out the window of my Pretty Pa's truck chewing on Double-Mint gum, and flying through the wind on the palm of my hand. Time flies by for us, and for fields, and so it shall be for my orchard.

When we plant an orchard we may only imagine the end result, those lovely, sweet peaches, perfectly ripe only for a few weeks every year. There are vast stretches of time before and after those peachy moments, and are they less important to us because they give us nothing to hold onto? Is it all anticipation and waiting then for those moments, those solstice-like moments in our lives where light is pronounced and shadows are long? Do we only pay attention to those experiences that are the extreme of the contrast? The empty days or the full days? The miserable days or the happy ones?

In fact, nature begs us to look closely at the in-between days. Our participation in the growing of plants goes back at least ten thousand years. Yet, even before that there were peaches, of course. Somehow we knew when to harvest the plenty of this world as we went, and my guess is it was specifically by paying attention, by being attuned, by awareness of the subtle changes of light and dark.

What does this have to do with writing then? It has everything to do with writing, especially writing screenplays. What are films but expressions of light and dark? The subtle changes of light on a character can reveal more than a packed bunch of words spewing from his mouth. Sometimes I regret the invention of "talkies" at all because I guess that I believe that the refinement of film will only come with the masterful use of light and dark as external reflections of the interior life of a character.

When we fail to understand the non-material light and dark in our lives by our own means, the external expression of a bald light bulb in an empty, windowless room can spell it out. Material light can locate those hard to reach spaces in our hearts, and the absence of that material light can fill us with the same fright as the darkest ego-driven thoughts we carry. Harsh shadows or soft glow can illuminate the subtleties of the emotional journey we take in this physical existence...not everyday is long, but each day and each kind of light is precious.

Today, as the rye grass waves shiny in the glorious light, not knowing its fate tomorrow when it will be harvested and plowed under, it reaches for the sun with innocent abandon. A moment of triumph that will fade as quickly as it came. The kid in the old pick-up truck leans as far out of the window as she can to run her hand over their tawny heads that look so silky and soft. Light floods the scene until the screen is a flash of white...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Chapter Eleven - Part Three - Peach Pits

>I am so gratified to know that one can still grow peaches from peach pits. I live in some state of fright that Monsanto, and like-minded studios, have taken over peach growing and movie-making completely, by all means necessary including rendering the pits of peaches infertile, or the minds of humanity without a spark of their own in favor of "reality."

I will, therefore, resist the urge to have someone help me along with a sapling to graft my heirloom peaches to for quick growth. Finally, I have fully accepted that my writing takes time and nurturing that I can't get from working with quick-fix coaches. No one is going to tell me how and when and where to plant but the memoired expertise of those I admire. There I go making up words again. But, really, I want to only study those who have planted peaches from pits, or written from their beating hearts.

Sure there is always a ticking clock on progress. It's called "death." I do actually want to write my work before I die, and who knows when that fellow will come knocking and so there is always a sense of urgency along with my efforts to be patient with myself.

The Spaniards who brought the peach pits over on rickety-rockety sailing vessels probably thought about the fact that it would be at least 4 years before those peaches might bear a few fruit, but it didn't stop them from bringing their dreams along. Think about that. They came here with a long-term plan. They weren't here with the understanding that they'd raid a few Native villages for gold and leave. They planned to stay, to settle in, and to make new homes. To me, in this fast-paced, hurry up and make your million world, that is an astounding thing. They trusted at some level that they would survive until the peaches bore fruit, and they had zero evidence for this but a trust in God and their worthiness.

I know that they were naughty, naughty in taking over Native lands, and obliterating Native Cultures but still I find something very admirable in their vision. I know for instance that the Ladino Sephardi culture traveled across swamps and prairie to get right here to Southern Colorado in the 1500s, escaping Isabella's wrath against the Jews who ironically had allied with the Islamic Moroccans that had occupied Spain for 150 years or so. I can't really fault those Spaniards for wanting to find a new place to live. They brought peaches with them because they planned to stay.

And, so for me growing peaches from pits, or writing from my heart instead of for a quick buck, is all about staying, stability and presence in the life I live today and the hopes I have for tomorrow. Let others grow commercial peach orchards, and write blockbusters with all the bells and whistles. I trust that my heirloom peaches grown from pits, oddly shaped perhaps, subtle in their texture and color, will eventually get a reputation for sweet, slobbery goodness that cannot be forgotten easily, and that attract an audience who appreciate them for years.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chapter Eleven - Part Two - Commercial Peach Growing

Lack of enthusiasm is what gets most commercial peach growers out of the business. I can really understand that. One crop in every six to seven crops fails. Boy, does that sound familiar, only the odds are even greater for failure in Hollywood. This is an old story already on my blog, and my last trip around this block, I promise. There are all sorts of factors to making a successful career in any business. In peach growing it comes down to proximity to the markets, and frost. In screenwriting it does matter a bit if you're inside Hollywood or out, wherever you live you need to work those connections you have to the business, and frost can be related to "dumb luck," which many credit with making, breaking, reviving and surviving a career as a screenwriter.

The reason you want to plant a private or commercial orchard on a hill is to reduce the frost factor. You see the cold air and water sink into a valley, and if your peaches sit in that cold air, and waterlogged soil they will not thrive. So, how can one increase the elevation of a writing career? I tell my students all the time that "credibility" is the key to life in Hollywood. Everyone you bring your script to must be convinced that you live to serve the writing craft. Writers with produced scripts proudly list their "credits" at the top of their resumes. This comes before their philosophy about the thing they've written or the hopes they have for future works. Credits speak for themselves.

Credits lacking in produced scripts, a writer can begin to point to other accomplishments in the written word: magazine articles, produced plays, published stories and books, and even blogs. The point is to boost oneself and one's writing above that soggy, frosty valley of "never done this before." But, for most new screenwriters "never done this before" is what they present to agents and managers. They cannot be surprised then when those agents and managers give them the thumbs down, the frosty letter of rejection, leaving the writer in a soggy bog of their own creation.

I've got some luck on my side. I've got some odd credits. I've got some people in the business. I cannot boo-hoo my way into that soggy bog without some great effort to fail at the first sign of success. It's that first thing, lack of enthusiasm, that gets me. Let me repeat, in peach growing success comes down to proximity to the markets, and frost. I've got the metaphor taken care of for scriptwriting then. I don't really understand it. I want to be enthusiastic about my most commercial concepts, but I have an internal hedging my bets feeling of "it isn't exactly right." Every script I've ever written has felt like a race to get it done. It's been like trying to force trees to produce fruit before they're mature, I suppose. I just couldn't conceive of doing it without some kind of pay off and reward because my survival felt like it depended on a sale.

Of course, I've managed to survive for years without too many sales, and so I have to look at that spuriousness finally and say, "Nope. It really doesn't matter if I sell this right away. I'll find a way to keep my head above water in the meantime." This is a matter of course for anyone planning to plant an orchard from seeds, from the pits, but a philosophy I have never before embraced for any of my writing. My writing has always seemed desperate in its clawing to success. This is the first time in my life that I feel like I can take a deep breath and consider what the hell I'm doing as a writer from the perspective of thriving rather than surviving because someone believes in me and understands that in the best of times the writer's career that has deep roots and succeeds five out of six times takes the passage of years and a narrow focus on the craft to mature. This may ultimately be the "dumb luck" I missed out on before, and much more important to me than all of the "credits" I've used to elevate my writing above the fog. It increases my enthusiasm for the inherent risks involved with such ventures, and allows me to consider seriously whether I shall go commercial or heirloom in my work.

Even commercial orchards, grown from saplings, sturdy stock, take three to four years to produce fruit. I've never before been able to have a stable enough personal life to think three to four years from a starting point. I tell you that I am in such a new world, I might as well be a Spanish conquistador with a pocket full of peach pits.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Chapter Eleven - Part One - Heirloom Peaches

When beginning a new writing project I only have the vaguest sense of the outcome of the work, and a deep hope for some catharsis contained within it. Like a seed, tightly folded upon its woody self, the true tenderness is thoroughly concealed from my most penetrating gaze. Even after a few weeks of development the story reveals at least some of this interior motive, and thus becomes a seedling. However, the pits is where most projects begin for me.

They say that peaches were brought to the Americas by Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s. Obviously, these were not saplings ordered from a Burpee catalog. These peaches started as pits. Native Americans formed their own love affair with the sweet fruit and spread it all over what is now the Southeast United states. In places they grew so close and abundantly they become more like thickets of peaches rather than orderly orchards. When British colonists began settling the area a hundred years later, they presumed that peaches were native to the Americas because, of course, Native Americans couldn't possibly have the farming technology to plant and harvest such sweet goodness for themselves. (I shake my head at the arrogance of my antecedents.) In fact, the Native Americans who were forced on the long march from the Southeast to the Oklahoma territories by Andrew Jackson's armies brought with them their peach pits. So that Oklahoma's peach tradition is as rich as Georgia's.

Peaches have such a storied past. They have been hailed the fruit of immortality in China, eaten by the Gods only every 10,000 years to boost their longevity, now of course, commemorated yearly. They have been celebrated in ancient Persia. They have been taken along the silk road, and the Oregon trail. They come in different shapes and sizes and colors and consistencies to be used in different recipes all for the singular outcome of, "Yum!"

Unfortunately, the same thing that has happened to movies has happened to peaches in America. They have become hard, brightly-colored, tasteless things that we buy because we remember a time when they were, "yum!" Raise your hand if you have paid good money for a totally disappointing, mass-produced, picked-too-early, prettily packaged -- movie. I know that I have. These movies, as those peaches, are produced for one reason only: profit. It begins with the dream of the screenwriter to have a paid-for existence, a rather low goal for a writer in my opinion, but one I bashfully admit to carrying in my briefcase. There are much easier ways to make a living for goodness sakes, right?

In order to write a profit-minded script one must adhere to industry standards, and this leads to comfortable, predictable results. Like a peach grown in a commercial orchard, the shape, color and consistency must be reliable. As this puts the growers' minds at ease that they'll reap some reward from their effort, the reliability of a script to hit the page-numbered milestones shows a screenwriter's market that a profitable product is envisioned.

Now, I'm not saying that every commercially grown peach is tasteless, anymore than I'm saying that all the movies coming out of Hollywood are predictable. A few good ones slip into the packing boxes every year. Those keep us buying the rest.

Am I still interested in trying to write one of those good commercial scripts - the high concept thriller that makes your heart beat and convinces you of conspiracies you never even considered, or the girl-power driven comedy that has you rolling your eyes and nodding in agreement? Of course, I am. I've been studying how to do it for years and years. But, if I do one and it succeeds, then will I ever take the time and risk again to grow the heirloom peach orchard of my dreams?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Temporary Sidestep for Senator Michael Bennet

I have never before used my blog as a pulpit for politics. I can't guarantee that I never will again, but at this time and at this place I feel it is simply necessary to go on the record for Senator Michael Bennet, who is in a tough re-election bid for the Second Senate Seat in Colorado against challenger Andrew Romanoff. Many of my readers will find it funny, odd funny, that I am not in the Romanoff camp. He would seem a natural match to one who considers herself often a salmon swimming upstream, an outsider, and an oddball. Many of my friends support Romanoff and I respect that. We're lucky in Colorado to have two viable choices for the Senate seat on the Democratic side... except that it is splitting the party.

And, that is at the heart of my argument with the Romanoff candidacy. Here was a fellow with good experience, but out of work during hard times. We know he sought a job in Washington, DC. There is nothing criminal about that. But, when that didn't pan out, and being Lt. Governor with Gov. Ritter didn't work out, he took a look around and found what he thought was a weakling in the party -- Senator Michael Bennet. Then he willfully split the Democratic party in Colorado in two by entering the race against our incumbent. I fully believe he expected gentle-seeming Michael Bennet to shrug his shoulders, and say "Aw shucks, you can have it, Andrew."

This can only come from an inane, insane sense of entitlement even though the world clearly pointed out to Romanoff that he had more work to do to convince people in power that he could accomplish necessary goals. Part of this is the Colorado Democratic Party's fault. Along the way while Romanoff served in the State House they must have filled his head with how indispensable and important he was. I remember listening to him talk on Colorado radio, and I enjoyed his full-of-himself ideas at the state level, but I can't think of it at the National level without chagrin.

If you've been reading me, you know I can't separate "reality" from "spiritual" in the sense that I look at a person's story from that angle, and I look at a group's story from that angle. What I see is that a group of people who I observe as working very hard to turn around a misguided ship that is nearly ready to run aground after eight years of Bush, Owens, etc., has come out in support of Michael Bennet, and that causes me to wonder about the notion that Romanoff so deserved to be appointed Senator that he has the right to split our party in this election. Spiritually, I see Andrew Romanoff heading for a big surprise that I hope will help him grow and evolve as a human being less interested in pointing at himself and saying, "I deserve it!"

So, I listened to their speeches at the County and State Assemblies. I saw that Romanoff garnered a lot of excitement, but I found that it boiled down more to personal magnetism than actual policy transformations or a drive to get things accomplished. When I heard Michael Bennet I observed a different, and somber tone. It wasn't a salesman selling me a personality by any means. It was a sober assessment of the problems we face, and the work, the chopping wood, carrying water WORK it is going to take to get the change we apparently long for in this country.

There was a time that I wanted to believe that we could think-system our way towards a better world, but as I have matured, I appreciate that those ideas must be married to the reality of hard, patient, non-thanked, low-attention getting work. I believe that this is Michael Bennet's true gift. Already he's accomplished in a short year and a half in Washington, DC, many legislative maneuvers that far more experienced Senators seem to fluff up. He's on good committees. He's proposing changes in the way the legislative process works so that people have to identify themselves and their beliefs instead of being wolves in sheep's clothing. Here's his website: Please go and check out what he's been up to and make your own assessment.

The only way that Romanoff has been able to differentiate his basic legislative views from Michael Bennet is by claiming that he won't take Corporate funding for his campaign. He claims this will protect his vote. However, I believe it will leave him as a marginalized figure from a remote state, lost in the muckety-muck that is Washington, DC. I believe it will make him a prime target for the Republicans of Colorado to scare people into thinking he won't work with businesses towards a better economy. At a time of 8.5% unemployment, it just makes me scratch my head.

I want our Senator to be able to look anyone, an individual or a "Corporate Citizen" in the eyes and tell the truth, even when it hurts. I believe that Michael Bennet knows how to tell the truth. I believe this is why he has the support of the Colorado Democratic Leaders, and why he deserves our vote in August.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Chapter Ten - Part Three - POV II

Philosophically, taking a point of view means that you've invested in a belief about a situation. It is so interesting to me to allow myself to take the time to question my stories with the idea that I ought to have a point of view about the outcome because for the last decade or so I've been working a lot with the concept of detachment. Detachment is not the same as disassociation, but it is a fine line. Detachment to me means that I accept that I don't have control over the outcome of a situation though I have intent. I'm not sure intent is strong enough to form a point of view. I think of my friends who chose the path of attorney, and how they must fight for what they believe the outcome should be, and find myself too willing to look at the other side of things.

So I return to my potential orchard site. Placed on a hill with an uplift of 8%, I admit it is dangerously facing towards the Western sun. The Western sun represents the afternoon of life. In some Eastern traditions it represents the decadence of the West, the cocoon of stuff and points of view we've built around ourselves, the illusion that we have control. In European legend the West represents a final frontier, an opportunity for new beginnings. It used to be a real place, but of course, now we have a world where there really is no West because the further we go West the sooner we reach the East. Now the West is just a symbol, an idea, a point of view.

For an orchard facing the west can be okay...if there are no winds. The winds from the West can alter the growth of trees by steady pressure. I'd say this is a definite symbol for me. The pressure of life itself is like that wind. I don't have the luxury of youth to believe that I'll eventually get to the right time in my life to get this thing planted. I can't just rip down the fields planted on the Eastern, protected slope of my life because they are filled with the crops of motherhood. So, it's going to be the Western slope. The afternoon of my life. Life is going to necessarily shape my point of view to be much more specific than it might have been earlier.

My point of view is the camera through which I peer at my story. Through that camera I open and close the aperture of my gaze until I've got a razor-sharp focus on what I actually believe about life and it's outcomes. Maybe I will end up fighting for my belief that I have no control over the outcomes except how I respond, how I accept, and how flexible I am in my move on.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Chapter Ten - Part Two - Point of View

As I've been thinking about my orchard, my tendency has been to take a bird's eye view of the field. In writing that's the definition of Omniscient point of view...usually told in third person. It is an observant perspective that let's me look at the "big picture". However, as I've been researching site locations for orchards, I've come to think that not only must I have an overview of the whole orchard, I must invest in the point of view of each tree because each tree, though it produces the same fruit, will ultimately, be unique.

The other thing about point of view, perhaps particularly in screenwriting, is that taking the omniscient point of view guarantees that you'll have a plot-driven script, rather than a character-driven script. That works well for episodic television, or pop-corn thrillers with bunch of sequels, but for my orchard of screenplays I know that each script will need to have a strong character arc, or as I like to call them character parabola. That's why I know that I'll only write twelve to sixteen of them in total.

Twelve to sixteen stories doesn't sound like a life's work, but in the screen trade it is actually improbable that they will all be produced if I'm lucky enough to have one of them made into a film. They will be of a piece though, and each tree, or script, will stand alone as well as it stands with its fellows of necessity. Thematically, they are going to be related and somewhat sequential, but each will defend a point of view, their place in the orchard.

Taking this as my design aesthetic has created a puzzle for me that is exciting and somewhat problematic. For instance, I have a thriller idea, and now I'm wrestling with defining my point of view rather than busily plotting the twists and turns. This thriller will be a knotty tree, but shall it be at the center of my orchard? I think not. It is a tree better suited for the outer rim. The stories near it may also be hard-boiled, but they will protect from the raging wind, the delicate tree with the sweeter fruit. That tree that will be strategically planted later with the respectable reputation of entertaining scripts around it to give it a bit of favor in the sun.

This orchard then is becoming a strategy that I hope will allow the different trees to thrive together. The purpose of all of this planning is to be more than a one-hit wonder, or to become bored by the expectations of repetitive writing. The market loves mass production. It is safe and comfortable. However, you're the end consumer, and don't you love a film that is strongly-flavored, delicate and unique, like an heirloom peach you get at the farmer's market?

For that kind of peach, I gladly pay the price.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chapter Ten - Part One - Site Ideals

After a week of letting the kids finish school, and transition into summer, I have that feeling of reflection running heavily through my arteries. How is it that time passes so quickly on a personal level, whilst my professional timing is excruciatingly slow? It will surprise no one for me to say, I remember when my kids were small like it was yesterday. They are strobing towards adulthood at a breakneck pace, and my dearest desire to provide a sturdy bridge for them to cross from childhood to adulthood is more wish than reality.

Like many of us, they'll have to pick their way across the raging waters on the slippery stones I've managed to toss in for them between dealing with a bad relationship, divorce and entering a new life. I envy those people who somehow got it right in the first place and have stable homes and marriages and health and can take their kids to Disneyland and give them horseback riding lessons. That ain't me. Of course, it is no surprise really, as that is surely not what I had growing up.

Still, it leaves a writer wondering just how selfish she's being to pursue such a goal...and it requires one to look soberly at one's perspective. I know that my ambition has been somewhat distracted most of my career. I can really only say that I have been a hobbyist writer while I struggled to hold everything else together. This has not been an ideal location for an orchard.

An ideal location for an orchard is really specific it turns out. You've got to have a hill of a specific degree, with proper irrigation and sun exposure, and here I've just been focusing on soil amendment. Obviously, though, not every orchard grower has the ideal site for an orchard and they still do it. So, that's what my approach is for my writing. Without ideal conditions, I'm working it. And, I've eliminated some of the worst conditions from the field.

Frost and cold spots, for instance, can be very detrimental to an orchard. The places where the cold just hangs there - little dips in the surface. It requires bringing in the heavy equipment to grade the site sometimes. I sort of view my first marriage and later divorce that way in terms of how it affected my writing, and the amount of energy it took to change the grade. I had to grade the site finally, and accept that the conditions were impossible to grow myself much less what I dreamt of growing. I accept that the whole experiment of it slowed me down. I would start a crop in my field, and suddenly everything would freeze up due to the great distress in my everyday life. Now, I have some sense that while the grade is imperfect, later in the day sun (a Western slope perhaps), but it is not detrimental to the growth of saplings anymore I believe.

I suppose that all of the huge rocks I've been throwing out of this field also can be put over in that river for my kids to cross over on their own. I do remember a certain joy in picking my way across a river on a sunny day. It was thrilling to do it myself. I do pray everyday that I can stay on the adult side of the river and cheer them on, rather than going out there to do it for them. Hand-holding will weaken their resolve, and if there is one thing I know it is that they will have to be very strong in their resolve in order to make it over here in adulthood. That's the good part of my resources being refocused on this orchard. I hope I am right about that.

I wonder how I'm going to get that water to come up the hill and irrigate my trees?