The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

The torment of step step step

Do you have a project that baffles or befuddles you?  Something that no matter how hard you lean on it, you can’t get it to budge?   A door that refuses to open?

My writing is often that way.

Right in the middle of a novel, I think about that delicious other novel I’ve always wanted to write.  Or I sit and stare at a paper or screen and decide I’ll never have a clever, wondrous idea again.  Sometimes I envy my Vermont College students their deadlines and feedback.

Every one of my published picture books and novels carries an invisible trail of despair, dead ends, and almost-gave-up spots.

My volunteer life with Ethiopia Reads is that way, too.

I saw kids in Maji coming to school when I was four years old and desperately wanted to go to school, too.  Some of the students who walked into that building every morning were actually young men, not kids, but they weren’t about to let go of their chance at an education.

Well, many years later, it’s still tough to get good education to every kid in Ethiopia.

When I look at this school picture with my dad and one of his brothers, I remember that it wasn’t easy to get education to their farm community in eastern Oregon in the days when they were kids, either.

Some things take a long, stubborn, determined effort.

Then there’s my Portland garden.

Every morning, I can’t wait to go outside and see what the Oregon rains have wrought.  Nothing seems stalled out or in a hopeless mood.

All the plants are chug chugging along, including the weeds.  We have so much oregano (three different kinds) that we could open a massive pizza place and still never be able to use it all.

I’m trying to remember that it’s okay to not use all my herbs.  They still make a nice-smelling bug-free contribution to a garden.

These days, I’m particularly in love with thyme.  Time doesn’t creep, but thyme does.

When we went to the farmers’ market last Sunday, I bought a plant–creeping thyme–and liked it so much after I got it in the ground that I went back and bought two more plants.  This early in the season, not a lot of produce was available in the farmers’ maket…we bought beets and chard, though, and admired the balloon animals and bread and sheep cheeses.

I was wishing for some zucchini or a home grown tomato or two.  Then my big sister delivered tomato plants.  And flowers.  And more herbs.  With something new arriving every day, you’d think I would never have the garden equivalent of writers’ block or mission burn-out.

But I noticed something this week.  I’ve bought a lot of creeping plants that will spread…sometimes spread fast…and I noticed that I was impatiently checking back every few hours to see what was happening.

Apparently, I want everything to grow faster than it actually does.

In my heart, I know much that matters comes slowly.  We put our whole self in.  We try to look away and hum as if we’re not impatient at all.  We dig in for the long haul and step step step.

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