Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Welcome Guest Blogger: M. Jean Pike!

Romance In Bloom
(Or How to Grow a Romance…)




April. A month of chilly evenings, morning birdsong, and patches of green peeking up through the snow-scattered earth. In April, I scan the woods behind my house for glimpses of mother black bear and her two cubs, soon to awaken from their long winter’s nap. Colorful birds of every kind begin to gather nesting materials, bits of straw and twine, even a discarded shoe lace. April. The worst of the winter is past, and my thoughts once again turn to gardening. And to romance.

With five country acres, I have lots of room to play. I have potted gardens tucked between ferns in the sandy soil beside the creek bed and shade gardens where ivy and impatience climb chaotically over rock walls. The sunny spot beside my fence abounds with pale pink lilies, blood red nasturtiums, and marigolds as big as a man’s fist. I believe gardens are like romance novels. There’s no such thing as too many.

I have always thought that growing a garden is a lot like growing a love story. First I must decide on the perfect ‘plot,’ and then I have to come up with an appropriate setting. Will my story be dark and shady, or light and breezy? Will I go with the old fashioned variety, or something more off the beaten path, something paranormal?

When I have a general idea in mind, it’s time to prepare my space. Like clearing a patch of earth, I have to clear my mind of clutter, make space in my life. How little or how much depends on how elaborate a story I’m going to build.

Then I must spend some time sorting through the catalogues in my mind, deciding on characters, occupations, and any manner of dilemmas my people might face. When I have a basic plan of what I’d like my garden of romance to be, I scatter seeds in the soil of my imagination and wait to see which ones take root. I often end up with more than I need, but I let them all grow together for awhile.

Next comes the painful process of weeding out the bad ideas. The real stinkers are tossed over the bank and forgotten, while the ones that have potential, but may not quite fit this garden, are set aside to be used in another garden, another time. Now I stand back and take a good, hard look at what remains.

I like to think of my seedlings as characters, a hodgepodge of blooms, the more colorful the better. My stepping stones are my situations, a few well placed rocks make a garden so much more interesting. Though I do my best to keep my gardens free of weeds, I leave plenty of flaws in my hero and heroine. Fiction, like life, is not always pretty and no bloom is ever perfect. After all, I don’t want it to seem artificial.

When my plot, characters, and setting have firmly taken root, I water them with just the right words. Not too many, but not too few. I fertilize them with my own experiences and memories to provide the small, telling details that will bring my garden to life. I will need rain and sunshine in just the right amounts.

I know going in that it won’t be easy. It will demand hours and hours of my time, and every ounce of perseverance I possess. I’ll have to get my hands dirty -- roll up my shirtsleeves and dig into areas I know nothing about. I will feel the incredible frustration of having some of my favorite flowers wither and fade away. As my garden of romance grows and takes shape, I will know the heartbreak of having to wrench out some of my favorite blooms if it turns out they aren’t right for the garden.

I will also have to deal with drive-by gardeners.

Some will glance at my labor of love and tell me they’d build a garden too, if only they had the time (as if time were all there was to it.) Some will not appreciate my garden at all, and will come right out and criticize the color and the layout.

But I’ll just smile.

Because at the end of the day, my perseverance will have paid off. I will have created a thing of beauty where once there was nothing. As any gardener will tell you, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

Visit Jean at her website.


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12 comments:

Judy Thomas said...

What a wonderful analogy! I especially like scattering all the seeds and seeing which ones take root. Allowing them all to grow together for a while. First draft for sure :-)

Thanks!

Dena said...

Hi M. Jean, your yard and surrounding area sounds beautiful! The pictures are so colorful and I wish all's it took was time, maybe then our yard would be a tenth as nice as yours sounds.

Melissa said...

Wow, great blog! Your five acres sound lovely and I'm sure your books are as well! Thanks for sharing all of it with us.

Lianne said...

What a beautiful post. Perfect for spring...that never seems to come around here. :) I'm only not jealous of your yard because I enjoyed your words so much. *G* Thanks for the touch of spring for today.

Amy Addison said...

M. Jean: great post. Thank you.

Any chance you're from Illinois or the surrounding area? My family name is Pike, and my grandmother is Jean.

groovyoldlady said...

As I read, one truth jumped out at me: I plant and arrange my garden for ME, to satisfy my own need for beauty and my own eye for balance. I need to do the same with my writing - stop worrying about what "the reader" wants and write to please myself. Then, and only then can I deal with criticism and tampering.

I can stand my ground when necessary and say, "Leave THAT alone, it says what I want it to say!" Or I can feel confident and comfortable enough to listen to and consider suggestions. "Maybe little more purple would make the whole garden more appealing."

Thanks for sharing.

Sarita Leone said...

What a wonderful post! Your approach makes so much sense, and I identify with a great deal of what you've said. I am very much in tune with nature, and we have lots of gardens here that I love to putter around in. I know I do some of my best plotting when I've got my hands in the dirt! :)

Love the photos, too. Thanks so much for sharing them with us.

Brandy said...

Your garden sounds lovely, and your post not only timely but informative. Thank you.

Cherie J said...

Wow! Your garden sounds wonderful. Unfortunately, I have a black thumb but I can still enjoy looking at what others create.

jean said...

Thanks so much Marianne for the opportunity to be your guest today, and thanks to everyone for taking the time to read and comment. I have to confess (though I'd rather not!) that these pictures are not of my flowers, but Marianne's!
Amy, to answer your question, no, not from Illinois. Never even been, though I did a unit on Illinois a few weeks back for my classroom's Flat Stanley Project. It looks like a great place to live. Actually I have lived most of my life in beautiful Western New York state.
Jean

Liza said...

Jean, I love your post...a wonderful analogy. With the non-stop rain we've been having, it was so nice having the warmth of spring sunshine brought right into the house by way of your words. Thanks, Liza

MaryF said...

GREAT article!