So, I have been threatening to begin a book, a memoir actually. And I finally got around to writing the first chapter. I mean, I have many chapters written already. I just have to synthesize them. So, here’s a sample from my memoir, Even These Souls. This is the first chapter, the title chapter. The most important chapter. I have so many followers on this blog and on Elephant Journal, and I decided it’s about damn time I write something big and beautiful for you to read. It’s funny, I was thinking about writing and life, and I realized that when this book is published, it may influence a few people, but most of all, it will just be the only lasting thing of value I leave behind when I die (other than kids). I think all writers have some sort of mortality obsession; we are all scared of dying and being forgotten. We are all scared of neglecting our own versions of beauty and letting them go to waste along with our youth and our love and our bodies and souls.
So, I think the writing of this book is important and I’ve approached the writing of it with reverence and I am going to be very careful about what is in it. I want it to be just right. For me and for you. I started the book by writing about my most poignant memories of my mother; after all, my life started with her, I love her and she is one of my best friends, and so I believe I owe any significant writings to her (and dad, too, but that comes later!).
So enjoy the beginning, and have a lovely day!
1. EVEN THESE SOULS
My mom loved to garden. I’m not talking about a vegetable garden. I’m not talking about tilling and weeding, spreading manure around and spending hours watering a flat plot of land out in the middle of a field or in raised beds with hay in them. I’m not talking about time in a greenhouse with perfectly spaced seed starts in the beginning of March. I’m not talking about harvesting, canning, or making 25 loaves of zucchini bread. My dad and mom had that kind of a garden, but that’s not what I want to talk about right now.
I’m talking about the flower garden.
My mom would get up before the sun and she would go out to the lush backyard, where she would spend several hours on a Saturday or Sunday morning. She’d throw her hair into a messy bun on top of her head, put on her Birkenstocks and her gloves, and she’d go out in her little shorts and a T-shirt without a bra, which she haphazardly put on when she woke up with my dad to an east-facing window. We’ve lived in a few houses together, and I’ve noticed that she and I have alternated being the first to wake up, depending on which direction our bedroom windows faced. But in this particular honey hole of a house in Southeastern Idaho, she woke up first to the hot sun during the summer. She always made one piece of wheat toast with butter on it and then set out on her horticultural mission.
Her favorite flowers to plant were lupine, columbine, cosmos, lavender, sunflowers, and daisies. She liked the kind of flowers that don’t really need much babying once they are in the ground and have water. She loved the flowers that would get big and had lots of foliage. Perennials, mostly. To this day, I still paint with and choose clothes that are in the yellow, blue, and brown families. That’s the palette that my mom so devotedly etched into my developing mind. She spun ribbons of colored, blossoming synapses into my brain. And love and attention to detail and perseverance; I am neurotic because my mom was slightly neurotic and I liked the way it helped her accomplish things more quickly than everyone else.
Sometimes I would help her weed. Admittedly, I wasn’t as motivated to tend the flowerbeds as my mom was. But sometimes I would watch her through the window or from the deck. She’s a tall lady, and she would crouch down to weed, come up to breathe and stretch her back, and then saunter over to the hose or the other side of the flowerbed. She wouldn’t stop weeding or watering or transplanting until it was done. She transplanted all the time; if something didn’t have room to grow to its full potential, my mom took it upon herself to find a place for it. Now that I am older and living on my own, I think I now see that in myself too. See, it’s not about just having a green thumb…it’s about caring and loving, even the things that can’t move or talk. You don’t give up on them, even these souls.