The rye diary: Day two and still waiting

Yes, a rye diary is not a daily effort at this point, as the winter rye is taking its time. I was hoping to show you a picture of new sprouts. Every time I walked past the patch, I’d bend close and examine the seeds left on the surface for signs of change. Saturday, after some rain, I thought I saw progress—miniscule roots venturing out. Maybe by the next day?

The next day brought snow—at first, just a scattering.

snow scattered on the ground

In the night, a blanket. Two days later, the rye patch is still covered, and the temperature huddles in the high 20s.

snow covering the garden

Not ideal for germination.

I love the snow anyway, and I started to think about it in terms of writing.

Snow obscures. I am all for the lyric, the figurative, but I have at times hidden what I’m saying under images or, more often, beguiling sounds. While I’m trying to make something beautiful, I might be freezing out the reader, and myself.

Snow transforms. Now we’re getting somewhere. As snow changes the familiar landscape, it invites me to see those trees, rooftops, and garbage cans differently. A poem can similarly transform my understanding, give me that same “Ah!” feeling of waking up to a world snow-rendered.

Snow disrupts. I have to change my routine, find my heavy boots. Disruption in a poem catches my attention.

Snow on my rye patch makes me wonder what’s going on below the surface. It also makes me wait, which gets me thinking about the advice to put a poem in a drawer for X amount of time. I do not usually do that (what? patience?). During my thesis work this year, I focus on a few poems at a time, while the rest are in a virtual drawer—or under snow. This gives me some distance from them.

When I come back to that temporarily neglected work, I see new gaps, new flaws, new stones to turn over or toss aside. Even my poem that has rye in it, and which I thought was the best poem I have written yet, and which has been rejected multiple times–this morning I found some tricky places where I might not want to be tricky.

How do you get distance from your work? (And if you set poems aside, what’s your magic waiting time?) What are your snowy writing connections?

The rye diary

Ever since my daughter planted cover crops in the fall of 2016, I’ve been fascinated by winter rye. How tall and glorious it grows. The subtle colors of its ears. The Catcher in the Rye, and the delicious homophone with wry.

Although it’s almost February, I finally ordered the seeds, and this morning went out to plant.

packet of rye seed

First, I had some clearing out to do:

back yard

The dead tomato plants still tied to their stakes, some Swiss chard, kale from two years ago, and a canticle of Canterbury Bells.

Next came the raking. The instructions said flat. I said flat-ish. Then it was time to broadcast the seeds. I wasn’t prepared for how wonderful it felt to stick my hand inside a one-pound bag of grain, and then strew the seeds over the ground. Liberally. The last step was to rake them in. Whatever. I hurried, certain that at any moment a flock of birds would descend to dine on my crop.

Here’s the final picture. Honestly, not nearly as interesting as the first.

bare dirt patch

And while I’m out in the dirt, I have time to think about writing, think about how messiness gives the eye and the mind nooks and crannies to explore. How it feels to dig in and turn over, to break the blockages apart, to weed through the words. How the rake finds new roots and clumps get rid of. Sometimes I get an idea for a poem.

This morning, I thought about how I’ve been working on a poem that complains about those people who say home-baked bread can’t be “from scratch” if you don’t grow your own wheat–and here I was planting rye! And I thought about how it’s better to experiment–and risk failure–in a poem, just as this rye patch may fail. This might be the shortest diary ever. We’ll see.

For now, all the magic is yet to happen, if it isn’t devoured by a thousand house sparrows first.

How do you let your mind loose? How do you experiment? How do you fail?

One way to end an era

For years I’ve let the rambling roses ramble. They grew wild and snarled, like the brambles covering Sleeping Beauty’s castle. As of late July, they looked like this:

roses covering the car port

For years, they’ve grown into my poems, as all that bloom and cane was becoming the yard, green growing over the a thicket of dead cane and thorn. For years, I tried trimming all that old growth out.

Then I realized that even if, decades later, I were successful, in the meantime, the roses were overflowing, and they would still take up more and more room.

My daughter was looking for a project and wanting to grow vegetables. I explained that the roses were blocking necessary sunlight—and thus, a landscape revision was born.

Here’s what it looks like now.

garden without roses

I’d say Before and After, but the photo above is more like During.

My daughter said she had thought of this as a secret garden, and now she was uncovering some of its secrets—like the wall plaques that have been hidden for years. But gone is the Paul’s Himalayan Musk that I brought from the old house, and the California Plena, which started as a sucker from a friend’s bush, just a stick in the dirt, and the climbing Cecile Brunner. I’ll miss it’s pale pink blooms in early spring. We will plant some smaller, tamer roses—maybe in time for next spring. Then we’ll take the After photo.

For now, I am in this negative capability, this uncertainty of what the yard will become, what together we decide to make of it. It’s hard to see the end of something, even if I know it had overgrown desperately. It’s hard to imagine the next thing before it has started. And this, I’ve heard, is where poems happen.

Gratitude, in the clear

Green tomatoes
The Early Girls star the party in Seattle. I've only got a few green tomatoes so far, but it's exciting!

I’m thankful for this Easter egg blue sky and for summer. Life at its simplest–in a good way.

And I feel a little bad, knowing about the intense heat, humidity, and drought that many others have faced.

But we spent June in the gray drizzle doldrums. I figure I’ve been cold since last September.

Now, it feels good to be outside. I’m thankful I could put in some time weeding this week. The yard’s still a mess–but I know it’s less of a mess. I’m thankful for the weeds, because they give me this great reason to be outside and not doing something else, like scrubbing the bathroom floor.

I’m thankful I also had some time to read and write and revise poems.

Scarlet runner beans
And how about those beans? The scarlet runners are growing!
Roses on the car port roof
Summer brings the killer roses. It encourages them. But look at that sky!

Open the door. Open my heart.