Showing posts with label All the Flowers of the Bough. Show all posts
Showing posts with label All the Flowers of the Bough. Show all posts

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Episode 205:


Efflorescence is the state of being flowery, blooming or having such an appearance, a perfect word for the budding, opening and awakening of blossoms.  Like those above, I amazed to see these dobs of color give life to an otherwise struggling lawn. Many people remarked yesterday in Boston that flowering trees were in fantastic bloom on a day that saw so much anxiety and pain.  Spring is hope.  And here is proof.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Garden Metaphors for Writing (Jillian)

I've dabbled on and off with the curious magic that is gardening.  I say "dabble" because I could never quite accomplish the splendor and variety of my parents' garden growing up.  I've had dreams in recent years of planting roses and filling beds with flowers, but most of my successes seem to dwell with seeds in pots and little indoor projects.  Through this dabbling, I have learned a few things that have been astoundingly helpful in my writer's life.

  • Michelle once compared a novel I have been working on and struggling with to berry bushes.  This is a para-paraphrase of her lovely metaphor, but hopefully it works.  You plant berry bushes and they grow for a few years before they produce any fruit.  But the plant is still alive, still growing, still getting ready for that fruitfulness. 

  • Along the same lines, I've thought about seeds.  You have a seed.  You plant it in the ground or a vessel of some sort filled with soil.  You water it.  You put it in the sun.  Notice how it doesn't sprout up immediately.  For weeks you water the seemingly empty, fruitless pot of dirt.  The days pass and you wonder why nothing is growing, why nothing is beginning to show for all the effort.  And then at last, with enough patience, a little green shoot pushes up and into the open air.  Just when you'd given up hope.  The point of this is that you have to keep watering the little pot of dirt.  You can't see the plant yet, but it's there.  Same with writing.  Something may not be working.  A chapter or a scene might be stalling, but you never know what might be happening underneath the surface.  You have to keep watering it - or writing it - until it pokes up through the surface.  Never abandon it.

  • I also had an amarylis bulb, bought on clearance in January.  It already had a green shoot coming out of it, so I assumed it was ready to grow and blossom.  Nope.  I let it sit out for two months, and watered it.  It didn't grow.  I despaired and finally put it in the garage so I wouldn't have to look at it.  Fast forward to April, and I'm gathering pots and soil to grow violas, when I rediscover the amarylis, still sitting there.  On a whim, I pick it up, plunk it in a pot and forget it out side.  Two weeks later, I look out and see that it has shot up a foot and is sporting at least six bright red buds, all of which open to full glory for a month.  Yes, I abandoned the amarlysis, but it came back.  It proved me wrong, as these things tend to do.  You may think a piece of writing is dead when it only requires a little patience, a little time to be dormant, and a little love.

  • Violas.  The seeds are tiny.  The flowers are sweet and resilient.  I bought white ones on clearance last year and they grew till September.  This spring, I was excited to discover they had seeded themselves in the landscaping in front of the house - white faces thriving in lovely clusters in the wood chips and in cracks in the side walk.

  • I went wild with the idea that if little tough flowers could grow in between the cracks in the cement, like weeds do, they could grow in tinier vessels as well.  Hence, a thriving viola, grown from seeds (above) inside a glass votive holder and broken (and otherwise useless) tea cups, straightened by a paper clip, and sporting a blossom and two buds. 
So... if violas can grow in the cracks in the sidewalk, my ideas can thrive in unusual places.  I just have to be a little patient.  And try not plant too many seeds in one little jar. 

Friday, September 19, 2008

"Does it need saying?" (Jillian)

First, a few lyrics from Karen Matheson - Album: Time to Fall, Song: "All the Flowers of the Bough" (She's Scottish, and she's awesome!)

Hearts are meant to be broken -
Made that way.
Love must have its trial.
Beauty, hope and wonder
Could not be
Without doubt and pain and self-denial.

All the flowers of the bough
They will fall and they will fade
But they resound
In the distance of the days.
Is life just a dance
Of happenstance?
I don't believe that.

Something that has been on my mind lately is love stories. I am writing a novel that is very much a love story. It was not something I'd planned. In fact, when the idea sparked into my imagination two years ago (in a story of its own), I began with the express purpose of avoiding a love story all together. My thought was, "I am too obsessed with all of these romance ideas! I shouldn't be aiming for a corny, sappy, sugar fest! What will people think?" But years later, the love story fought back… and has become one of the strongest threads in the tapestry of this novel. But why the lingering shame? Not to mention, the reluctance to mention to people who innocent ask what this complicated project is about, "Oh, yeah, there are these two characters who eventually… well… you know… fall in love…" and changing the subject as fast as possible.

I think our society has, in general, become cynical about love and what love actually means… overindulgent in things that seem to be love but are not. Evidence seems to be everywhere in film (loathed unintelligent "chick flicks" which border on soft pornography much of the time), on television, and in books - sex is more prevalent, less meaningful. Stories are full of disappointed hopes and disillusionment… as if it is foolish to expect much else. I cannot express how many times I have enjoyed a book until the characters cross that once-sacred threshold. Not even Elizabeth I in Alison Weir's otherwise wonderful The Lady Elizabeth is allowed to escape dangerous romances at a young age. Most stories are love stories, but only a small portion of them do more than cater to marketed "needs"… like The Notebook and its companions… where "love" is little more than a theme badly constricted in a formula, to the point where it grates on the value of characters and drags the story away from creativity… from a writer's unique drive to write outside the lines.

So in the broader context of sitcoms and ridiculous dramas, love is a blanket term for giggles, scandal and situations that end badly. Like smoking cigarettes - this kind of cynicism is a gradual road to an early loveless demise.

It is utter sadness! Because as human beings we were meant to love, and we reduce it to foolishness and hormones. Does this mean that the characters in my novel exist only to live out ideals that I could never have? No! It is our God-given gift, to love. Love is a deep, difficult enigma, maintained through sacrifice, self-denial, grace! Grace is such a big part of it. Forgiveness and acceptance without having to earn it. Loved because you're lovable, looking beyond facades and surface impressions, and touches the real person. It isn't just an emotion. It's something deeper, a journey that is as different as the characters who fall unexpectedly into its arms. This is why Doctor Who - yes, you knew it would pop up somewhere in this post - is so powerful, especially when it comes to the Doctor's relationship with Rose… a love doomed many times over, but strong enough to push Rose across parallel worlds to return to him. And the Doctor, in the tragedy of his immortality, literally leaves her with his double - a human version of himself - the only way the Doctor could fully give himself to her… with the greatest love comes the greatest pain… and vice versa. He has to walk away, while Rose begins her life with a man who is himself, but separate from his experience.

That is why I refuse to become a literary lemming and jump off the everybody-expects-this cliff. If love is truly boundless - than it shouldn't always mimicRomeo and Juliet (note that Shakespeare called it a tragedy not a romance!)… or Pretty Woman… or The Little Mermaid. (Feel free to insert here the first obnoxious romance that pops into your mind !) Love is a chameleon "very often mistaken for loathing" as Yvaine expresses in Stardust, and is full of surprises. And the surprises, the questions, the possibilities, the GREAT UNKNOWN is what I want to write about… not what every poor soul is trained to reach for!

I leave you with a picture. In the last episode of Series Four of Doctor Who ("Journey's End"), Rose says to the Doctor, "The last time I stood on this beach on the worst day of my life, what did you say to me?"

The Doctor's face is stern, and sad, as he prepares to leave Rose and the other Doctor behind. "I said 'Rose Tyler'."

"Yeah, and how was that sentence going to end?"

He hesitates. "Does it need saying?"

Rose turns to the Doctor's human double (wearing a blue suit). "And you Doctor? How would you finish that sentence?"

His answer: leaning over and whispering the magic words in her ear. We can all guess what they were:

And was it worth it? Yes! No shame in powerful, bittersweet beginnings. If a picture - a journey - like this is not a part of my writing… I can't imagine that I would want to write at all!

Happy writing, dreaming and loving!


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