I had three goals for today: 1) blogging, 2) planting my garden, and 3) cleaning up paperwork on my desk. My husband was leaving early in the morning, and I would be home alone all day; certainly I could accomplish these three tasks.
We fell asleep early last night, watching an episode of The Great British Bake-Off, so both of us were awake by six this morning. My husband suggested we take the dog on a short walk before he headed out. I agreed; certainly morning exercise would set me up for success. We stripped the bed, tossed the sheets into the washer, and headed out the door.
When we returned from our walk, I picked some rhubarb and then tidied the kitchen while he packed his bag. Since I was in the kitchen, I figured I might as well wash the tea cups and saucers that my mother-in-law had sent home with me yesterday, and since my husband had a drive ahead of him, I decided to make us a hearty but simple breakfast — sautéed summer squash, onions, and potatoes with a couple of fried eggs.
We ate our breakfast and then he loaded the car while I cleared the table and moved the laundry into the dryer. He kissed me goodbye, and I headed to my desk. I sent a few emails, moved a few papers around, and attempted to write a blog post. I sat at the keys for a few minutes with not one thought in my mind except, “actually, it’s going to get hot today; maybe I should start with the garden.”
Before I knew it, I was pulling weeds, turning dirt, and discovering volunteer tomato plants sprouting from the remains of last year’s crop. I worked on the garden for about an hour before the heat became so oppressive that my thoughts turned to the watermelon in the fridge. Maybe, I thought, if I eat some watermelon while reading Learning to Walk in the Dark, I’ll be inspired to write something.
As I read a chapter and enjoyed the cool melon, Barbara Brown Taylor’s words definitely inspired me to write something, so when I got to the end of the chapter, I moved again to my desk. I pushed a few more papers around and opened a fresh document on my laptop. Again, I sat staring at the blank screen. Nothing.
Maybe music would help. I turned on Pandora and listened to David Crowder while I dusted my bedroom. I grabbed the vacuum and was midway through cleaning the entire house when I decided to go back outside and push a little more dirt around. I still hadn’t planted any seeds, but the garden, which had been overrun with weeds this morning was starting to look a little more intentional. I got hot again — it passed 90 degrees in Michigan today — so I brought the dog outside and gave him a bath.
I talked to my dad on the phone while I did food prep for the week, then I talked to my daughter while I folded laundry. By this point, I had pretty much concluded that I wasn’t going to be able to write today. That’s been happening a lot lately. I’ve been having difficulty reading, too. I can’t quite keep my focus. So, instead of going back to my desk, I ate a late lunch/early dinner then popped in my earbuds to listen to a podcast as I headed back out for a third go at the garden.
My podcast, On Being, was an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, who among myriad other topics, talked about writing — how it can be magical, like a meeting with the Divine. Sometimes a writer sits down and words fall on the page as though directly dictated from the mouth of God. Those times are sweet. However, she reminded me, “90% of almost everything interesting is pretty boring.” Most of the time, writing is discipline, committing to sit down and put words on the page. Good words, mediocre words, and as Anne Lamott says, a lot of “shitty first drafts.” I let the thoughts sink in as I built dirt mounds and poked holes for cantaloupe seeds. Then, I sprinkled grass seed on a dirt square that was a trial garden a few years ago. She’s right, I thought. I tell students all the time that magic isn’t guaranteed. If you can’t think of something amazing to say, say anything.
Determined for the umpteenth time today to write, I came inside, took a shower, and finally began to put some words on the page.
Here they are. They are nothing to write home about, but they are part of what I set out to do today. I began my garden, I cleared some paper from my desk, and I blogged. None of it was magical; it was all just mediocre.
A lot of life is like that, to be honest. It’s setting a goal, getting distracted, finding your way back, and doing the best that you can. I’m ok with that. All of life isn’t meant to be fireworks and celebration.
In fact, I think I’ll go find something ok to watch on television, and then I’ll lie down for an average night’s rest. I’ll just stay with the current theme.
That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—
this is the gift of God