As I sit and look at the lights wrapping the trees outside of my writing room and think back on the past year, what shines through are thoughts of how very much can change in one year. Our family began this year in another home, made an unexpected move, and have spent the past months creating a new nest.
Snow now covers all of the new plants and trees planted during our biblical summer of water and wine. Every morning, I look at the hibernating twigs and branches and wonder which of the plants will make it through this first winter. Birds swirl around the bird feeders we’ve hung in the piñon tree outside and swarm around the fallen seeds on the snow beneath. Our dog, Clyde, is now used to this daily feast and no longer tries to chase them away. The family of quail that visited us all summer has moved on and I hope they will return.
As planned, now that the weather has turned cold, our focus has shifted to the inside of our nest. Noé replaced the 20 year old brown shag carpet (yes, truly as delightful as it sounds) in our central hallway with a gorgeous wooden floor and I am forever with a paintbrush in my hand and move through a home filled with stained wood. I carry the CD player with the latest book-on-CD (currently “Eldest” by Christopher Paolini) with me into whichever room and am soon lost in the strokes and story. When Noé built this home years ago, raw wood was a main decorating theme. While appropriate for a nest, I find the clean and open feeling of “Bone White” (I choose my paint by the name) opens the home with a clean and polished feel. The other morning, Noé looked at me and said, “Inch-by-inch you’re painting this place. Inch-by-inch.” I grinned. Busted. The soaring wooden ceilings of the berm home with a loft will remain wood.
Wyatt returned home from college and all our baby birds were back home in the nest.
Mom and Dad came from the ranch to spend the holidays and this year they actually made it! Living in western South Dakota has thwarted many of our holiday plans with blizzards in the past. An incoming blizzard had to have the final say, when Mom and Dad had to leave earlier than expected to make it back to the ranch when the storm hit. Prairie people understand.
In our family, dish duty is decided by ping-pong matches. This year, the boys broke the tie with an arm-wrestling match.
After Christmas Eve worship, we took the traditional walk through the Plaza.
I woke Christmas morning to Wyatt reading by the light of the Christmas tree.
My thoughts turn to the New Year and I look outside to the plants covered in snow for inspiration. In the midst of a busy year of work at the college and the move, the manuscript for the next book, LOVE STONES, scheduled to be published this past year, remains on my desk. The first draft of the manuscript was submitted to my publisher and returned with editorial notes, all quite do-able. I thought the book was done and I had only to weave in these editorial changes and re-submit. It was only when I started these edits that I realized half of the book was missing, had not yet been written. Now that is a bummer of a realization when you think the book is done.
At the same time, it is exciting. Michelangelo said of carving, “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and in action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.” With writing, one starts not with a block of stone, with nothing physical at all other than perhaps stacks of messy notes and papers. I don’t see the finished product of what I write. Instead, I have a sense of what might be and it is within the writing itself that this hazy idea takes shape.
I look again to the trees and plants that appear dead outside and think of all the potential within that will, with luck, blossom and grow this summer. The rose bushes will again blossom into scarlet, peach, yellow, and shades of salmon and pink that reflect the sunrises and sunsets. Four types of lilacs, with flowers ranging from deep purple to bubblegum pink, ring our stucco wall. Apple and apricot trees were the first planted, soon followed by New Mexican locusts, aspens, and cottonwood. The hummingbird mint that brought hummingbirds to our home last summer now peek forlornly over the snow. The wild array of hollyhocks of every color I could imagine to plant now bend under the weight of the frost. It is an act of waiting and of faith that they will survive and bloom again this summer.
Two of my writing heroines, Isabel Allende and Terry Tempest Williams, reserve the winter for writing as a time to turn inward and focus on the next book. It is time to turn inward now and focus on this next book. The original hard-copy of the manuscript returned to me by the publisher is now filled with notes and scribbles, missing scenes that tie all together yet to be written. Like the world outside, new life within the stalks and branches that appear dry and dead, so too are the scenes yet to be written in LOVE STONES.
All I need to do is lift my eyes to the world beyond my window for solidarity. Under the cold and snow of the world outside, dormant life course their their roots. How very like a manuscript. With a bit of luck, a lot of listening, writing, and work, all will blossom in Spring.