Filling the Space With Color

Painting of eggplant and tomatoesYesterday morning community gardeners held a meeting at the Harris Township building. Here in Pennsylvania, we have “townships”, with no relationship that I can see to actual towns. As far as I know, every county is divided into such administrative units, and my township is Harris, though the village itself is called Boalsburg. So on March 17, with the door propped open to the warm air outdoors, with jonquils blooming along the street, and with trees coming into flower, we had a gardening meeting.

Last year I got a plot in the community garden, an activity I approached with a level of ignorance that would have shamed my farming and gardening grandparents. That’s part of the story of America—my rural forebears have been reduced to me, planting tomato and lettuce plants on the same day. If you know gardening yourself, you’re shaking your head thinking “what a garden doofus”. And if you know less than me—well, jeez, if you know less than me, you really need to go learn something.

Here in the middle of a bucolically warm March, I begin to contemplate the impending savory glories of July and August and September: the cornucopia of tomatoes that make angels start slicing bread for tomato sandwiches, fresh brussel sprouts sauteed with garlic, basil whirred into piquant pesto on pasta. I need to find my gardening shoes. I think they’re under the bed.

This week I also came to a working class realization—trying to survive through freelance work is absolutely not working. Though I spend, literally, hours every day looking, I’ve had no work in months. It’s time to face facts (i.e. rent, food, that stuff) and get a job, any job, good or bad. A few days ago I applied to be a barista in the cafe of a new bookstore, but I wasn’t hired. I also discovered that the editorship of a local monthly newspaper is open, and I’ve applied. That job was open a year ago and I decided then not to apply, but now that it’s available again, times is different, children, times is different. But even if I were to get it, it does not pay enough to live on.

Putting aside updates on the sparkle and glitter of life in the physical world, in the life of ideas, my Novel That Still Doesn’t Have A Name is springing up ever more before my eyes. People who never existed before begin to speak, bits of geography appear as if in a movie, as prairies roll out and buildings rise up on city streets, and Benedict and Miramar suddenly reveal new character traits that were not evident before.

For the last few days I haven’t done much writing, but serious writers know that you don’t have to actually “write” to be a writer. You just have to tell people you’re a writer and behave eccentrically. Maybe wear a colorful scarf.

I feel very contented with how my story is going. More than contented—it’s fun, and it makes me happy to see what is happening, as if some other person is doing it. The actual composition process is the same as it always was. To the right of the cursor on the computer screen is a white space, and below that is a challenging white expanse. Theoretically, what follows in that white space could be any possible thing my mind can think of. Since I am a highly trained professional (and you should not try this), what I actually put in that white space brings smiles of familiarity and pleasure, evokes tears of empathy, and stimulates ideas as though beautiful birthday boxes have suddenly been opened. Plus all my commas are correctly, placed.

At this moment, Benedict and Miramar are in Benedict’s SUV, driving north from Denver toward Wyoming, where they will turn west again. They have just spent a wild day at the Firebear Festival, for which I rather obviously took inspiration from Burning Man. I think I have an idea of what will happen for the rest of their westward journey, and they are soon to meet an interesting fat man, based on someone who I talked to in a cafe a week ago.

Soon they will also go through a time door back to Indianapolis, Indiana, where they have just had some rather traumatic adventures involving memory. I’ll send them on from there, across Ohio and toward Philadelphia, and there is a big difficulty coming when they get to Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania can be like that. But we have gardens.

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Filed under Giving Birth to a Book (That's Why I'm Screaming), Writing While Living

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