This week I didn’t find the solution to my working/writing conundrum, but I did continue to take lots of walks to the botanic gardens, despite the heat. In fact, if I’m honest, a little bit because of the heat. There is a little part of you that wants to pit yourself against that 40°C day, just to see how you’ll go.
So here is a selection of flower shots from the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, and maybe next week I’ll find a way to convert this creative stroll into something that generates some words.
I love lists. I write a new list every week for what I want to achieve in the week. But I think the ultimate list is the one you get write at the end of the year about what you want to achieve in the following year.
I’ve got one week to come up with my list!
Look, I’m the first to admit that I tend to deviate from the list sometime around February, so it is clearly not set in stone. But when I have those moments during the year when I have no idea what to do next, I can always go back to the list. Chances are that I won’t do what is on it, but it prompts me to come up with an alternative.
This is an exciting time for me, and if I could find a way to incorporate a spreadsheet, I’d do that too. For now, I’m going to focus on the list. Or should I say lists. I like to categorise so they’ll be broken down into roughly;
Home and Garden
If you don’t normally write a list, I would highly recommend trying it, because it’s not actually the ticking-off of the list that is so great (I often lose it during the year anyway) it’s all about imagining what it would be like to have done all those things, and that’s what fires up the inspiration to do it.
In early October I started getting a visitor in my garden; a bald baby crow. Still hurting from the loss of the Gardner, I didn’t want to get too close. But with his daily visits, and watching him grow, I couldn’t help but be drawn in. I noticed that other baby crows in the area looked normal, so why was this crow bald?
When I Googled ‘bald baby crow’ I got nothing besides a UK site which suggested my crow had mites and was likely to die. Given that Adelaide crows are not actually crows, but ravens, and they are nothing like the evil-sounding birds I’ve seen in the northern hemisphere, I decided to ignore their I predictions of doom.
His parents didn’t seem fussed and he seemed to be thriving in all other ways, so I decided to document his growth. Below, for anyone else who has a bald baby crow in their backyard, I want to give you hope that your bald baby crow can grow into a healthy, feathered crow (or raven):
First photo – sorry, this was taken on my phone, so not terribly close or clear. When he first arrived his legs were naked as well. By the time I got this picture he had feathers on his legs and a dark patch on the top of his head.
Now I’ve got the SLR out, so you can see him a bit better. The dark patch on his head has definitely turned into feathers.
SLR + Zoom. The feathers are growing, but his ears are still very exposed.
Above and below – left and right side; his ears are now covered and just a small patch of feathers coming in on his throat hint that anything was ever not normal
So now the little bald baby crow is not bald, not a baby and apparently not even a crow. He’s now a fine-feathered raven.
Relationships with animals are unlike anything we experience with humans. I’m not going to say better or worse, but to me they feel magical. This seems doubly true when those relationships are with wild animals. I had this with a local magpie who I called The Gardner.
Ours started off, as many relationships do, as one of convenience. When I mowed the lawn The Gardner would come down and pick off all the bugs I disturbed. Apologies for over-generalising to the oligochaetes, but worms are a silly bunch of critters, did you know they wriggle up when you cut the grass? The Gardner knew.
Later, when I was digging out the lawn to put in as many trees and bushes as possible, The Gardner would hang around because he knew that whenever I unearthed lawn beetle larvae I would throw them to him. Eventually he would sit right next to me while I dug the hole so I wouldn’t miss any.
Now I think The Gardner is dead. He has not come down for nearly two weeks. He does not swoop past me when I come home from the bus stop, brushing his wings against my shoulder to let me know he’s there. He doesn’t sit at my back door when I turn on the lights in the morning. He doesn’t do his little dinosaur run from the backyard when he hears me open the door.
I’d like to believe that The Gardner has just run away, and is making friends with other mowing/digging bipeds somewhere else safe, but in my heart I know that is not the case. I miss him terribly. I had no idea what a ray of happiness he was in my day until he went away.
Thank you for sharing your time with me Gardner, I miss you. 🙁
I thought that writer’s guilt (over not writing) was a fairly unique thing, but as I look out at my weed-infested, overgrown-lawn, desperate for a trim garden I realise there is gardener’s guilt too.
I have had a large yard for 4 years now, so the gloss has come off having a garden, especially after 4 weekends of rain. It isn’t all just planting vegetable crops and flowers, there is maintenance, lots of maintenance. You also need to learn stuff, like where to put what when, what looks good together and what overpowers what.
I guess in that way gardening is like writing too. Something that seems like it should be second nature is actually a skill that needs to be crafted and honed. You will probably kill a few plants along the way, but you will learn some tricks eventually. Also, if you neglect it, well, it just looks like crap.
I can’t help but see the irony in how when my writing is going well, my garden is usually being ignored and vice versa. But there is one huge difference between the two. If the work in the garden all gets too overwhelming, I can pay someone to tidy it all up and the garden will still feel like mine. I don’t think I could say the same about getting someone in to write my novel.
Like many keen gardeners I’ve got a bunch of little seedlings bursting out of the ground nearly ready to be planted out. But our spring weather is a bit all over the place at the moment and on Wednesday night the air was a bit chilly, so I put my little greenhouse covers over my seedlings – and promptly forgot about them.
The next day it was 29’C –a lovely day by all accounts, unless you are a vulnerable little seedling with a glasshouse lid over you. By the time I got home all but one of the seedlings had perished. It was weeks of work gone in a day.
It brought to mind what I’m going through with my kid’s book at the moment. 35,000 words into it and I’ve realised that I have to completely change my main character. Worse, when I change my protagonist in the way that I think I need to, it has a major knock-on effect in the story and to other characters.
I feel like my months of work have been a little wasted. Yes the soil of the main plot-line is still there, and I know I have a lot of imagination seeds to spare, but the seedlings are frizzled, they are not going to make it.
It is a little disheartening, but once I’ve changed it I will have a stronger crop. And I know the mistakes I made last time, so I can avoid them this time. So there is nothing to do but re-plant. The sooner I do so, the sooner I’ll have some fresh seedlings.
There is a theory that you need to do 10,000 hours working on a skill to master it. Now while I would never say that I have mastered writing, the countless hours I have spent doing it, studying it and sharing it with people who know more about it than me have certainly improved my writing.
Yesterday I spent the day in the garden. It is my third year of having a sizable garden and I reflected on how different my gardening was yesterday to what it was three years ago. When I first started gardening I would see a plant I liked in a garden centre, bring it home, plant it, and then watch it die.
I knew there were things I should consider like fertilizer, soil PH, drainage, sun exposure, frost tolerance etc. but it was too daunting and I didn’t want to learn. Randomly I started putting seaweed solution on everything I planted and got slightly better results. At that point I started watching some gardening shows.
Yesterday I mixed up my own potting mix and added different ingredients according to what I was planting. Everything now gets some kind of wetting agent and I only put sun-lovers in the sun, no matter how much better I think they would look down the side of the house.
This little bit of knowledge I have gained over the last three years has improved the survival rate of my garden significantly, but I know there is a lot more I could do. I haven’t ever measured my soil PH and my knowledge of companion planting is rudimentary at best. But I now acknowledge that I will need to learn these things when I’m ready if I want my garden to thrive.
So while it may not be true that you need to do 10,000 hours of something to get good at it, the fact is you do need to put in time, effort and be willing to learn. Knowing how to put words on the page does not equate to being a writer. Playing notes on the piano does not equate to being a musician. Doing anything well requires effort, and the sooner you embrace that and start to learn, the sooner you become better at whatever it is that you wish to master.
If I say ‘writer guilt’ I’m sure most of you know what that is. It is when you get home from work and instead of sitting down at the computer and pushing out 500 words you sit on the lounge and watch mind-numbing TV. And then you feel guilty. It is spending your one day off in the garden instead of at the laptop. And then you feel guilty.
I don’t know if it is my jaded view on publication, if it is the head-cold that just won’t go away, or if it is the natural cynicism that comes of aging, but my writer guilt seems to be going away. There are days when the sun is shining and I think the bigger sin would be to lock myself away with a computer instead of getting out an enjoying the fine weather.
Does that make me less of a writer? Yes, I think so. Do I care? Not a whole lot. Maybe like the waves of productivity and lulls of stagnation this will pass. Maybe the guilt will come back and I’ll start eating more chocolate and stop enjoying the time off I give myself. Or maybe not? That’s the excitement of real life I guess, you never know what is going to happen next.
It’s not often we have genuine mysteries in our lives, even rarer still for us to go for weeks in the dark and finally solve it after a serendipitous insight. This is what happened to me recently over a strange looking bug.
Until the house I’m in now, my biggest garden (in my adult life) was only marginally larger than the desk I’m sitting at. So when I started digging around in real soil, planting some poor botanical specimen that was destined to die, I nearly had a heart attack when a 5cm long earwig-like creature crawled out of the dirt and nearly touched my hand. Before I could recover and investigate further a magpie came over and ate it! I was secretly grateful.
Since then I’ve had about six of these experiences (I now wear gloves so it seems a little less dangerous) and in all this time I’ve never been able to work out what the creature is. When my friend, who has a much better experience of gardening than I do, saw the thing on a visit to my house even she did not know what it was. I had a genuine mystery.
I scoured the internet, but my educated keywords brought back nothing. I decided there was nothing for it but to catch one to take to the university and start thinking up how best to represent myself in its name when it turned out to be a new species (natbug, pottus buggus).
With my jar always at the ready, I wasn’t running into them again. I was getting frustrated. Finally I turned back to Google and typed in ‘strange looking bug’. While the first couple of image lines looked something like this;
There, on about the fifth line of images, was my strange looking bug. It is a relatively common Mole Cricket.
P.S. Once I manage to take a photo of it I’ll come back and attach it to the post sans-googly eyes.