The day before yesterday, I struggled with my column. I knew what I was writing about, but it was not coming to me at all. It didn't flow from my brain to my fingers, onto the computer screen before me. I've been writing long enough to know that if it doesn't, it's not a good column. After a couple hours, I had a column, but I wasn't happy with it. I got up and started cleaning.
Yesterday, I had a busy morning. I got home, frustrated and worried. I surveyed my yard. What a mess. My life was interrupted rather abruptly last fall, and I did not get my raking done. Leaves were everywhere. The winter winds had limbs and sticks everywhere. Beer cans, fast food papers, cigarette butts thrown from the windows of thoughtful travelers littered the front of our property. I decided to vent my frustration outside. I have three gardens. I began pulling the leaves back to expose what I already knew I would find. Tender shoots from the new flowers had pushed through the soil. Tenacious, they were still pushing upwards. Eventually they would have popped through the leaves, and actually, some already had. I made their little green lives that much easier, pulling the leaves away and letting in the light. I started a fire, and began burning the rubble from my yard. The ash will be nice for the rhododendrons, the azaleas, and the asparagus. Our apple trees are budding out. I found myself making a list of things that I needed for the yard. I raked. I called out to our neighbor walking down the road. Jerry and Tim used to work together. They both lost their jobs when the company closed. Jerry hasn't found another job yet. He stopped and visited a bit. He makes me laugh.
A red truck went by. I noticed this is that fleeting way that people take in the unimportant details of their lives. When it slowed, I noticed it a bit more. When it turned around, and came back, it had my full attention. I did not recognize the man who was asking me if I was Debby. "Yes," I answered warily. And the passenger side of the truck exploded and his wife jumped out. They were on their way up the road to the Blueberry golf course. The wife was certain that I was the Debby from the newspaper. She was so certain that she made her husband turn that truck around. She wanted to meet me. She wanted to talk to me. "I love your writing. It comes straight from your heart. You are funny. I look for you every Saturday." Her husband petted Buck while she explained who she was...Gloria's sister, the aunt of the pastor at the church Tim and I got married in, the sister of Jim, who delivers Little Debbie Snack foods. It never ceases to amaze me. In the country, by the time that you've recited your pedigree, whoever you are talking to will know at least one person in your family. She hugged me and hopped back in the truck and they were gone, on their way to Blueberry Golf Course, to play some golf.
I continued raking, but it was different. I was thinking about my column, the one that had been so hard to write. The words began to come, slowly, at first, but then they began to flow. And for the first time in a while, the column was a funny one. Not just a few laughs in the body of a serious subject. It was a funny column. I finished what I was doing in the yard, and wandered inside. I got Tim's supper around, but then I sat down at the computer, and my fingers flew, and the words flowed, and a perfectly cheerful column about bald heads and driver's license photos appeared before my eyes. It was the same column that I had been so unsuccessful with, but written with a different tone, from a writer in a different mood.
Last night, I lay awake in bed for just a short time. I'd worn myself out, running in the morning, yard work in the afternoon, writing in the evening. I drifted off to sleep thinking of gardens. People. The satisfaction of writing, of breathing in the scent of the earth, solitude to think. Stones to arrange. Birds to be fed. Dogs to be petted. Wood to be stacked. Really, all these pieces fit together so well. I have a happy life. When I am happy, my fingers fly, and the words flow, and I write about life from my heart, with humor.