I’ve been gardening, and to a limited extent I’ve been writing. But mostly I’ve been gardening for awhile now. My writerly life has been ‘light’–not superficial, exactly; but I’ve been writing short children’s stories while I’ve been finishing the edit to a longer, more substantial book–Leona the Part-Time Fairy: also a children’s book, but a pithier one than the stories I’ve been writing in tandem to the edit. A writer has to be writing something in order to keep the “writing ligaments” limber. (Not my phrase: it was used by Steinbeck and, I believe, by Virginia Woolf. There is no better way to describe the process: when a writer stops writing, the mental muscle that is needed to write atrophies.)
I’ve long known that my gardens are like Petri dishes to an internal, writerly, process. While I putter and plant and dig and water and sit on my garden benches looking at blue skies and gray skies, feel the wind and the sun and the rain, an watch seeds sprout, grow, and bloom, I’ve known that something more is happening within myself.
It has been my intention, upon completion of Leona, to write a sequel to it. In fact, I have the story more or less written in my mind. I’m beginning to think that it isn’t the story that I need to be writing at the moment: that it’s a story that will keep. It isn’t in a hurry to be written.
There’s something else close to the surface, but just beyond my understanding. Something more difficult to articulate, more difficult to translate from the interior world. More difficult to bring to the world of form: words. It is requiring an internal positioning, a rethinking and a re-knowing process; a re-arranging; a stepping both inside and outside of facts as I’ve known them to be and appreciating that perhaps facts are not really factual at all–there may be another interpretation. Perhaps the facts were really only someone’s point of view. Perhaps they were self-serving, or just self-deluding.
I seem about to set off to tell a story that will be part fact, part-deduction, and part entirely fiction; set in an historical period I can never know more about than what I’ve been told and what I’ve read, as it was either before my time on earth, or happening when I was too small to understand.
My story will be as true as the stories I’ve been told, as true as my imagination extrapolates possibilities from those stories, and as fictional as any other biographical fiction. It will be a war story and a love story and, if I can become the vehicle for the words that need to be written, it will be a good story. It will not be a short story–in either pages or the time it takes to write it.