by Karen Keltz, author of Sally Jo Survives Sixth Grade, and an award winning poet. Read more about her at Karen Keltz’s website and blog
THE LOVE TOUR
January is a most depressing month, and February follows right on its heels. Here on the coast everything is dripping wet, soggy and marshlike. The prominent color of the sky is some variation of Payne’s gray, from “dark ominous” to “continual dusk” to “shiny steel.”
Lest you think growing things are all dead, though, when you see brown, slime, and mold, I’m here to tell you plenty is going on underneath the leaves, twigs, branches and mulch.
The same is true if you are also a writer. You sit at your desk, uninspired, staring at the rain pouring past your window, pummeling your roof. You rail at the Muse for playing hide and seek. Your story refuses to go forward. And yet, things are also happening there, down in your subconscious, which will begin to make connections.
Even if it’s spitting rain, I suggest you take a hopeful walk around your garden. What you see will rev up your creative brain. Make what I call the Love Tour.
Today, I asked myself, “What can I see that I love?” I started out from the front door, where our porch is decorated with primroses my husband bought at the store, with the joy of their color in mind. We love seeing them every time we go in or out of our home. We didn’t grow them, but I think they count anyway.
–I thought about how others choose to do good deeds with our happiness in mind or how we choose to do the same. The why of that decision-making and subsequent action makes an excellent essay topic Why do the characters in your story do what they do?
Next, I noticed all the nubbins—bulbs arising in either sidewalk bed. Some early daffodils are ready to bloom, but the later bulbs are slowly undressing. Besides daffodils, I saw the arms of narcissus, crocus, snowbells, hyacinth, muscari, tulips and Scilla siberica, all reaching for the light.
–We humans know what is worth reaching for, what really matters in our lives, if we are in touch with our souls. What does your character truly desire or does that change from beginning to end of your story?
Around the corner, two clumps of heather are in bloom. I love the happy pinks. If I clip some stems, they fit perfectly in a teeny blue glass vase and will dry and retain their color for a couple of months on a counter or table.
Some yarrow is greening, promising its work as a bouquet filler and a medicinal in herbal concoctions. The rose campion and foxglove rosettes haven’t frozen and neither has the hollyhock, which means we may have their colorful blooms earlier than usual. I love that!
The rosemary is green and blooming. I squeeze and rub the leaves and smell my hand. Heavenly!
Green ferns are out of the ground. So is the German chamomile. More green.
–There are moments for all of us where right and beautiful things are present to fill our hearts and make us glad to be alive. Often they stand out starkly in the ugliest of times. What are those moments for your characters?
The red-twigged dogwood pops color where there are no blooms. I saw buds on the lilacs, forsythia, flowering quince, and pussy willow. I love seeing their promise!
–What gives your characters hope during their bleakest hours?
Without leaves blocking the view, I noticed the structural elements I put in place last summer, such as the graveled patio space I dug and laid for the red table and chairs, and the paving stone foundation for the red bench. I love that it’s all ready when the time comes. I also made a list of the places that need work and the pruning that needs done as soon as the weather is more forgiving, because right now they are more noticeable.
–Same with writing. You’ve made your storyboard or outline, the structure that keeps a reader turning the page. When you’ve finished filling it with specific details, then you begin anew to prune what doesn’t work and enhance what does.
After my circuit of our house through the flower beds, looking for things I love, I reached my front porch in a much happier frame of mind, grateful for nature and my connection to it.
Something special for my eyes translates by comparison into new story ideas or character motivations, or whatever I need to make my work move forward. I’ve given my brain a treat, and if I’ve paid attention and asked myself the right questions, my brain will reciprocate.
We can’t always get away to sunnier climes, but we can always take ten minutes out of our day to make the Love Tour. I recommend it.