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Posts Tagged ‘planting seeds’

By Elizabeth Statmore



Writers are gardeners. We sow seeds and cultivate worlds. Every writing practice I do is a seed I hope will germinate, but I have to approach it with no expectations. Seeds, like words, are happily indifferent to my intentions. They force me to learn over and over how to follow their process without hope or expectations.

I keep a seed-starting station on the bookcase in my bay window sill. I face it while I do writing practice on the couch. It has fifteen deep cells, each planted with a different hope for my garden. Actually I sow in multiples. Right now I have two each of flat-leaf parsley, winterbor kale, lacinato or dinosaur kale, speckled trout lettuce, and Merveille des Quatre Saisons lettuce, among others. I have three cells of an heirloom ruffled pansy I am nuts about — chalon suprème purple picotée. The flowers are ruffled confections of deep plum and violet and mauve and golden yellow and white. They’re not easy to find. I have to order the seeds online from a web store in England.

As with writing practice, there are no guarantees. You make positive effort, but you can’t know in advance what will root and take off and what will refuse to cooperate in your plans.


My parsley cells have gone crazy. Same for the two types of kale. This year the pansies have agreed to participate. Some years they just refuse to release their secrets.

One of the White Boston Lettuce cells has sprung magically to life while the other has stayed mum. The seeds just refuse to get started. They sit there beneath the surface of their sterilized germinating mix, lips pressed stubbornly shut. They squint up at me when I inspect them. They dare me to plant over them.

The seed-starting system is a miniature greenhouse, with an opaque bottom tray and a clear plastic domed top. The top has two green louvered vents that can be opened once the first seed leaves poke their noses up out of the ground.

I placed the tray on a large baking sheet to catch any drips that overflow out of the sides. Germination is a moist and messy business. I have already had to refinish the top of the wooden bookcase once.

Below the baking sheet is an electric warming mat. It’s like a special heating pad for sprouting seeds. They respond to the warming temperature of the soil they are planted in, like words in a writing practice. They only start their work once I’ve warmed things up.

The other key to the seed-starting station is an old little desk lamp I’ve outfitted with a fifteen-watt greenhouse bulb. It’s a compact fluorescent that emphasizes the blue rays of the light spectrum, the ones that seedlings respond to.

I’ve learned all this from library books. I was not raised as a farm kid or even a gardener’s kid.


I am struck by the familiar combination of artifice and natural conditions I have to create to get things started. Some of my non-writing-practice writer friends feel this way about my reliance on writing practice. They ask how I can ever get projects done when I give over so much of my writing energy and time to wandering aimlessly across the pages of my Spiderman notebooks.

I’ve tried to explain it to them, but it’s like starting a garden from seeds. If you don’t do it this way yourself, it’s tough to wrap your mind around. How can a bunch of specks in a paper envelope turn into fragrant pasta sauces or salads? One person’s mystery looks like another person’s madness.











Elizabeth Statmore is a San Francisco-based writer and gardener. She is a long-time practitioner of Writing Practice, which she learned from Natalie Goldberg, and she recently finished her first novel by using Writing Practice as her foundation.

A frequent contributor to KQED-FM, Elizabeth’s last piece for red Ravine—Writing The “Remembering Grace Paley” Piece—was a step-by-step tutorial on how she turned a raw piece of writing into a finished radio commentary. Elizabeth was also one of our first guest writers, contributing the post Abandoned Is…. All doodles © 2009 by ybonesy.

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Lone Pine In Red Clay, Clarks Hill Lake, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Lone Pine In Red Clay, Clarks Hill Lake, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.









roots of dry summer
where lake water kissed burnt sand
lone pine in red clay










-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, August 21st, 2008

-related to post:  haiku (one-a-day)

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Planting The Seed, stained glass, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Planting The Seed, Lightpainting Series, stained glass window, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

When I walked out into the sub-zero temperatures yesterday to warm up my car, a piece by NPR’s Enrique Rivera poured out of the Alpine radio speakers. Rubbing my hands together, and pulling the end of a wool cap down over my neck, I stared off into the distance at a couple of squirrels playing tag on an old growth oak, and listened to Enrique Rivera.

His family is from El Salvador, and in his research he had stumbled on a yellowed piece of paper, a poem about red spring lilies that his grandmother had written for Martin Luther King. The discovery led him to contemplate King’s influence on the Latino community. As I listened, I thought about what Martin Luther King means to me.

I’m old enough to remember his speeches on TV, graphic black and white photographs in Life magazine, and the sad day in 1968 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis (now the National Civil Rights Museum) when King was assassinated. Regardless of where you lived in this country, who you were, or what you believed, the way Martin Luther King lived his life, impacted your own.

I honor Martin Luther King Day by remembering the past, and pulling it into the present as a reminder. Not only the power of the March on Washington in August 1963, and King’s I Have a Dream address, but the efforts of others to bring to light injustices in the history of my own state of Minnesota (Clayton Jackson McGhie in Duluth in 1920 or the Mankato 38 in 1862). I remember my tumultuous teenage years in the late 60’s and early 70’s, the Women’s MovementStonewall and Harvey Milk. Or the efforts of women like Emma Lazarus. 

Martin Luther King brought awareness to all of our civil rights. That’s what great leaders do. He spoke for all of us. And reminded us that it is our silence that we should fear:

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

No one wants to be silenced. As writers and artists, we work to find our voices every day. Many who have spoken out or taken action against what they see as unjust, have paid a high price. Martin Luther King was one such man.

 
 

Planting The Seed, Lightpainting Series, stained glass, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.       Planting The Seed, Lightpainting Series, stained glass, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.       Planting The Seed, Lightpainting Series, stained glass, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.       Planting The Seed, Lightpainting Series, stained glass, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.      

 
 

For the Writing Topic this week, write everything you know about Martin Luther King. How old were you when he died, or were you even born? How does your family speak of his legacy; how did they see him in the 1950’s and 60’s. Is there any way that Martin Luther King has changed your life? How has he broken open stereotypes or paved the way for acceptance of your own differences.

 

Do a 15 minute Writing Practice that begins:

I Remember Martin Luther King…

Reverse it. Do another 15 minute Practice:

I Don’t Remember Martin Luther King….

If you get stuck, go to one of the links in this piece. Listen to Enrique Rivera’s commentary on his grandmother who was a writer and artist. Check out the links for Emma Lazarus, Stonewall, Duluth, or Mankato.

Think of conversations/controversies about civil or human rights in your own hometown. Your own family. What about those close to you, people you love, who live a different lifestyle and have opened your mind (and your heart) to a new definition of human rights.

Write everything you know about Martin Luther King.

-posted on red Ravine, Martin Luther King Day, Monday, January 21st, 2008

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