Gardening and Writing

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March 23, 2021

Over the weekend, I opened the upstairs windows to air out the house and enjoyed the birdsong streaming throughout my home. With the first cup of coffee in hand and the sun warming my face on the kitchen porch, I smiled. Welcome, Spring.

Fully caffeinated, I pushed open the shed door and like a wizard, I twirled, swirled, and captured copious spider webs with my broom before entering. Sorry, spiders. I took inventory of pots and potting soil, brought them outside, and checked the vegetable and herb seed packets. I cleaned off my garden spade and inspected the vegetable and herb plots for new growth from last year. The celery I planted at the end of summer has new green growth, and the rosemary, thyme, and oregano plants wintered nicely. I snapped off brown twigs and turned over the rich, dark soil in my garden plots, praying my area is past the possibility of snow flurries, for on this day, two years ago, we had a few inches of snow. Nope, none of that, please. I’m ready to get my hands dirty in the garden and to feel the sun on my bare shoulders.

On Sunday morning, I perused the first Burpee catalog to arrive in my mail box–my sign that spring has arrived. The catalog brought back joyful memories of the day the Sears toy catalog would arrive at my home before Christmas. There was no greater joy as a kid than to pore over the pages and dream of the perfect toy, doll house, or Barbie doll. I feel the same way about gardening catalogs.

I finalized my first gardening order of the year: an apple trees, two Concord grape twigs, and lettuce, kale, spinach, and Swiss chard plants because I want a head start this year. The seedlings did well from seed to garden, but I want instant gratification, smile. I added a white clematis I hope will take over the kitchen porch by early summer.

The Concord grape vines I found when I bought this old house have sadly not produced healthy grapes for three years. I held off pruning the vines for eight years (afraid I’d make a mistake) and had healthy harvests year after year. The first year after I pruned back the vines, not a harsh pruning as I’d been instructed, a virus was introduced. It was devastating. The healthy, heavy bunches of Concord grapes of the past were not to be.

I still enjoy the gorgeous growth and welcome shade of the grape vines over my courtyard dining area, but I must do what I don’t want to do–pull out the old vines, which I doubt will be easy to do. I find that heartbreaking. People passing by have told me the vines have been in place since the 50s. Heartbreaking. So, I’ve decided to prune the vines back to the first major knot and like a good haircut, I am hoping for new, healthy growth before I am forced to pull out the vintage vines.

If you know about growing and pruning grape vines and can offer tips, please let me know. Thank you!

This morning, I’m starting the vegetable and herb seeds in the two trays I purchased last year. I have two large bags Miracle Gro Vegetable Soil and dozens of plastic pots in many sizes for later. Of course, I’d prefer clay pots, but they are expensive and heavy to ship. Plastic pots aren’t used that long before the baby plants are in the garden, so that’s not quite a rush at this time.

Photo by Ann Nekr on

I’ve often thought of how much gardening resembles the writing life. There is research involved, preparation, learning the basics, and just doing it. I’ve met writers who do the necessary research, join writing groups, learn, buy the books, and still don’t write. Or they begin and then stop for many reasons. I find it sad how many beautiful and important stories are never told and shared with the world.

Pruning resembles editing, rewriting, and proofreading. The most difficult phase of writing, but my personal favorite. As my writing mentor says, “Art is in the rewrite.” That’s where I am with my second novel The Laments and with my grape vines. I will do my best with what I know. If that means pruning hard or cutting out unnecessary or redundant portions of the novel that don’t sing, that’s what I will do.

To the fear of failure or fear of doing it “wrong”, I say–there is no right or wrong way to garden or to write. Seeds of creative inspiration and vegetable seeds want to grow! They will grow. Your role is to do it.

Stay safe. Wear your mask. Practice safe distancing.

Write and/or start your garden today by taking small, steady steps. Good luck to you.

Eleanor x


Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning novel, “A Decent Woman”, published by Winter Goose Publishing in 2019. Eleanor’s debut novel, set 1900 Puerto Rico, garnered awards at the 2016 and 2017 International Latino Book Awards. She is featured in the anthology, “Latina Authors and Their Muses”. Eleanor is working on her second novel “The Laments”, set in 1926 Puerto Rico. Her debut poetry collection, “Tight Knots. Loose Threads. Poems” is due for release in April 2021. Fingers crossed.

How’s Your Feng Shui Doing? – Comedy in Gardening

beautiful rainbow at the river May 2014On Sunday, the weather was perfect at the river. I enjoyed the gorgeous breeze, sunny skies and an impossible array of green. Subtle greens, fluorescent yellow-green, deep emerald, all beautiful. The forsythia bushes have dropped their yellow blooms and bright yellow-green leaves are budding on the stems. The lilac seedlings I transplanted last summer are doing well; the shock of moving away from the mother lilac bush has eased. I hope they continue to thrive. Summer is quite a show at the river.

As I waited for my river co-owner to drive up from Virginia, I sat outside thumbing through a local magazine. The monthly magazine features local businesses, restaurants, inns, shops and farmer’s markets, and an article on the art of Feng Shui caught my eye. Now, I know very little about feng shui and can’t give you the history of the ancient art, but I do know the positioning of items in home, office, or property is key to achieving balance and good “chi” which means, energy.  The author of the article, a Feng Shui business owner, wrote, ‘In feng shui, heaven, earth and humans work together to be in sync with the natural order of things.’ I am a Reiki practitioner, so I understand ‘chi’. I would describe good energy as a feeling of balance, happiness and tranquility. A place with good energy is where you feel good, are creative, at peace, and productive. My home and garden have good feng shui, except sometimes in the area of finances and my love life…maybe I should move my bed.

I read about planning a garden while respecting and honoring ‘the lay of the land’ and working with what’s there – the wind, the sun’s path and the presence of water. I agreed with the author about collecting rain water in a barrel, having a compost pile, installing bird feeders, and using no chemicals in the garden. Our river property supplies food, shelter and water to birds, bees, river critters, and feral cats that usually tear through our garbage bags if we leave them out.

‘Of the five elements used in feng shui, water, wood, and earth are abundant. I looked around me. Gurgling, moving river, check. Fire pit, check. I’m a Virgo, an earth sign. Earth, yep I’m on the earth, check. Well, it’s no wonder I love it at the river – we have PERFECT feng shui there.

I am excited to begin planting by the waning and waxing moon because it sounds cool and I love anything to do with the moon. I will try to garden naked as the Feng Shui suggested…yeah, that might not happen. So, when my river co-owner finally arrived, I was excited to tell her about the article.  She immediately laughed. ‘Fung shuee, what?’ I corrected her pronunciation and proceeded to tell her about all the great energy we have at the river and how we should wait for the waning moon to plant certain flowering bushes.

She listened patiently, lit a cigarette, and when I finished, she said in her throaty accountant voice from Cape Cod, “Get the hell outta here! That’s pure horse crap!” So much for feng shui!

We laughed until our sides hurt and I was again reminded of how different we are. I’m the creative, spiritual one and my good friend deals with facts and figures every day. Our feng shui, energy and personalities are pretty different, but we share a fierce love of gardening. I told her that in regard to our river garden – I have enough feng shui for both of us!

I will miss D when she moves back to Cape Cod and our river property sells this year. We’ve enjoyed a great four-year river adventure with lots of memories to share when we’re old and gray. I mean really, really old and gray.

And you’d best believe I moved my bed for a better feng shui position.

The Mind Games Writers Play

Boy, do writers play mind games with themselves to stay in the writing seat. I sure do. I’m trying to ignore the fact that the weather is gorgeous today. We have blue skies, a light breeze, and mild temperatures. Normally, I can work through most distractions, but my Inner Child is alive and well today. After such a brutal and long winter, can you blame me for not wanting to remain indoors!

My dogs and I walked around the flower garden this morning and the daffodils are coming up. The Lily of the Valley plants are popping up near the ancient grape arbor and the peonies should be coming up soon. I inherited my love of gardening and mostly green thumb from my Puerto Rican grandmother, Meme who had the most beautiful garden in Ponce, Puerto Rico where I’m from. To make matters worse, last week, I bought a great greenhouse and trays of organic dirt pots to grow seeds in. It is taking everything I have not to bring that box inside from the trunk of my car. I have editing to do this weekend. I am ignoring the greenhouse because then, my editing and writing will be doomed for today.

Are you like me? Is it all or nothing for you? I get in those moods. Most days, I can write for nine or ten hours a day and if I don’t have a huge chunk of time the following day, it can threaten my creative mood. If anything on my ever-growing, to-do list for my house crosses my mind, it can break the creative cycle, as well. I’m not allowing that to happen today. I’m nearly finished with the final edits of my novel, A Decent Woman. I promised Mindy, my editor, to send her a fresh copy of the manuscript by next Wednesday and I’m honoring my promise.

What else must we do to write without interruptions, distractions, and delays? Just do it. That’s the solution? Yep. Just write through it ALL. Steal an hour or two to write and don’t give in to the censors and distractions in our heads. The dishes will be there tonight or tomorrow and Spring isn’t here yet. I have time for gardening later!

Okay, I feel better. My Inner Child is happy again. I don’t have to pull my hair out and stress my semi-organized house that could look better. All I have to do is show up to write. So simple. It’s not complicated, it’s ME who is complicating it all.

I do, however, have to color my hair. Some things just can’t be left for later.

Happy Saturday!