Above the Average

The book was an immature experiment written for the purpose of getting all the wise cracks (known by sophomores as epigrams) and all the autobiographical material (which hounds us until we get it said) out of my system. [...] I think I shall write some very good books indeed. The next one won't be good nor the next one, but about the fifth, I think will be above the average.

--John Steinbeck, about his first book, Cup of Gold. His fifth novel? Of Mice and Men.



I planted beet and carrot seeds in the cold drizzle this morning, my toes growing stiff and frigid in the wet flip flops I wore. It's difficult not to meditate on growth, time, the miracles of life, when you're dropping tiny seeds into rough holes in the dirt, to be covered up and left to nature's will. The carrot seeds especially are so tiny, flimsy flakes that are hard to pick from your palm with mud-lined fingers. I thought about which seeds would sprout and take root, and which ones would be washed away, or lay dormant forever, or be eaten by birds or bugs. And of the ones that sprout, I have to thin them out when they get a certain height.

As soon as we brought them home, Felix loved planting the already-growing lettuce, broccoli, and cilantro plants, but he kept delaying planting the seeds. I don't blame him; the act is completely unceremonious, small, delayed enjoyment. But in 65 days – the amount of time we wait for some of our clients to pay us, for example -- there will be green plants growing up, and crunching, edible roots growing down. So, May 2nd, about. Planning into the future feels so hard because it's abstract. It's tempting to play for the moment now instead.

But the other day, Felix, my little long-term seed, sat and watched a Sesame Street episode about high school graduation. I choked up, thinking about the ways this little human is going to continue to grow and bear fruit -- for himself, for our world, as well as for my mother's heart -- long into a future I cannot know, much farther than the month and a half that will find us crunching homegrown carrots.

I thought, my blue hoodie shielding my hair from the cold drops, of the faith implicit in any act of seeding, of saying, I believe time will take care of me, of us. There will be a harvest. Even with tens of thousands of years' history to show that it will be this way, that leap of faith is breathtaking.


That's About Right

I always dreamt of a novel in which, as in an explosion, I would erupt with all the wonderful things I saw and understood in this world.

--Boris Pasternak, author of Doctor Zhivago

And his words also explain neatly why this blog is so lovingly neglected at the moment: I am busy erupting with beauty.


Test Tubes and Beakers and the Page

A writer should be as objective as a chemist.

--Anton Chekhov, born today in 1860


Your Own Level of Strain

Find your own stress level — the speed at which you can run toward your own goal. Make sure that both the stress level and the goal are really your own, and not imposed upon you by society, for only you yourself can know what you want and how fast you can accomplish it. There is no point in forcing a turtle to run like a racehorse or in preventing a racehorse from running faster than a turtle because of some 'moral obligation.' The same is true of people.

--Hans Selye, endocrinologist who discovered the effects of stress/strain on the body