In the Garden

Flowers

My grandmother died on December 27th, 2019. As I reminisced about her during my sudden absence from blog world, I thought about her garden.

“Come down and get you some squash.”

“Come down and get you a mess of beans.”

“Come down and get some of these tomatoes—I got too many.”

I’m willing to bet most of my relatives have heard these words coming over the phone from my grandmother, Ruth. They were utterances of a joyful labor, of a work that brought great gifts and symbolized an even greater love. She grew so many vegetables and fruits, and I don’t think there was a gardening method she hadn’t tried, tested, and judged. I remember looking forward to our own summer corn just to get some of that delicious Peaches n’ Cream variety a week or two early from her. I remember the size of the beans she grew, and some of those enormous tomatoes weighed so heavy on the vine until ripe.

As Jesus said,

3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
—Matthew 13:3-8

The parable speaks of a grain growing on its own, but Mamaw knew something more about how plants worked, and her example shows the truth behind these verses. My grandmother was something special because she prepared the ground to be good. It’s almost never enough to just let it fall where it may and hope for the best, and she knew this moreso than anyone.

Where her seed and plantlings would go, she cleared the way, made sure there was a loamy surface with plenty of fertilizer. Where there was thirsty ground during a drought season, she was prepared with a water hose or a bucket. I remember the relative success of her garden in that scorching summer of 2002, when it barely rained at all during the dog days. I remember the ever-constant battle against deer and squirrels, how she’d even collect human hair from a salon and strew it about to scare off the menaces. She’d prune the suckers off tomatoes, cut out the unyielding pieces and tend the good branches.

Mamaw knew how to tend a garden. She knew how to make the way for her plants, knew how to create the good soil rather than expect it to just be there or expect the field to remain suitable throughout tyhe growing season.

If you know a good person and a Christian by their fruits, then her works make it obvious. Her garden alone was a significant labor and a source of her charity. She may have been quiet, sometimes she may not have said the right thing, but these were just words and that wasn’t how she showed love anyway. She showed it through a basket of squash, through a full stomach, through hard work.

And so she also prepared the soil for other fruit. I’m the second youngest of her grandchildren (my brother is the youngest), so I unfortunately knew her for the shortest time. But this also meant she’d had the time to create a fertile soil for me to grow. I saw it yesterday with all my cousins, of which there are many, how much her influence has carried through generations. She sang in the choir, enjoyed my efforts at Amazing Grace (lord how I cried when we sang that at the funeral), and planted in all of us a love of Christ.

6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
—Proverbs 22:6

There were children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren all present yesterday, most (if not all) of them believers. How can the soil she prepared not have been fertile? For her ways to pass down through so many generations, to be known and cherished and followed? She gave so much to see them all grow, to bring forth fruit and to grow in ways someone of her generation could not imagine. Through a birth in the twenties, obvious privations during the Depression, hard times during the war, sons who were coming of age dangerously close to the Vietnam draft, and quickly changing technology as time passed, she practiced values such as thrift and perseverance. She remained a steadfast constant despite all the clutter.

She produced children who valued work, craftsmanship, and charity. Those children brought forth more who followed in those footsteps, and impressed upon them new values like education in addition to those she espoused. Those grandchildren, of which I am one, have done much to further her goals and pile upon her glories and lauds. The great-grandchildren, too, will remember these things and aim for successes and fruits which she never had the ability or resources to get for herself.

And, most importantly, they will remember the life she lived, the garden she grew, the soil she tended for them. Those who are yet to come may not see her efforts, but they will be there, fertile and deep beneath their roots.

People who read this will probably know my familial relationships have been strained, but God knows she meant a lot more than as just a person who gave me food. I hadn’t left her on a bad note, but her advanced age kept her in a pocket of the world I didn’t want to tread for several years. Still, I remember some things that I alone could share with her; one which people will chuckle at was that she, *she* alone stoked in me a fascination with American presidents. When I was young, she gave me a poster and told me that I “needed to know my presidents.” It had all their pictures, the dates of the presidencies, and then a list of facts such as vice presidents and first ladies. I absolutely loved this poster, and I read about these people in the encyclopedia. Granted, my obsession with Jackson came later, but I doubt that essential quality of me would have been so vivid without her. She valued knowledge more than she let on, and she knew what she wanted other people to learn if only they would listen to her acts moreso than her words.

For now, I must cry and know that I can’t see her anymore. She may be gone from here, but I remember her, and I hope to tend those fruits of thrift, perseverance, and charity. I hope that her garden continues to bloom and bear.

And I know it will because Christ spoke,

15 1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
—John 15:1-6

And what an incredible thought. Since she abided in Jesus, and thus in God, she’s now working with the greatest gardener of all.

Divider

The photo was taken by me at the dinner following my grandmother’s viewing and funeral. I took the picture so I could show my brother, who wasn’t able to come, the quality of the flowers we’d bought for a true Southern lady’s funeral. It was amazing how everyone imagined her as spring and chose flowers to match that despite her fall birthday, November wedding, and cold, Christmas death.

Mamaw Ruth was my father’s mother, and I’ve spoken about her here on WordPress before, but not in detail. She was a complex person, and not even this (which is a Facebook post I made but then cleansed of too much identifying information) is a good representation.

Y’all blogging weirdos can expect a surprise Southern Gothic month coming up. I’m not feeling cheerful.

Blogger Recognition Award

I would like to thank Colleen Chesebro of Word Craft for nominating me for this award/game. If you’d like to read her very sweet and awesome responses, you can do so here! I really do enjoy these sorts of games, so anyone who wants to tag me in this sort of thing can do so.

If I nominate/tag you and you want to participate in the game, here’s the rules:

  • Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Write a post to show your award.
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  • Select up to fifteen bloggers you want to give this award to. (No response required).
  • Comment (or pingback) on each blog to let them know that you’ve nominated them and provide a link to the post you’ve created.

It won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t want to participate! If you’re here reading, though, it’d be great if you could choose one or two blog posts tagged at the end of this.

How Did I Start My Blog?

I actually started the blog in 2013 with the short story Waiting for Company. It was a Southern Gothic horror based strongly on my grandmother, and it’s so bad. So, so bad. You can read it if you want to know how far I’ve come. I then published several more shorts, then the short novels Evolution of the Predator and If I Only Had No Heart, both of which you can download as a PDF by clicking on the links. All during this time, though, I wasn’t very serious; the blog was mostly a place where I could leave stories, have a link, and email that link to my mom so she could read them.

Then, in January 2018, she told me she’d never clicked on a single link I’d sent. She’d never read a single story and didn’t have plans to, no matter how many I sent.

That was about the time If I Only Had No Heart went up. I was pretty depressed after my mom said that, so I decided to see what blogging was really about and start connecting with other people.

Speaking of Connecting…

My first piece of advice to new bloggers is to connect with other bloggers. You never know who is going to come up with something so creative and helpful that you must love it.

What’s hard about getting into that mode is the time it takes to build these connections. Yes, it will entail reading and commenting on other blogs. Yes, it will mean paying attention to other people. But the payoff in friendship and camaraderie was worth it for me.

Decide What is “Worth It”

So it was worth it for me.

But it might not be worth it for you.

You can only do so much social media before your ability to function explodes. Blogging, while my favorite social media, does take up quite a bit of time. So, if you decide to blog, come up with a goal for it. Is it to have 5,000 followers in a month (lol, good luck)? Is it to sell your books? Is it to meet other people and learn about your craft? It doesn’t matter what you want out of it so much as understanding what is possible and understanding if the effort you need to put in is worth the reward.

If it’s not worth it? Don’t be afraid to quit. Your blog will be here if you want to come back later.

Some Excellent Posts to Read

I’m behind on my reading, but here’s a few posts you’ll want to see by authors you’ll want to follow. Technically, this is the “nomination/tag” section, but once again I’d like to say that no one I’ve tagged has to continue this, no do they have to like or comment or any of that jazz.

  • Kevin Parish’s Daddy – An absolutely heartbreaking poem. I’ve long had a terrible relationship with my dad, and this one got to me because of the goodness and strength of the titular father.
  • Chelsea Owens’s A Starving Writing Muse – A clever piece about writing, recent motherhood, and toilet humor, I enjoyed reading this piece quite a lot. Chelsea’s hilarious and fun to follow.
  • Joanne Fisher’s Gnome Help – Cute as fuck flash fiction that made me feel cozy to read. She often has great poetry and flash, and many of her love stories are lesbian, which can offer you a fresh perspective to read about.
  • Charli Mills’s Carrot Ranch Writing Prompts – In addition to Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday prompts (Colleen nominated me), the Carrot Ranch is a great community to join. Check out the most recent prompt and consider joining yourself!
  • Aak Fictionspawn’s Crystal Clear – Honestly you guys, I need more people to read this and solve the riddle. I think I was close.
  • Crispina Kemp’s Raised Against Us – This was such a poignant story. I thought the twist was really good. As well, check out her Crimson’s Creative Challenge writing prompt!
  • Lorraine Ambers’s Blogging, Social Media, and Marketing Tips – Lorraine is one of those great bloggers who gives out good advice articles. I always look forward to her tips and tricks.
  • Alexander Eliot’s Dragon Series – A long ongoing series with a great Mid-Grade or YA feel. Tackles some more difficult subjects along the way and has great monster building.
  • Violet Lentz’s Stories of the Forgotten – Violet’s stories always have an intensity to them that you just don’t get with other blogs. This one will hit you in the feels like a bus.
  • Ari Meghlen’s Should You Plan Out Your Whole Year? – Ari Meghlen’s blog is great because she makes her life story and brand so exciting. I love watching how she chooses to do things and trying to figure out how she makes it look so cool.
  • Jules’s Gnawing Chills – A great poem about squirrels that I think will give you some good feelings.
  • Hannah Russell’s Reading Games – I love following this blog because it keeps me inspired to read more. I think it’s done more to make me want to read than any other set of reviews.
  • tnkerr’s Midriff Culture – I thought this one was pretty funny, if a bit risque and a wee bit old-school. A great blog to follow for occasional flashes and fun times!
  • D. Wallace Peach’s blog – I can’t pick out a post, but I love Peach’s work. Everything she writes is fantastic, and you should follow her. Also has great indie book reviews. Didn’t link to a post because they’ve probably been nominated.
  • Sue Vincent’s blog – another blog with a ton of great posts. I especially like her Midnight Haiku series. Didn’t link to a post because they’ve probably been nominated before.
  • Roberta Cheadle’s blog – Fantastic reviews and responses to prompts. I know for certain they’ve been tagged in this game, so I didn’t link to a post.

So, there you have it! Please check out some of the suggested content and start conversations with someone new!

Also, sorry for forgetting the title, for those of you who get the email updates… 😦

Gettin’ Mad Political

This is for Chelsea Owen’s 22nd Terrible Poetry Contest.  The prompt was to write an acrostic about a person you hate, and boy do the depths of my disdain for people in real life reach some fantastic proportions.

giphy-1

In order to assuage the sensibilities of my rather calm, easily embarrassed beloved spouse, I will avoid talking about how I wasn’t sorry that my enemy got cancer.  Instead, I’m going to write about two men who I despise politically.

When he was asked to look back over his presidency and speak of his regrets, Andrew Jackson responded:

I didn’t shoot Henry Clay and I didn’t hang John C. Calhoun.

Henry Clay

He looks like a dead opossum
E
xcept with much less hair
N
ever won a duel in his life
R
otten butthole of a man
Y
outhful joy never became him

Corrupt bargains were his specialty
L
ost more elections than Nader
A
llied with gilded corruption
Y
our political party is dead

John C. Calhoun

Just a rotten son of a gun
Obsolete before he was born
H
air was an absolute mess
Nullification was the sword he fell on

Campaigned against himself

Carolina was his weapon
Attempted to dissolve the union
Lied about Adams and Monroe
How ’bout that Vice Presidency?
Oh, you did nothing?
Until you became a traitor?
Nullification was so stupid

Dog Ghandi

I had a lot of dogs growing up, mostly because my parents didn’t do a terribly good job taking care of them and my brother and I were crappy to boot.  When I was in middle school, my mom took us to get our second Pomeranian.  I remember seeing that little ball of fur at the top of the stairs when we went to get him at the breeder’s.  I remember looking at my brother’s face and feeding off how his eyes lit up.  We all knew that dog would be coming home with us.

Spud was one of 2 pups to survive in the litter.  Born extremely prematurely, each about the size of a thumb, few of the pups were expected to survive – and some didn’t.  His premature birth meant he had bug-eyes and terrible vision, and he never had great constitution.

Pomeranian Dog

Basically Gandhi

This is a brief set of flashes about Spud.

Johnny Fever

Johnny Fever was a brilliant, ruby-colored betta fish.  He lived in a tiny betta tank, and we’d entertain him with a mirror and food and sometimes let him watch our finger move around outside the tank.  He had a Gary the Snail toy inside the tank.

Johnny Fever, however, had other ideas of how to entertain himself.  Like suicide.

He’d knock the light lid off his tank and struggle for freedom, flopping off his coffee table and onto the floor.  There he would gasp for breath, dying without water to deoxygenate.

Spud, who was allowed to wander the house, found Johnny Fever several times.  I remember how he just laid down and started crying until someone came and rescued the fish.  Not once did he touch the fish, not once did he test it with a lick.  He just laid down and cried actual doggy tears until someone came to rescue the fish.

Stuffed Animals

Spud loved stuffed animals.  A one-dollar animal bought at the dollar store would provide him with a year of comfort before it would finally become too dirty or damaged to withstand.  Stuffing was never purposefully removed.

Every morning, someone would put food out for Spud to eat.  He would thank the person graciously with a couple twirls, then pick up a few kibbles and bring them to each of his animals.  Once done distributing the goods, he would go eat the portion he’d saved for himself.  Of course, after that was completed, he’d come nuzzle an animal, worry about why it wasn’t eating, then consume the kibble he’d given them.

He did this almost every morning.

The Man with No Nose

My dad owned his own construction company.  It was a small business, and he built houses and artisan cabinetry by hand.  One of the employees he had while we owned Spud was a man who’d been to prison for hauling and selling cocaine, but papers and probation officers said he’d reformed.  I never saw the man in person, but everyone said he was missing part of his nose from where it’d burned up from all the cocaine.

One evening, my dad caught me slinking through the dark living room.  He sipped coffee in the room, all the lights off, and asked me if I loved my dog.  He gave me an offer, said that the Man with No Nose would give me $1,500 for that dog.

I said no – I loved my dog.

$2,000.  $3,000.  How much would I be willing to sell that dog for?  The little rat couldn’t be worth that.

I wanted my dog.  I wanted to come home after school and see the little thing, go on hikes through the woods, carry him when he got tired.  I wanted to watch Le Tour with him during the summers.  I wanted to comfort him during hunting season when guns echoed through the mountains.

He took another sip of his coffee and said I didn’t love that dog, that I was passing up a great deal.

Hugging

Some dogs don’t like when humans hug each other.  Spud was no exception.

When two people hugged within his (albeit rather limited) line of sight, he would cry and run up to them.  He’d paw at their legs and squirm, as best he could, into the middle of the hug.  Upon reaching the center of the hug, he would stop crying and accept that all was right in the world.

A lot of dogs don’t like hugs because they feel trapped, but Spud would reach up with his front paws and beg to be hugged.  He’d wrap his little arms around you, fall asleep on your lap, and cry out to be loved.  He was patient with even small children.

Few small dogs can say the same.

The Crows

We lived in the middle of nowhere, and crows flew around everywhere.  Crow season meant the air was rife with the sound of bullets as people mowed through the murders.

Not exceptional in our hunting skills or our dedication to crow shooting, the little hollar in which I lived was home to a large number of crows.  Crows, while not mockingbirds, are still pretty smart and have complex vocal chords.  After figuring out that our little dog wasn’t truly competition for tablescraps, they also found a way to copy his high-pitched bark and barked back.

Out of all the things that could disturb this little, nearly-blind dog, crows caused him more consternation than anything else.  Though he usually ignored TV, an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation contained a holographic crow as part of Data’s imagination, and poor Spud flipped out.  Any crow, whether on TV or real life, would make him cry and bark.

After killing him, my father supposedly put him in a shallow grave.  The crows may have dug up parts of him, left the majority of the work for buzzards or coyotes.

I can’t stand that thought.

Life Update

Cheerio, y’all!  I hope this week has been great for you.  Anyway, some things need to be said, just so it’s not left hanging.

I might not have been as responsive lately as I would have liked to been.  However, I’ve still managed to keep myself involved enough that I don’t think I’ve dropped off the face of the blogosphere, and I’ve tried to read stuff (even if I haven’t done my due diligence and commented).  People often claim things like “my real life is catching up to me,” and I think I’ve finally hit a point where I can actually say “I sympathize” and mean it.

Anyway, some updates I wanted to give:

  1. There’s a new type of post that I’m putting here on Sundays!  I made a relateddracula-1226357_640account for Dracula and am posting stories from ‘his’ account.  The idea is to have a humorous, weekly blog update from an evil, magical creature who’s honestly a bit of a blueberry cuntmuffin.  So, yeah, the Dracula stuff is written by me – but I’m only putting that admission here so that I can send potential naysers a short explanation.  He has purposefully terrible grammar, so we’ll see how that goes.
  2. I knew, even back in September, that November was going to be a rough month for me, so I didn’t plan anything NaNoWriMo related.  I had definitely hoped to get more writing done than I actually did, so that sucks. 😦
  3. I WOULD LOVE TO HELP BETA READ YOUR NaNo STUFF IF YOU NEED SOMEONE.  Things I’m good at include technobabble, anachronism catching, and spotting inconsistencies in worldbuilding (especially magical or technological lore). I’ll be ready to start on December 5th.
  4. Speaking of December 5th… I have a major deadline at work on the 4th.  That’s why you’re seeing this post in the first place. Work’s been making me feel like
    dr strangeloveAnd that suuuuucks.  But one day, when I’m a little farther removed from it, I’ll maybe tell the story of why it was so bad, haha.
  5. I’m not trying to ignore you!  If you’ve felt ignored by me recently and want some attention, please let me know in a comment or something.  I honestly don’t care too much about stats, but I want to make sure I stay in touch with the people I’ve become friends with.

Anyway, I hope that’s enough life update and not too boring.