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09 Feb Garden Dreaming

Detail of Isabella and the Pot of Basil, by William Holman Hunt. In the collections of the Tyne & Wear Museums, Tyneside and Wearside, Newcastle, United Kingdom.

We’re in “zone 8” here along the Elm Fork of the Trinity, which means our last frost-free date is in early April. Time for me to start thinking about my garden for 2009! I do love my garden, although I’m not quite as intense about it as Isabella was about her pot of basil!

I always start with a salad garden—tomatoes, red and gold peppers, cucumbers and lettuce. The garden plot is a twelve-foot square divided into four quarters: one quarter for the tomatoes, one for the peppers, one for the cukes and one for the lettuce. The cukes and the lettuce I’ll grow from seed. I’ll buy plants for the tomatoes and peppers. Mmmm—tomatoes fresh out of the garden. There is nothing like them.

I like to plant herbs in containers, in nooks and crannies around the yard, and in the salad garden between the vegetable sections. This year I want oregano and a couple of types of basil, dill and mint, Italian parsley and cilantro, some thyme and sage and mint and lavender, plus chamomile and lemon balm for teas. I have to admit that I don’t cook with fresh herbs as much as I probably should, but I love growing them because they’re so fragrant. And they’re infused with so much history. When I pick leaves of thyme and sage and lavender and breathe in their scents, I feel as if I’m part of a long, long line of women who’ve grown and used herbs back to the dawn of time.

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05 Feb An Unordered List

  • I didn’t get to see the occultation of the Pleiades by the gibbous moon on Tuesday night. It was cloudy. Boo hiss clouds. One of the hazards of stargazing.
  • I don’t know how people manage 10,000 steps a day on pedometers. The best I’ve been able to do is about 6,000, and that includes a walk with the doggies.
  • What I am reading right now: The Serpent’s Tale by Ariana Franklin. I loved Mistress of the Art of Death and I love this one, too. The story of “Fair Rosamund” has always intrigued me and I’m willing to suspend all sorts of disbelief to immerse myself in Franklin’s evocative, texture-rich tale.
  • Flat Stanley update: “Flat” is about to conclude his adventures in Texas and return home. Yesterday he helped me glue together a birdhouse.
  • Many thanks to everyone for the congratulations and well-wishes on signing with Fox Literary. Welcome to the new visitors to the blog! It’s up to Barbara now, to make her way in the world.
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03 Feb Seven-League Boots

Seven League (Cowboy) Boots(In my case, of course, they’re cowboy boots.)

There are several big, exciting, seven-league steps a writer takes. One of them is the sudden strike of The Idea. Another is typing “The End.” Another is making that click connection with the perfect agent for you and your work.

I’d already done the first and second, and very satisfying they were, too. This week I took the third giant step. I’m so pleased to be able to say that The Second Duchess and I are now represented by Diana Fox of Fox Literary.


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31 Jan The Skies of February

Here’s my stargazing schedule for the coming month:

February 3rd: the gibbous moon will pass north of the Pleiades, eclipsing (well, the real term is occulting) some of the brightest stars. The dark side of the moon will cover the stars first, and then they will reappear from the moon’s bright side. Pretty cool.

February 9th: the full moon, called the Snow Moon. On that same night, there’ll be a penumbral lunar eclipse, which means the moon will pass through the edge of the Earth’s shadow. Truth be told, you won’t really see anything, but why not watch and imagine?

February 24th: Comet Lulin, a unique two-tailed comet, will reach its peak of brightness. Lulin was discovered in July 2007, and is named for the Lu-lin Observatory on Mt. Front Lu-Lin in Taiwan.

February 27th: the crescent moon and the bright planet Venus will be only a degree and a half apart. I am going to try to take a picture of this. I managed a fair picture of the “sad face” moon-Venus-Jupiter conjunction on December 2nd:

Conjunction of the moon, Venus and Jupiter, December 2, 2008

The crescent of the moon is a little blurry, but as the Broadcasting Legend™ says, 252,000 miles is a pretty long focal length for our little backyard camera. One day I’m going to buy the adapters and gadgets I need to attach the camera to my telescope. Although I don’t really want my stargazing to get too professional. What I love about it the most is the mystery and the history—the sense of millenia of people looking up at the sky and seeing the same things.

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28 Jan Flat Stanley and the Ice Storm

flatstanleyliliesI am going on adventures with Flat Stanley for a very special little girl (you know who you are). Last night we had one of our every-few-years-whether-we-need-them-or-not ice storms, and so of course Flat Stanley had to go out and explore. He found a mass of tiger lily plants with their leaves curled up like tangles of green-and-gold ribbons, spangled with ice.

Fortunately the sun is out and the ice is melting. I’m going to have popcorn for lunch and think up more fun things for Flat Stanley to do. Any ideas?

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27 Jan Freezing Drizzle

The temperature’s just at freezing and dropping, and it’s spitting rain. The doggies come in with little semi-solid icy beads on their coats. They do not approve. Neither do I.

A good day to stay inside, drink coffee, and write. I’ve had a couple of crazy-ish days (crazy in a good way, which I’ll expand on, I hope, in a few days) and I need some time to be alone and sink into the past.

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24 Jan Dreaming

The other night I saw the last scene of my book in a dream. No, really. It was bizarre. I wasn’t acting as one of the characters—I was just hanging in space, observing. (Although come to think of it, I may indeed have been acting as one of the characters.) It was more or less like the ending I’d written, but not quite.

The truly startling thing is that I remembered it, word for word, when I woke up. I wrote it down right away (I keep a flashlight, pencil and notebook beside my bed, having lost far too many middle-of-the-night ideas and dream revelations in the past) and in the morning rewrote the end of the book. The changes are small but, for me, important.

Anybody else dream parts of their writing?