My violets are blooming their heads off right now. I think they love this south-facing window, which is immediately to my left as I sit here and type.
In The Flower Reader, white violets symbolize Mary Livingston, one of Mary Queen of Scots’ “Four Maries” and a good friend to my heroine Rinette Leslie:
Mary Livingston took my hands in hers. She had warm, strong hands. I felt a sense of white violets about her, simple and joyous, although with the deep purple of mourning in the center hinting at darkness to come.
Mary Livingston did have sorrow to come in her life. After Queen Mary was forced to abdicate (and fled to England, with disastrous results), she was accused of hiding away some of the queen’s jewels and fine clothing. Her husband was imprisoned and Mary Livingston herself was interrogated and threatened. Later a grant of land the queen had made to Mary and her husband John Sempill was nullified; John Sempill fought strenuously against this injustice and ended up imprisoned, tortured with the boot, and sentenced to death. A broken man, he was allowed to go home to die.
In the end, Queen Mary’s son James VI and I restored the disputed land to the widowed Mary Livingston. She last appears in the historical record in 1592, but the exact date of her death is unknown.
I’ve made a big change in my schedule this past week, and it’s turned out to be a whole-life transformation. Isn’t it funny how small things can make such big changes?
Anyway. I’ve moved my writing time to first thing in the morning. I get up, let the doggies out, make my coffee, and start to write. Period. No email, no news, no journal, no morning pages (sorry, Julia Cameron)—just coffee and writing, pure and simple. I am a natural morning person and the Broadcasting Legend™ isn’t, so I even have solitude, with the sunrise gradually lightening my south-facing windows, coffee steaming and doggies curled up on their pillows behind me. I’ve been working till I get to five pages or ten o’clock, whichever comes first. And then, amazingly, I am free. I can manage everything else in the course of the day, because my real work is done and no matter what else happens, I have achieved something important (well, important to me) for that one unique, irreplaceable day in my life.
I know it sounds ridiculously trivial, but for me it’s been a revelation. It is such an enormous relief to have my work done and the rest of the day stretching out enticingly before me. Do I sometimes do more writing (or particularly research and editing) in the course of the day? Why yes, I do. But only because I want to. If I want to take a nap instead (with Nigella Lawson or Ina Garten rambling soothingly about food in the background) I am utterly free to do it.
What special rituals seem to make your creativity work for you?
In other news of the week: Cressie has also experienced a transformation—into a tri-color predator extraordinaire. This week she added a rabbit and another squirrel to her list of victims. You do not want to know the details.
I am reading Great Maria by Cecelia Holland. For about the leventy-leventh time, but I love this book so much and it is out in a beautiful new edition from Sourcebooks. If you haven’t read it, please put it on your list. You will not be sorry.
I am making a lovely pan of Mexican Lasagna this week, since the Broadcasting Legend™ is going to be out of town and I’m free to eat casseroles every night of the week. (I love casseroles. The BL™ is a large-recognizable-piece-of-meat man.) I take the wonderful chili I wrote about last week, layer it with plain, lightly oven-toasted corn tortillas (the toasting makes a huge difference in the flavor) and a mixture of colby cheddar, monterey jack, and queso fresco tossed with lots of Mexican spices. Then I bake the whole thing till it’s brown and melty and crunchy around the edges. The corners are my favorite pieces.
And finally, did you see the story of Paris Japonica, the white flower that has been determined to have the longest genome ever discovered—fifty times longer than the genome for a human being? Can you imagine what my floromancer heroine Rinette would make of that? Unfortunately I can’t put Paris Japonica into The Silver Casket, because it’s a native of Japan and would have been outside the ken of anyone in sixteenth-century Scotland or France. But! Paris Japonica has a relative called Paris Quadrifolia, known to folklore as Herb Paris or True-Lover’s Knot, and that plant might indeed have been found in damp and shady places along Aberdeenshire streams. Rinette wouldn’t know about genomes, of course, but with her uncanny affinity for flowers she might sense something unusual about Herb Paris. I’ve already worked out just what part this enigmatic plant is going to play in the story…
See you next week!
Last year we were amazed when a red Hurricane Lily popped up out of nowhere in our front garden. “Come back next year and bring some friends,” we cried. Well, ask and you shall receive. Yesterday afternoon we discovered an incredibly gorgeous orange double lily (still researching to find an actual name for it) right next to the spot where the Hurricane Lily appeared last year. We’re delighted but a little spooked—where are all these beautiful and exotic lilies coming from? And what do they mean? See the Photo Page for pictures.
I know I said I was going to end my backyard adventures for the time being, but I can’t resist one more rose. This is the first full-blown blossom on our new “Double Delight” bush. Ours seems more yellow-and-fuchsia than cream-and-scarlet as it appears on the David Austin website, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. The scent is classic rose—not terribly strong but then the bush is next to the Pink Peggies, which have a magnificent and sometimes overpowering lemony-rosy scent. So you have to tuck your nose right down into the center of the Double Delight petals to get the true effect of its scent.
Yesterday we introduced one of the darling two-year-old twin boys from across the street to the rosebushes. He was enthralled, and grasped big handfuls of petals (fortunately from one of the Neon Red bushes, which was covered with blossoms and could afford to spare a few) to offer to all of us as presents. I demonstrated throwing the petals into the air (“It was roses, roses, all the way…”) and he joined in with great enthusiasm. Why do moments like that always happen when there’s no camera close at hand?
Remember last January when I wrote about the two new rose bushes we’d ordered? Well, after some uncertain moments during our cold, wet spring, little “Scentimental” has come through with flying colors. Here’s its very first bloom:
Incredibly fragrant, as one would expect from its name. Heh. Of course I couldn’t help expecting the scent of peppermint, but what it is, for me at least, is an intense, classic old-fashioned “rose” scent. Heavenly.
And I will end this series of back-yard adventures with this:
…because whenever one is in our back yard, there’s always a beagle observing!
It’s a good year for roses, it seems, in east Texas. Here are some more rose pictures from our back forty:
These are what we call the “Pink Peggies.” They were a wedding gift from my dear mother Miss Peggie, and meant to be white—but when the bare-root bushes were planted and nurtured and started to bloom that first year, lo and behold they were pink. Much correspondence with David Austin Roses ensued. The true identity of the pink roses was never ascertained, which is how they came to be called the Pink Peggies.
The following year we received a trio of replacement plants, and these were indeed the beautiful white “Winchester Cathedral” variety Miss Peggie had originally chosen. At the moment they are just quivering on the cusp of blossoming—look at those dozens and dozens of buds! Later on I’ll post some pictures of the actual blooms.
Now back to sixteenth-century Scotland, and the flowers there…