Monday, May 10, 2010

I hug spotted owls

I just chased a cat off my doorstep after it behaved in a most intolerable manner: it started nibbling on my mint plant. This was after it had already spooked my most regular visitor to the bird feeder, a blue jay who will warily let me get within five feet of it, and whom I've named Gobbler. (He eats a lot.)

I spent yesterday afternoon playing catch-up in my garden, and it was much needed. I usually head out to my containers--we don't have an in-ground garden, merely about a dozen planters Sweetie-Pie has built, discovered or bought--in about mid-February. At that time of year, I mulch, I clear, I dream. I usually get everything organized for some extreme seedling work in March, when I turn stacks of egg cartons into soggy make-shift greenhouses. But this year, I've been so focused on writing that I've neglected the garden.

This is strange for me, because nature is the touchstone of my creative world. From a toddlerhood spent on a farm, believing the animals were just extensions of my family, to a childhood hiking in the woods and falling in love with plants, I loved every living creature. It was hard to be a sensitive kid quite certain that trees were sentient, magical creatures when I lived in a region supported almost entirely by logging, lumber processing and paper mills. It was even harder in the 90s, when the entire West Coast was rocked by clashes between the timber industry and ecology activists. If you've read The Legacy of Luna, Julia Butterfly Hill's story of a tree-sit in this incredibly heated time, you have a sense of the entire region's tension and raw emotion.

I think growing up like that really colored my life. For one, I spent the last ten years fascinated by green progress and activism. I've been in my share of protests and letter-writing campaigns--enough to make me a little bit cynical and a lot exhausted. I'm a composter, gardener, and hankie-user. And when I write, I write things that, obviously or not, refer to nature. For example, "Peace Signs," the piece I keep bragging about, comes out of all the hysteria of those early 90s times. Especially living as close to Eugene as we did, there was a sense that the ecology nuts would do anything to win. They didn't care who they hurt or what collateral damage they inflicted to kick timber industry ass. (Obviously, I'm just describing what I thought I heard and understood as a child. I'm not actually condemning anyone who fights for the environment.) Deep down, I always wondered what would happen if they did--and that story is set in the world of that wonderment.

Another writing issue I have is that when I write about magic, it's usually an earth-based magic. I don't have much interest in other kinds. (Well, okay, unless you're talking about evil blood-magic, drawn out after midnight by the light of candles made from the fat of a hanged man ... bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!) I'm wrapping up the final draft of a story that's about earth-magic users, and I'm loving it. In fact, I love it enough I think I've gotten an idea for another book! Now, if I could just come up with a plot to go with the set-up...

2 comments:

JohnR said...

Thank you for this thoughtful piece (and for the early version of Peace Signs). It strikes close to home less because of the nature connection, but because I'm coming to realize something about myself: when I deconverted out of Mormonism, I didn't just reject conservatism, I rejected dogmatism of any kind. In the facebook/twitter/blogging world, I find it challenging to constantly and publicly question and examine even my cherished liberal values.

Your writing also makes me think of another SF writer, George Orwell. He was a confirmed socialist, but instead of writing against Fascism, the great enemy of his day, his great works (Animal Farm and 1984 are the two that come to mind) were a wondering of what would happen if his radical colleagues successfully reshaped the world in their image. I guess there's some risk involved--he was ostracized by his fellow socialists for much of his life, for this reason.

Miriam S. Forster said...

Finding settings is so much fun isn't it? But hugging spotted owls sounds painful...