“It’s gonna be a hot one,” says my neighbor from her yard. She leans on the handle of a garden tool that ends in finger-like claws.
I'm pushing my pink bike past her up the hill.
Biking by her immaculate mobile home is like touring the pages of a landscape magazine. It appears that she’s been stirring wood chips at the base of the maple tree she planted last Fall. Sweat trickles down her tanned face but her eyes sparkle when she asks, “You gonna make it?”
“Hope so,” I pant. “I forgot over Winter how steep this hill is. You think I'll be tough enough to breeze up it again by the end of Summer?”
“Maybe,” she grins.
“Probably see you tonight when I make my rounds again.”
“Yeah, Suppose I’ll be right here, watering all my babies.”
I love to pedal around the neighborhood on my one-speed coaster bike watching my neighbors plant and water, but there’s only so much time in the day. In my life, which I’m starting to realize is finite, I’ve decided to plant words on paper and watch them grow.
I’m grateful for neighbors, and I love watching their yards and gardens grow, but I’m not the landscaping or gardening type, at least not yet. Some women seem to do it all. Garden, decorate, cook, volunteer, nurture award-winning kids, and flourish in a full-time job. Not me, not anymore. I used to work hard at being a supermom. Thankfully, my kids grew up in spite of me, and still want me involved as a grandma in their children’s lives. That’s a privilege I appreciate.
I also appreciate the daily interactions along my path, with neighbors or grandchildren or strangers standing in line at the store, lovely little everyday conversations that maybe won’t change the course of history, but they change my life for the better. Theirs, too, I hope.
Any conversation, no matter how brief, can grow into a story if I allow it to enter my heart. And the people in the conversations sometimes grow and change in my mind over time, spilling out onto paper as fictional characters. They become new creations, imaginary walking talking composites, with fresh new minds all their own. They come alive and interact with each other, while I sit back and watch, wondering what they’ll decide to do next. They often surprise me. Sometimes it even takes my breath away. Those are the moments for which I write, the moments when surprises sprout, and I don’t know yet whether they’ll grow into flowers, vegetables or weeds. Sometimes the weeds are the most beautiful.
I’ll plant them in the best organic soil I can find. I’ll trust that the sun will shine, and I will prayerfully water them with tears. Whether those tears spring from joy, from laughter or from sadness, is yet to be discovered. Regardless, I will water the words and watch them grow. It’s really not that much different from raising children.