Finding Balance

Good wine does not just happen. The owner of the vineyard must tend to his land and the vines. During the growing season, the amount of sunshine and rainfall helps determine the excellence of the grapes, as does the severity of the winter weather. The harvesting and pressing are crucial factors, and the aging process must be timed just right. Producing a good vintage is an art. When the wine is ready for market, the vintner must find the right distributor. He prays the long-necked bottles will be transported and stored with care, and that wine connoisseurs will enjoy the result of his labor.

In ways, writing is like making wine. The more care a writer takes and the more experience she has – the better the results. A writer needs solitude, but not so much that she grows absolutely dependent upon it – the world around her plays a vital part in the creative process. When the manuscript is finished, the editing begins. More revision makes for a better book. Hopefully the writer finds an agent, publisher and distributor who will take her book to market – it has to be where readers can find it. And of course, the author hopes her book will be read over and over again – that it will find a forever home in public libraries, and on private bookshelves.

Those who enjoy wine need some restraint. All of us know that drinking in excess is not a healthy habit.

And writing? Truth be told, too much time in front of the computer is not good either. When I am deep into a lengthy project, it is easy to get so involved that the book’s world becomes my world. I think about my characters all the time. They take on a life of their own, and if I fail to keep perspective, they could become as important to me as my real time family and friends.

And this is the crux. To reach our full potential in any pursuit – winemaking, writing, painting, cooking, carpentry or whatever – we have to spend time away from our day-to-day lives. . I’ve heard it said that 10,000 hours of practice are necessary  to become proficient at anything. During those 10,000 hours, the danger of ostracizing family and frieds is definitely there.

Is excess involvement ever a good thing?  Some artists argue that “the work” must come first. But hey – of those who truly dedicate themselves to their art – how many have happy home lives, solid marriages, and children who do not feel ignored?

The other day, someone asked me when I would write another book. I want to – I do – but my real world needs a lot of attention right now. I hope that I will soon be able to carve out enough time and make the commitment – I’ve got ideas I could develop – it’s all about finding balance..

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This Garden

Yesterday afternoon,  I filled a tall glass with ice cubes, and poured hot mint tea over top. The crisp pops and snaps made by the fissuring ice sounded like a promise – a refreshing moment soon to be savored. Taking the drink in one hand, I used the other to pull up the latch of the screen door and swing it open. I wanted to enjoy the last half hour of the Saturday sunlight.

My husband had just finished watering our garden and the spicy smell, unique to Yucatan, floated up from the soaked red soil. It swirled around the leafy orange tree where my chair waited. But before settling down, I picked my way around the perimeter to check on the plants’ progress and wellbeing.

Every year I try coaxing a few non-native species to adapt to life in the tropics. The success is spotty. In this hot, humid climate, they struggle – much like many people I know. The magnolia bush has not budded yet this year, but to my surprise, the dusky blue pom-poms on the hydrangea seem to be holding up. They bring forth memories from the garden I knew as a child – my mom had banks of them along one side of our North Vancouver home. The baskets of multi-colored petunias are thriving but the poor tulip – a gift from my daughter – has completely given up. So sad.

Meanwhile the endemics are thriving. Lilies – the deep coral-colored ones, the white with red stripes, and the delicate-looking ones with long skinny white petals are in full bloom. The Desert Rose, Crown of Thorns, and red hibiscus are also flowering at peak this March. The magenta  bougainvillea spilling over the top rim of the high front wall is a prolific marvel of nature. Basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano aloe, lemons, figs and oranges are as delicious as they are pretty.  But the showpieces of our garden are the orchids.

Orchids are amazing, and most of ours have made their home in the branches of the very tree where I sit to drink my tea.

This garden soothes me and helps me put problems into perspective. I vow to spend more time out here. Life is too short to dwell on issues that are (fairly or unfairly) beyond my sphere of influence.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Reinhold Niebuhr

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