A Summer of Very Little Growth

The photo shows me with our this year's beetroot harvest - the whole of it!

The carrots did slightly better, I'm pleased to say. We have some green beans. The onion harvest wasn't bad at all. The potatoes were pretty much a disaster...

This is no reflection on my partner, Paul, who did most of the work and is an experienced gardener of many years' standing (and kneeling). The fault lay with the weather, and I know that many vegetable gardeners all over the UK this year (and possibly beyond) have had similar crop failures. Thank God that we can afford to buy instead from greengrocers, markets and so on. Although the quality may well be inferior and we'll have to spend more, we won't exactly starve. It's much harder for the farmers and others who grow food for a living... and of course the problems in some places overseas put our disappointments firmly in their place.

It's been that sort of summer all round for me. I started full of optimism, working on several different books, all at various stages of being written and revised. Ground dug over, seeds sown, green shoots appearing everywhere. And then the rain began. Or in my case, my Dad died. I've spent the summer trying to deal with that, both the practical ramifications and the sense of loss. Yes, he was old (nearly 89), and it had been half-anticipated for some time. But you never really expect someone close to you to die - or you are never truly prepared for it.

For weeks, since Dad's funeral, I've been sorting through his things and clearing out his house in Pontefract - the home I grew up in, from the age of six. It's almost done now, and the house is about to go on the market. I drove away from there yesterday morning, heading south for home, with a strange sense of dislocation and a huge sense of guilt. Not just the guilt that you tend to feel when someone you loved very much dies - the 'if only I'd done/said/not done/not said...' feeling - but guilt from knowing that I have achieved very little else this summer. I'm lucky not to have a 'proper' job - or I'd have had to struggle on somehow. I've done a bit of proofreading, but I've done very little (make that almost no!) actual writing. I've mulled things over, I've made a few plans, and I chanced upon a wonderful discovery on holiday in Brittany for the setting for one of my books. But I haven't written any of the actual words, sentences and paragraphs that go to make up a novel.

Not since June, when Dad died...

I know I have to start again soon, after this summer's failed harvest - but I can feel myself resisting it with every ounce of energy I've got.

Why? Perhaps it's fear. Fear of sowing more seeds - what if next year's harvest fails too? What if I get all tied up in a new book and then something else bad happens? Superstitions, irrational fears - these things surge up in many of us, I think, at times of shock and grief. And there's the biggest fear of all - what if I never write again?

I will, of course. But please hold me to that. I'll give you a progress report next month - when I hope to be holding in my hand something better than a single straggly beetroot stem.

Best wishes

Rosalie Warren web page
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Sheridan Winn said…
I'm so sorry to hear about your father, Ros. A sad time for you.

21st September was the equinox and the end of the shamanic year (in Native American tradition). As harvest comes to an end, this is the time when we reflect on the past year.

Within the Medicine Wheel, tradition has it that you write down four sets of things for the Festival of the West.

The first sums up your year and reflects on the things that 'have grown corn'- the successes. This list you keep.

The second is a list of things have have not grown corn, which can be discarded. This you burn.

The third lists the resources you must set by tocarry you through the winter months. In your case, I would suggest rest and reflection: you've had a tough year. Winter is the time for introspection.

The fourth list has the things you want to yield corn by the time of next year's harvest. This list you plant in the soil.

Go gently - the words will come when they are ready.

madwippitt said…
Sending sympathies: no matter how exected a loss is, you are never, everready for the reality of it. Take time for yourself. But find something to potter with too. When I lost my partner I was in the middle of a commissioned book. My editor gave me an extension on the deadline - but nevertheless I still had to meet it. Having to get up and produce a certain number of words each day was actually helpful and meant I could lose myself in a different place for a few hours each day before having to face reality again. A sort of respite if you like. If the current project is too difficult, then why not start something new and different?

Secondly - beetroot and potatoes have been my only successes this year - so your carrots sound good! Not a single seedling of mine appeared and home grown taste so much beter.

I do identify with your post and send you my sympathy. And find Sheri's comments very comforting too. Fourteen years after my mum died, thirteen years after the house was finally emptied and sold, I still find myself in the nearby small town where mum and dad lived, wishing that I could drive up the hill and just have a cup of tea with them. It doesn't happen too often now and the feeling isn't so sharp - but it always seems to happen when I'm tired or stressed - and often in the autumn. Our yoga teacher talks about the need to 'ground' yourself in the autumn, and I know what she means! You will write again, but you need time. And to go easy on yourself. There's a lovely gentle book called Transitions by an American author called William Bridges - a friend recommended it to me. It's about change and giving yourself permission to feel what you need to feel during times of change.
Rosalie Warren said…
Thank you all for your kind and thoughtful comments. I love Sheri's 'lists' and will try them. 'Transitions' sounds good, too.

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