Friday, October 15, 2010

Working the Soil

Dear Reader,

For those of us who enjoy gardening, or at least seriously dabble in the subject, fall isn't just harvest time - it's also the beginning of the next year's planting. As trees shed their leaves we dig the soil for the tubers and bulbs that will herald the arrival of spring and the height of summer. Though we've a very small amount of planting space, we spent yesterday evening out in the gusty wind, digging through the leaves and preparing beds. Into our landscape went a hundred Asiatic 'naturalizing' lilies, twenty-five Tigrinum lilies, eighteen alliums, and three peony plants all in the space of an hour and a half of hard digging and clearing. When we lived in Shelbyville, that amount of planting and hard work would have disappeared into the landscape without making a visible impact. The differences between a five acre plot and a few hundred feet of planting space are appreciable.

The parallels between writing and planting have probably been mulled over a hundred-thousand times: seeds of ideas, fertile imagination, and all that kind of stuff. I can see the parallels, they're obvious. The most striking to me, though, is the act of burying something and hoping it will spring into glorious bloom when time and weather are right. The author sends off a manuscript, tucking it into the mail (electronic or otherwise) and it's gone from sight - all that remains is the hope and only time will tell if hope will come to fruition or ruin.

That's the feeling I'm confronted with as I put the final chapters of The Cinder Girl together. With each paragraph I wonder if what I've put together is right and good enough. I fret over putting my hard work in its furrow. There's still the hard work of editing to go, the covering over of the seeds, and after that there will be waiting through the long, harsh cold of submission and rejection. This is where the gardener and the writer must be most alike - both must have faith and patience.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sammy Terry

Dear Reader,

Recently, while searching the web for Halloween paraphernalia, I stumbled on a small piece of my childhood. As a kid I remember wanting to stay up for the late-late show. I believe every town large enough to have a local television station had (or has) a late night purveyor of B-grade horror flicks and in Indianapolis, it was Sammy Terry. He occupied the television schedule from midnight until two or three, filling the time with double features like "The Creature from 50000 Fathoms" and "The Bride of Dracula". It was a mark of manhood when I could outlast my brother in the face of the Creature from the Black Lagoon (I'll always have a soft spot for the scaly fellow for that very reason).

Reminiscing about brotherly torment aside, though, the particular piece of my childhood I encountered was Sammy Terry's MySpace page. I will repeat that - Sammy Terry MySpace. Unfortunately, repetition doesn’t make it seem any more real.

Sammy Terry being on the Internet seems - wrong. Don't get me wrong, I'm far from opposed to the idea. In fact I'm thrilled to see he's still active and has the kitsch sense of humor he always brought to his show. Maybe it's the pixelization of all my old memories that lends a surreal quality to seeing Terry on the web. Cherished things are best viewed in subdued light.

I close my eyes and I'm back in the tiny first-ring suburbia ranch house where I grew up, laying on the shag carpet and listening to Terry's ghoulish laugh. The TV is turned down so that it won't wake the parents as Sammy's coffin creaks open and the devilish MC rises to bid his fans and victims a goooood eeeevening. Then there'd be the send up of the evening's features with a good send up of the first monster to darken the screen. During the intermission between features, George (the chattering and suspiciously rubbery spider that took the role of Terry's co-host) would put in an appearance, reminding Sammy of some pertinent humorous line. Though I'd be asleep half way through the second feature, I wouldn't dare turn the television off. The staying up was the thing.

Years later Elvira, Mistress of the Dark would bring a new look to the late night horror genre but there'll always be something special about Sammy's late night antics. Through his show I saw some of the early masters of the genre and some of the great (and infamous) films of the forty's, fifties, and sixties. The world is a better place for your being in it, Mr. Terry.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

October's Bright Blue Weather

Dear Reader,

Tonight we're going to a weenie roast, or at least our version of one. We'll sit by the fireside with a couple of friends torching a few franks and marshmallows, eating smores and poking the embers, and enjoying the clement weather while it lasts. In the fall I love campfire cookery. It lets me play at being a cattle-drive cookie, tending the cook-fire while the roughnecks are out working the heard and riding along on the chuck wagon to the sound of clinking pans and rattling leaf springs as I cross the untamed prairie. The weenie roast gives all the glory of a fall night by the fireside without need of hardship or horsemanship, what a deal.

A poem for the day.

October's Bright Blue Weather

O SUNS and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October's bright blue weather;

When loud the bumble-bee makes haste,
Belated, thriftless vagrant,
And Golden-Rod is dying fast,
And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

When Gentians roll their fringes tight
To save them for the morning,
And chestnuts fall from satin burrs
Without a sound of warning;

When on the ground red apples lie
In piles like jewels shining,
And redder still on old stone walls
Are leaves of woodbine twining;

When all the lovely wayside things
Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
And in the fields, still green and fair,
Late aftermaths are growing;

When springs run low, and on the brooks,
In idle golden freighting,
Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
Of woods, for winter waiting;

When comrades seek sweet country haunts,
By twos and twos together,
And count like misers, hour by hour,
October's bright blue weather.

O suns and skies and flowers of June,
Count all your boasts together,
Love loveth best of all the year
October's bright blue weather.

Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)