Writing the Nature Essay

This morning, after I learned that we probably wouldn’t get rain until later in the week, I decided I better water the plants on my deck. In doing so, I found my mind wandering as wildly as the spindly stems of a petunia someone gave me. I thought about all the plants I care for — many of which are gifts and not chosen by me — and my growing sense of responsibility for all living things.

Then Finn dashed into the woods after a squirrel and of course, my mind bent in another direction. While I appreciate the presence of these furry creatures, because any form of life is precious, I am grateful that at least right now these “tomatotarians” are thwarted from our garden.

I say all this to say that when we writers find ourselves in a rut, we do our mind and our body good by writing about nature. Just the simple act of observing a soon-to-unfold trumpet flower is a reward unto itself. And watching those long chive stems drift toward another pot to drop their seeds makes me chuckle. As does hearing the “cheerful, cheerful charmer” of our bluebirds. Starting by just observing what we see in our own little worlds can lead to more universal insights that help our jottings bloom into a true essay.

Mary Oliver’s essay titled “Owls” (from her book Owls and Other Fantasies) is a great example of a short essay that threads the poet’s observations on owls (and other elements of nature) with her own interiority. At the same time, she touches on universal themes when she says: “There is only one world.” And as “excessive” as the roses in the dunes may be, at the sight of them “might we all be struck to the heart and saturated with a simple joy.” Statements such as these speak directly to the reader and connect us with Oliver. Her piece is also noteworthy for her brevity, which is a great lesson for us all.

Enjoy your day, and I hope rain comes your way soon!

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A Very Little Dickens and a LOT of Sun! Day 6

In all the craziness of yesterday, I neglected to mention that one of our stops in Boston yesterday was at the Omni Parker Hotel, the place where Charles Dickens first read The Christmas Carol in America.

Below is a picture of the key to his room (520) where he stayed. While scarce other details exist of his time here, we do know that he consorted with the other Boston-area literati for a few weeks as a special guest of the Saturday Club at the Parker Hotel.

dickens

 

 

 

 

 

Today our travels took us to to Cape Cod, through Plymouth (yes, the Plymouth rock really does exist) and then onto the 1620 site of the first actual Pilgrim landing near present-day Provinceton, Massachusetts. This delightful town, with its requisite fudge and Christmas shop, is a teeny bit touristy but decidedly more chic than the usual beach spot.

It’s full of art museums, walkable streets, and people sporting T-shirts that say: “If my dog doesn’t like you, I probably won’t either.” Needless to say, Jen, our beloved curmudgeon, has already disappeared and Ann, sporting a fashionable new beach hat, is also making her way through the streets.

provincetown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mcmillan pier
A view from MacMillan Pier, back toward town and the Pilgrim Monument, dedicated in 1910.

 

 

 

 

 
As for me, I perched on a bench outside the Public Library, and enjoyed a bit of gelato before moseying inside to capture a shot of the half-replica of the Rose Dorothea Schooner, which is permanently wedged inside and surrounded by bookshelves.

rose dorothea
You’ve heard of ship in a bottle, but how about “ship in a library?” Only in P-town…

 

 

 

 

 
Other literary points of note include the nearby homes of Norman Mailer and poet Mary Oliver. Supposedly, and maybe Jen has found it already, there once was a shack on the beach where Tennessee Williams put the finishing touches on A Streetcar Named Desire and where Marlon Brando auditioned for the part of Stanley.

We’re headed for Connecticut tomorrow so we only have one night in P-town, but we’re delighted to be staying in the most charming B & B of the trip, A Secret Garden Inn. Below is a view from our balcony, where you can hear birdsong, accordion music, and feel the sweet ocean breezes.

secret garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The graciousness of our host, Michael, is best summed up by the handout he gave us when we checked in. “Check-out is no later than 11 a.m. Regretfully, this time is inflexible, as a courtesy to our next guests who are, like you, unique snowflakes…”