Roses. And Singing.
I would be very grateful if the dranglefabbing weather gods would (a) STOP SENDING US HARD FRELLING FROSTS and (b) stop ONLY giving us good gardening weather on days I’m rushing around doing other things. Like today. Yesterday was a damp grey unfriendly day that felt colder than it was—but I was out there in the afternoon anyway, planting, ahem, roses*, and looking around nervously for places to put the friends of the one, single, solitary climber I ordered yesterday. There was an evil little wind and just enough rain falling at unpredictable intervals to make you wet if you were out in it** but nothing like enough to do the landscape any good.***
Roses are, at least, hardy†. But we’ve had below freezing temperatures the last two nights—and I had started planting gladiolas. Which are not hardy. But they’re all (I think) up against house walls so they should be okay. Arrrrgh. I’ve got dahlias and begonias and chocolate cosmos all lined up waiting eagerly to go outside. The ones already in pots I am now schlepping back indoors again at night—and meanwhile Hannah is coming this weekend which means the Winter Table has to come down†† whether I’m ready to lose it or not, because we want to be able to get the dropped leaf on the proper kitchen table up so that two of us can sit at it at the same time.††† Tea in the sitting-room is fine. Breakfast, not so much.
Today was a glorious day. It was still cold when I got up so I pottered‡ around drinking tea before I ferried the chocolate cosmos, the dahlias, the begonias, the kalanchoes‡‡ and the geraniums back outdoors again. Then hellhounds and I had a magnificent hurtle . . . and then there was the usual mad Monday scramble of trying to get some work done and some lunch eaten and some warm-up singing accomplished before my voice lesson. . . . I planted one pansy in the brief gap between taking hellhounds back to the cottage for the dog minder to pick them up for their weekly adventure and leaving for my rendezvous with Nadia.
I went in there still brooding about how to think about the performance issue, because while from my perspective an awful lot of where music comes from is where writing comes from, stories don’t need to be performed. The book goes into the reader’s hands and the reader reads it. Yaay. Simple. Music has to be performed, and this usually involves human input in some particular. I’m a professional writer, and I think the genre/literature, grown-up/kiddie face-off is bogus, so I don’t worry much about what rung of the great ladder of immortality I’m on.‡‡‡ But to me there’s this vast chasm between what for want of better terms we’ll call amateur and professional—not that there aren’t great amateurs and calamitous professionals—and I am nowhere on the great ladder of musical immortality. Why shouldn’t I not be able to face performing my pathetic little attempts at singing right after Oisin’s been playing an organ sonata that feels like something I should have been listening to and being evolved into a higher form of life by for the last fifty years? That’s my music, that sonata. Mine. My singing, however, is the dandelion at the foot of the giant sequoia. The lopsided dandelion.
Nadia gets this patient expression on her face when I go in with stuff like this.§ And the thing that’s really embarrassing is that she instantly dropped me in the teacher place. She knows that I’ve taught creative writing a bit—not a lot; little enough that I can forget when it suits me—and never more than a short seminar. I doubt that I’d be anyone’s Nadia§§ over the long term. But I do know a few things about being a teacher: that you cut your student slack for being there and wanting to learn stuff.§§§ That you’re glad to see them there wanting to learn stuff. That you give them huge credit for trying. That you look for the good stuff, so you can say, here, this is good, work from here, expand here,# think about what you were doing here, try to find that space again. You don’t say, you are crap, you don’t know it all yet and you are therefore a lesser mortal, you don’t say, you aren’t good enough. She said, how would you feel, if you were a teacher, and one of your students came in one day and had a cup of tea and a chat and as she was leaving mentioned that she’d brought a story—but she wasn’t going to let you see it? Would you be cross?##
Nadia said, You know, Robin, it’s not lack of talent that’s holding you back at the moment. It’s lack of confidence.
I sang . . . not too badly. I’m kind of getting somewhere with the emotional expressiveness thing. Kind of. And even I can tell that the quality of the noise I’m making has improved.### That positive feedback loop that Nadia talks about is definitely there, and getting stronger, which means that practise at home is less frustrating and more fun.
But . . . well. . . .
* * *
* I seem to have a few left over from last year. Ah. Hmm. The old I’ll-put-you-here-and-deal-with-you-later flimflam referred to yesterday. I had a lot more excuse for not getting around to and/or forgetting things when I had two acres and hundreds of roses. Now my only resort is blaming Menopause Brain. This year my negligence included the discovery of three roses heeled in in Peter’s garden. Oops.
** And to annoy hellhounds, if they were out in it with you
*** And, speaking of the things that the gods could do IF THEY’D STOP PLAYING POKER AND ATTEND TO BUSINESS: please let those odd little scritchy, flappy noises not be even-earlier-this-year-returning thirsty bats seeking redress from drought. Atlas is coming tomorrow to look for any holes he might have missed last year.^ And I’d maybe better fire up the extra-large plant saucers I had dotted about the place for any livestock that wants a drink. More sodblasted things to WATER.
^ And yes, I have ordered the mosquito netting to drape over my bed. Just in case. Except that it isn’t mosquito netting. It’s the stuff you put over your strawberries to keep the birds off. I don’t think the bats will care. It’s the right size, the right mesh, the right price, and it’s sold by a genuine gardening site. Mosquito netting doesn’t seem to bring out the better class of vendor, although I admit I’m a bit fascinated by the sheik-of-Araby romantic fantasy approach.
† Even if I agree with Diane in MN that my eyes got a little wide at what Antique Rose Emporium was offering as ‘extra hardy’. I’m at the wrong house but I’ll have a stroll through my rose book shelves some day soon. If I didn’t divest myself of them when we moved out of the old house^ I have at least two about rose-gardening in major-bloody-winter areas.
^ Yes I even got rid of some ROSE books
†† That which stands over the hellhound crate during the winter, with a green plastic garden sheet over it, to give me somewhere to put the indoor jungle. When winter gets serious, Atlas and I haul most of it up to the green/summerhouse/shed-with-a-grow-light at Third House. But winter never really got serious this year, until about a month ago, so there’s been a lot of bringing-stuff-indoors-at-night, taking-it-out-again-next-morning, and swearing,^ the last few weeks.
^ Gently. So as not to damage my throat.
††† I do keep telling you the living space at the cottage is small.
‡ I should be doing housework. Fortunately Hannah is not easily shocked. And she’s known me for over thirty years.^
^ Bats may be a bridge too far. But we don’t have bats.+
‡‡ http://houseplants.about.com/od/succulentsandcacti/p/Kalanchoe.htm I didn’t discover these till a year or two ago. But they’re wildly tender.
‡‡‡ This is aside from Never Writing the Story as Well as the Story Deserves, but I’m not getting into that tonight or none of us will get any sleep.
§ Have I mentioned (recently) that Nadia isn’t thirty yet? Gods. I’m being mentored by a child.
§§§ I am very very very bad at students who are wasting my time because they don’t want to learn stuff.
# Not necessarily literally. Contrary to popular McKinley belief, some short stories should stay short.
## Might it even hurt your feelings?
### I’m not ready for the Travelling Tiddybumps Opera Troupe^ tryouts yet however.
^ Home made brownies at intermission. It’s why anyone comes. Not for the singing.
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