Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Keep asking

"Failure is the path of least persistence."

Yesterday I shopped at a little Valley Junction store that specializes in Iowa-themed items. When my book was first published, this store was near the top of my list of logical places to carry it. I called. I e-mailed. I took my book in to share in person. For whatever reason, the buyer did not think so. I let it go. Obviously, not everybody will think my ideas are great.

So here we are at the same store, more than a year later. As I picked up my packages, I said, "This store would be the perfect place for my book,' and I handed the clerk one of my bookmarks. She said, "Tell me more." I did. I left a copy for her to share with the store owner. By the time I got home, there was an order in my e-mail!

Different day. Different time. Different economy. Woke up on the other side of the bed. I feel like one of my little prairie seeds, given enough time to persist in spite of opposition.

I thank Heart of Iowa Market Place for carrying my book. They're a great store whether they did or not. I just needed to be persistent.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Having faith, sowing hope

Four years ago, some friends began to restore several acres of prairie near their country home. This summer, as we walked the paths they'd cut through their prairie, Big Bluestem waved above our heads, the alien-looking seedpods of Rattlesnake Master peeked out closer to the ground, Yellow and Purple Coneflowers, and Wild Bergamot added bright color to the landscape. My friends urged me to come back this fall and gather seeds to spread in my own prairie. At the time, they didn't know that they would be leaving their prairie behind.

But by the time I went to gather seeds, they were packing their house for a move into town. As I walked through their prairie this time, capturing the seed heads of Sideoats Grama, Compass Plants, and a number of plants I liked but could not identify, I was overtaken, stopped in my tracks, by what I can only describe as homesickness.

My friends leaving their beautiful prairie. The coming winter. The inevitable march of time. I wanted to grab hold and keep it all in place. Hold on to what I know instead of facing the uncertainty of the future. I couldn't, of course, and I walked on, gathering seeds until my hands could hold no more.

This week, I took the seeds from my friends' established prairie and scattered them throughout my beginning prairie. Even with only a few months of prairie restoration experience to my credit, I have faith that some of those seeds will take hold - maybe next year, maybe the year after - and fight their way through the crabgrass to sunlight. My friends' prairie gives me hope for what mine may look like years down the road.

In sowing those seeds, I did what humans have done since the beginning of time, having faith that some action taken now will bear fruit in the future. I am satisfied knowing that a little piece of my friends' prairie will live on in mine.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I geek libraries

I love the new library site that lets you share your passion and lets you see what sends others to their local libraries.

I'm thinking more about libraries because I take to the road again this week - after a summer break - to share stories from and about my memoir. I've been fortunate to have so many libraries ask me to do programs for them. As I've traveled the state, I've seen first hand what vibrant community centers our libraries are.

Libraries are under budget pressure - like everyone else - but they're a community resource that deserves our support. Libraries offer computers and Internet access when many have had to give up that luxury at home. They provide entertainment for free - books and movies you don't have to pay to enjoy. They are a community gathering place, a place for social interaction that may be just what someone who's lost their job needs. All this and more at your local library.

So what do you geek? Log on, have a little fun, share your passion, and find out how you can support your local library.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Here at last!

It was a strange year in our vegetable garden. It didn't help that my husband - the one who usually does the planting - broke his ankle in April, so planting was left to me. This is a task I'm completely capable of, having planted garden every year of my life from age 2 to age 18, and many years since. But that's another story. Then there was the cold weather and the constant rain.

The result was extremes on both ends. Excellent string beans. And wilt that killed the melons, cucumbers and summer squash almost overnight. In the next rows, grew the tastiest sweet corn we've ever eaten. A real roller coaster ride, our garden.

But what we wait every year for - can hardly bear to live another day without - is tomatoes. They just did not mature. Even the cherry tomatoes held off giving us a tiny sweet taste until after August 1.

But they are here now and we are ecstatic. We eat bacon and tomato or peanut butter and tomato sandwiches several times a week. I cut up tomatoes as a side dish to scrambled eggs for breakfast. I canned 36 pints of salsa. Enough, we hope, to last two years. So far, I've canned two dozen quarts of tomatoes. We give tomatoes away.

Tomatoes are Iowa summer for us. And we are in heaven. The tomatoes are here at last!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Even when it's a mess

September 1, another month past in my prairie restoration. The battle against crab grass is lost. In some areas, the seed heads are knee deep. It is quite the mess.

During August, I sought to photograph and identify each new plant I spotted. Most of them were weeds: woolly cupgrass, foxtail, lambsquarter. The partridge peas have been a ray of sunshine. They grow throughout the prairie; the one plant I actually planted in my new space that made it to bloom.

As I've said before, the prairie has caused me to slow down and look close. And this past month, I've looked both close and more widely around our property, identifying prairie plants that exist with no input from me whatsoever. A massive goldenrod dominates a patch of blackeyed susans, a smattering of Greater Lobelia came out of nowhere in an area east of the prairie that turned into a wetland with all the summer rains.

The wetland area is a tangled messy mass of grasses and weeds. But the Greater Lobelia stand out, a beautiful, delicate blue. I can't help but think that's the message of the prairie to me this month. Even though things look like a mess, when I have patience, maybe even when I just leave things alone, something beautiful will come through.