What We Nurture in Art and Life Makes All the Difference

“I think of myself as a sort of farmer; I tend the rich soil of troubled children and nurture them as they grow, “ a social worker once said to me when I told her about my dreams of being a writer/farmer.

At the time I had no idea that I would write novels about troubled adults and their children, about burnt over soil and scorched hearts. That social worker awakened a seed already planted in my soul. As March begins the life force of maple trees awakens after a long slumber. The sweet water is a gift to be transformed by human hands into amber treasure. Characters for my novels drip and then flow in—gifts my hands and heart must nurture into sweetness or at least some beginning of redemption. If you cook sap for too long, it can become bitter.

My husband was ready to throw out a bad batch last year, but I convinced him not to. That slight bit of off-ness tasted good to me. It’s how people are—slightly off. It’s how I like my characters. Some people want perfect heroes and perfect sweetness, but I’ve been called to the bittersweet table. All my friends sit here (real and imagined).

When the sweet water is all collected, boiled down and set upon a shelf waiting to be used, it’s nearly time to turn the soil in the garden beds, the stuff hidden beneath the snow in darkness is brought to the light. It’s time to plant the seeds and characters and see what happens.

Some seeds need more help than others. This tests the farmer’s patience. Of course it’s the same with fostering a troubled child or writing a lost character—how much work do you want to do? How much can the reader handle before they throw up their hands. “This character is too troubled. How could anyone ever love and forgive him?”

It’s been said in reviews. “These characters are too flawed.”  But I refuse to dump them into the compost heap. You can’t throw a calling away for ratings. In the world there are too many castaways. Visit a residential home for troubled children or an auction for horses and other poor critters.

I get it though. Suffering is hard to see. Worse still is knowing that our fallen nature is at the core of the world’s suffering no matter how we try to be good. This will never mean that we are supposed to give up.

For all the disappointments in a farmer’s year, we still show up to enjoy the fair in August. We celebrate the animals who are thriving, the huge pumpkins we checked on all summer hoping the deer would not sample them. We love orphan movies and books like Anne of Green Gables because they assure us that, despite the heartache of loss, found families can nurture the better seeds waiting within us to bloom.

In the Christian tradition Lent is a season for reflecting upon our faults and flaws. Not to dive deep into despair, but to learn humility and with this, compassion.

There are always seeds we can nurture on this human, creative journey. Tell me about some of yours.

2 responses to “What We Nurture in Art and Life Makes All the Difference”

  1. I so agree and understand what you are so eloquently telling us. Your title says so much. Your photos are talking about the
    same, using another generation’s calmer tools. You keep up your dreams, they make the seeds grow strong..



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