I’ve shown up.
This is my second time at a small writing group gathering to learn more about writing ones “Life Story” for their children and grandchildren.
What am I thinking?
What am I doing here?
I’m not a writer.
Who am I kidding?
What is driving me to try this?
I don’t know!
Maybe I can start small, just a short essay, or another blog post.
If I practice, and practice, and practice, and put in my 10,000 hours, could I really become a writer? I don’t even have a burning desire to write. But I enjoy recording the stories of my simple life observations.
There’s only one way to find out if I can write and that is to start, and then to stick with it.
My parents were actually told to not expect much from me by my high school English teacher, Mr. Bruce Robertson. He even cautioned that they shouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t make it to college. More on that another time.
So, the next questions are what to write about? What do I love?
Nature and solitude.
So I’ll start small and close to home.
My quarter acre retreat.
Morning often finds me taking 10 minutes, with my first cup of coffee, outside, observing my garden.
You see, I’m a “dolphin”.
Oh, that’s my chronotype. Dolphins are rare. Let me transition here before I barely get started.
The dolphin chronotype describe me to a T. Dolphins have a hard time waking up. Stick with me here, we’ll get back out in the garden in a minute.
The author of the book The Power of When, Dr. Michael Breus, writes about our chronotypes and recommends that dolphins get exposure to bright light to wake up. If you don’t know your chronotype, I recommend reading the book. You’ll learn more about how you are driven by your innate circadian rhythms. Anyway, this is why I’m in my garden observing nature at its finest.
It is an early fall morning. Not too early, but not mid-morning either. The sun is rising but still low in the sky and the shadows are long as the morning rays strike my California fuchsia from a low eastern angle backlighting the reddish-orange tubular flowers making them appear iridescent.
The critters that share my suburban community are already up and busy.
A single hummingbird visits the early sunlit red flowers. But only one hummer at a time. These tiny colorful birds are territorial and don’t like sharing. Within a short period of time, another swoops in on the one feeding. A high-speed chase ensues. In a flash of color and wings, the two birds are gone.
A few native bees and honey bees are already visiting the same bush. A honey bee lands on the throat of a flower with open anthers and a sticky stigma. It proceeds to climb, wiggle and pull itself into the flower. It disappears into the tube. If you look now, you’d never know there is a full-size honey bee down the tube. I wait for it. The flower begins to jiggle. I tiny bee butt starts to appear. First the black and white stripes, then two long bent golden legs. Finally, a fuzzy body, more legs, and a fuzzy head slide down the stamens. The bee takes flight to its next receptive flower, seeking its reward of a tiny bit of sweet nectar. Payment will be made in full as the bee leaves a bit of pollen behind to fertilize the flowers eggs deep within the bloom.
In the oak behind me, I hear the repetitive rhythmic call of a chick-a-dee. It is echoed by another off in the distance. The crescendo of birds near and far builds like a tuning orchestra.
Simultaneously, I hear a rather loud and shrill scrapping sound. I had heard this exact same sound the other day. When I investigated the source of the grinding and scraping, I found a squirrel sitting on the fence, with a 5-inch section of dry cow bone, like the kind one might buy for their dog. It appeared to be sharpening its teeth on the bone and with each gnawing, this odd bone rattling, tooth grinding sound emanated forth. I startled the squirrel that day and the bone fell into my yard. How in the world did this small critter get this bone up onto the fence? The grinding commenced again this morning as I took another bite of my frittata.
A moment later, a familiar chase sound begins. I turn to look upward to see two common oak tree visitors. With their bushy tails flickering and tiny paws and toenails grabbing at the oak bark, another friendly backyard critter chase begins. The second critter chase of my morning. The sound of the squirrels fast moving claws on the bark is almost like the tinkling of gently falling glass shards as the two playfully chase each other. The chase ends as fast as it started with a leap into the neighbor’s palm tree. A quick flutter of fronds, then nothing, just the gently barely perceptible cool morning breeze.
The warmth of the new dawn on this fall morning begins to evaporate the minuscule amount of morning dew visible on solid surfaces. The dew is only slightly perceptible on the plants with tiny hairs. Native plants survive the long summer dryness in this Mediterranean climate of central California by having tiny leaf surface hairs which are capable of capturing the slightest amount of moisture from the air.
My chickens scratch the ground, rustling through recently fallen oak leaves. These first autumn leaves of the season drift downward to become food for the overwintering soil decomposers.
There is a clanking sound as a tumbling acorn bounces off a solid surface on it’s way to the ground. The magic of that morning sun which heats up and expands a layer of cells in the stem of the acorn just enough for it to separate from its attachment point on the thin twig.
No signs yet of the blue belly or alligator lizards. Later in the day the butterflies and dragonflies will come to visit. The native chaparral sages will release their fresh scent as the day warms.
I will remain blissfully ignorant of the billions of soil microbes, bacteria, fungi, and earthworms busy below my feet.
And then, my peaceful morning is interrupted by the squealing and grinding noise of a circular saw cutting a 2×4. My neighbor’s contractor has arrived. Pulled back to the reality of my day, it is time to start tackling the never-ending to-do list. The rising sun has done its job in so many ways. I’m feeling awake and ready to take on the day.
What a blessing to be able to start my day in nature. Eating my breakfast frittata and drinking my morning cup of coffee.
To my daughters and grandchildren: never stop pausing long enough to notice and love nature.
Comments and suggestions welcomed as I begin, continue and travel into and along this storytelling adventure