For the next few weeks, we are sharing writing that happened during AWA’s weeklong marathon of writing workshops, Write Around the World. This is one way we are celebrating the AWA-certified workshop leaders & writers who joined together to raise money in support of AWA. Thank you to those who shared their voices in each workshop and especially to those who have offered their words to be shared in this space. If you’re inspired by our work and would like to be part of the fundraiser, please donate!
Writing from Summer Hardinge’s workshop in Maryland
The silence of falling snow
coating nature in bleached dust
trickling like cotton balls
onto thirsty earth.
Sounds of humanity muffled,
leaving only the catcalls of birds and cows bellowing.
Children’s stolen glances, hidden words,
softly uttered in a hiding place.
Camouflaged hideouts discovered
causing humans to pause.
Snow covered mountains can wait.
Nurture trumps desire.
Quiet overpowers the senses,
ears hear only silence,
save for the survivors
braving the cold and damp.
Peace and protection reign.
The chicks, so close to fledging
are too big for their nests.
Curled in tight pairs, testing
the strength of each thatch
of twigs, the long feathers spill,
jut out at awkward angles.
And the squalling! Raspy chorus
of adolescent demands, parents
darting to the pond’s edge
transferring fat bugs
beak to beak, earning
only a moment of quiet.
The herons and egrets
raise their young together
in the same tree, this stand
of poplar and birch looking
like a grove of gnarled
hands, each knuckle swollen.
It is March, still chilly.
By April these overstuffed
nests will be empty,
budding trees leafed out,
concealing knotted limbs,
Garden-wise, my father is an adder-to, not a taker-away-from. He nurtures and reveres all things green. Even things that are not green now, but might aspire to be, given more love and attention.
I am trying to come to terms with this. To see the positive, even when I’m out there sweating, swallowing bugs, watching the time until I can go in and shower – it had better be soon, because I’m pretty sure that was poison ivy that just grazed my wrist.
There is one weed in particular that will surely be my end. I will be found someday, prostrate beneath it, pinned to the layered mulch by its hungry vines. Someone told me it’s called morning glory.
“That’s not morning glory,” my dad says, wheelbarrowing past. I am panting and dripping, losing my fight with this predatory thing. He’s got something in the wheelbarrow’s maw, and I know he’s going to rake away mulch to plant that thing somewhere, leaving the ground around naked – laid bare to the threat of invaders. “This is morning glory,” he says, as he plants a small one by the back gate. He tucks it into its rich bed, draws up the covers with tenderness.
As my father’s plant grows, it devours everything around it. It envelops the roses, wraps itself around the fenceposts. I think it may head for the trees next. It looks just like my nemesis. It gives me chills.
“You should see it when it flowers,” he says. “Just wait.” I grit my teeth, swat a gnat on my neck, and go back to pulling. When dad goes back to Florida for the winter, I’ll have to dig that thing up.
I was going to do exactly that, this morning, before the rain began. And yet, these flowers have appeared, out of nowhere. They are a blue that defies description. An unreal blue. A color from dreams – from wishes. I took a picture of the flowers for my father, but I guess he already knows about them.
We have decided not to cut the small branch which juts from the mammoth Oak in the back yard. To the eye, it seems it resists the rule of thirds, having grown an unruly third leg or gangly extra arm. I resist to take a ladder, climb it with intent, and hack off the protruding branch.
For here is where the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds perch, after flitting from feeder to feeder along the woods, venturing to our neighbor’s feathery River birches, zooming back to our pink Dogwoods, taking momentary rest in the graceful chocolate leaves of the Ninebarks, only to zoom back to their favorite Oak branch thrilling a rich song. From this queen-like throne, I imagine they can purvey our entire yard.
Here too is where the baby’s swing hung as our children came and grew. The tree and its branch marked the girls’ growth from infants, to toddlers, and to adolescents: from a secure red bucket seat, to a narrow blue rubber seat which smiled in a U shape, to later just a knotty rope. We can’t bear to cut the branch, for under it, the girls built fairy houses, picnicked, and sang to the dog.
Our neighbors want to cut down the Fire Bushes between our houses which turn scarlet in the fall. But the bushes are named for fire after all, and they will blaze out in Autumn and persist in the next Spring, sprouting from old wood.
My father once cut a branch of our sweet Cherry tree where a Mockingbird sang and woke my parents in the dawn. But the bird found a new perch and persisted singing, until Daddy shot it—the only thing he ever killed, and was sick for weeks. In Summer, the Cherry still leafed out. Its ripe burgundy colored cherries hung in pendulums, and the Blackbirds descended to rob our tree of its fruit.
Snow descends and blossoms rain down. Seasons make choices, too.
The Mountain Side
The two lane road leads to the log cabin, tucked among the tall pine trees. The needles are scattered on the driveway, like a warm, welcome mat.
The door opens revealing a massive fireplace, displaying a “roaring” flame; providing immediate warmth.
Snow begins to fall. Hillside views from inside, tease you to step outside on the porch.
A landscape from an Andrew Wyeth painting appears. The dull grays, burnt umber and sienna are in contrast to the falling white snow. Barns are seen in the distance, portraying a still, haunting, winter scene.
A flock of birds fly overhead, causing you to look upward, to see their flapping wings propel them to their destination.
The chimney smoke stagnates in the air, pushing upward in soft plumes.
Nature at its finest, in dull monochromatic tones is a masterpiece that awakens your senses toward simple things.