A bit of good news to share with you: I've received word that my book Fiat Flux: The Writings of Wilson R. Bachelor, Nineteenth-Century Country Doctor and Philosopher (Univ. of AR Press, 2013) has won the Booker Worthen Literary Prize. Information about that prize is to be found at The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.
Needless to say, I feel honored (and humbled) by this turn of events. A day before I got this news, I also received an invitation to be an artist in residence at a university in the fall semester, to make presentations about the book. Since I haven't yet received the official appointment letter for that gig, I won't share more details about it here now — but find it interesting that both of these book-related announcements came to me at around the same time this Holy Week.
The photo at the head of the posting is related and unrelated. A few years back, I shared with you all the surprise Steve and I had when we decided no longer to try growing grass in our front yard, and plowed the yard space up to plant monkey grass (i.e., mondo) instead of the conventional grass.
As we turned the soil over, we created, all unknowing, a violet garden instead of a monkey-grass yard. The monkey grass has never rewarded our efforts by growing much at all. Meanwhile, in its place, the front yard is now covered each spring with a glorious carpet of blooming wild violets, which continues as a beautiful green ground cover all summer long after the violets have bloomed.
At the same time, liriope that lines the walkway through the yard and lives in a circle around the huge maple in the front yard is making its way through the sea of violets, so that the green of the violet leaves has interesting counterpoints of liriope all through it. The liriope also blooms with spikes of lavender-colored blossoms, but these appear in fall and not spring.
Variegated Solomon's seal we had planted in one section of the yard is also spreading to form its own sea of green and white within the larger sea of green, and next to it, a wild rose from cuttings we had brought from a country roadside and planted in our back garden has suddenly appeared and is climbing into a yaupon holly on that side of the yard. It has evidently sprung up there after birds ate one of the hips of the rose out back and brought its seeds to the front yard.
As I say, all of this was to a great extent unplanned. It simply happened when we disturbed the soil by plowing under the grass that never wanted to grow in the shade of the large maple tree, and after we replaced it with an obstinate crop of slow-growing monkey grass. And we couldn't be more delighted with the surprising results of our experiment.
I suspect there's some lesson here, and that I'd find it if I looked hard enough — perhaps a lesson about how some of the best things come to us when we least expect or prepare for (or deserve) them. They come as free gifts from the gracious largesse of the Giver and other givers. And it helps to keep our hearts wide open for their appearing, I believe. As it also helps to give and give again to others, since that action on our part is what opens a space in our heart to receive gifts in return . . . .
The photo is a photo of this spring's crop of violets, by the way. Steve took it a few days ago. If you look closely, you'll see spikes of liriope starting to show up among the violets as part of the new spring growth.
Another wild swing of subjects, but, again, perhaps not unrelated to the other parts of this posting: If I may intrude by asking for your prayers and/or supportive thoughts, I'd be very grateful for them. This has been an exceptionally difficult Lenten season for me, for reasons I discussed in a comments thread here recently.
Some time ago, my brother, who's the only one left in addition to me in our nuclear family of origin, ended his marriage of thirty years. The reason he gave for that decision was that he's gay, something that came as a great shock to me, since he had never discussed this with me, nor did I have any inkling at all that he had seen himself as gay from as far back as he can recall — as he now says is the case.
I won't go into a long rigamarole about all of this, except to say that one of the exceedingly painful developments of that announcement on my brother's part (which was understandably painful for his former wife and their four children) was that my brother's four children suddenly chose to break any relationship to Steve and me, as if — I can only divine this, since they have never done us the kindness to discuss this with us — we are somehow responsible for their father's decision, though it came as a complete surprise to us.
And so my request for prayers: the pain of living with my niece's and nephews' decision to sever family ties to Steve and me has proven harder and harder for me to bear, and it has been especially acute this Lenten season. It has been reinforced by a nasty email a cousin of mine, who immediately took their side (it seems there are sides to be taken in this doleful saga, though we've never understood why) as all this brewed up, sent me several days before my 64th birthday.
A cousin of his on the "other" side of his family (that is, the side on which I am not related to him) had died, and I sent him a condolence card. His response was to send me an email informing me that I am nothing like his cousin who had died, nowhere nearly so sweet or so good or so loving, and that I am never to contact him again. This, as I say, in response to a sympathy card to him on the occasion of his loss . . . .
I can't pretend to understand any of this, and I've stopped trying to puzzle it out. The decision to stop trying to understand these malicious, bizarre, and very hurtful family dynamics does not, however, translate into a cessation of the dark thoughts of anguish we have as we toss and turn at night wondering how people can choose to inflict misery on other people, why some people in the world seem to be thrown away by other people, and so forth.
The persistent tossing and turning is beginning to pull me down quite a bit, and my health is beginning to be affected as a result. Hence my request for your prayers and/or thoughts of support . . . with apologies for burdening you with a personal story about my own personal struggles as I keep on living out loud in this blog space.
And a blessed Holy Thursday to readers who have church ties — with equal blessings to all readers of this blog, wherever you are and whatever your belief system.