Tag Archives: Gardening


what is this?

My vegetable garden has inspired me throughout the years as a writer. Amending the soil, is like enriching the language in revision, or coming up with rich ideas as foundation for story. Planning the garden out, making sure the tallest plants don’t cast shade on the others come mid-summer, is like planning structure. Making sure to plant vegetables and herbs I eat–that’s like making sure everything in a novel has a purpose and serves the existing themes (you really wouldn’t plant celery if you had zero intention of eating celery, right? And you really wouldn’t create a character who didn’t serve the story, right?).

Molepher/Gopher meal

The occasional pest, like gophers, is another painful lesson: for a year I let that gopher live, and that gopher ate everything in my garden (it pulled down my tomato plants, it pulled down my chamomile, my dill, every broccoflower, pea plant, carrot and radish). I couldn’t bear to kill it, but in the end, I had to for the sake of my garden; I had to kill my darlings, as every writer must do. Every year, the garden, in addition to nurturing my body, teaches me a lesson.

molepher evidence

At first, I unleashed one of my wiener dogs (the one with the hunting prowess and loves to roll around in dirt, not the one who doesn’t like to get dirty) to hunt it down. Scarlet the Wiener Dog had a lot of fun pinpointing its location and unearthing its many underground tunnels (did you know that dogs don’t close their eyes when digging underground? She emerged with very irritated eyes):

Scarlet and the molepher

But in the end, it was I, the gardener, who had to take matters into my own hands. Because the wiener dog never actually found the gopher, I set the trap. Writers have to do this, too. We have to take matters into our own hands; we cannot hire a proxy.

Now this year: volunteers. Volunteer plants are plants that grow on their own, without intent, blown in by the wind, or dropped by a bird, or as is most likely the case of mine, it’s mixed into compost that is introduced into the garden before the seed has broken down.

what is this?

I admit: last year, before I got a compost bin, I got rrreal lazy and threw vegetable bits straight into a corner of my garden. So the reality is that this vegetable is likely one that I have eaten before–perhaps it is grey zucchini? Or a melon? I hope it’s summer squash and not winter squash–I’d hate for it to interfere with my triamble squash seeds (as I understand it, two different winter squash plants will cross pollinate and produce seeds that are not “true”).

Now this post is twofold:

  1. I am wondering if one of my dear readers can tell me what this volunteer plant might be (the one pictured above and at the top of this post). Is it a summer squash like I suspect? Perhaps a grey zucchini?
  2. To talk about volunteers as a metaphor for writing.

I wrote the first draft of my novel, and at times it was tedious, like pulling teeth from my characters. Putting words down just to get the words down, in what felt like the most unnatural progression. This part of writing is dreadful; like knowing I’m getting more lost by the minute, like walking into the WRONG part of the forest or getting off the wrong offramp. But I kept going because sometimes you have to put down the shitty words before you get to the good stuff. (I have to believe this, people).

But! When it went WELL–I felt the words flowing. When it went REALLY WELL, I felt delighted and surprised, sometimes even going as far as to laugh out loud. REALLY laugh out loud at what spontaneously appeared; whether in funny dialogue or stunning character action. This did not happen as often as I’d like, but it did happen–and it almost always felt spontaneous. (Here’s the irony: I sit and plan and plan and sit and write and write and plan in order to achieve that moment of spontaneity).

That feeling of spontaneous inspiration? It’s like a volunteer plant. Despite all that actual planning, I didn’t plan for it to exist (though it’s very welcome), and in some way, it feels like it was planted there by the Muse/G*d/Fate/Wind/Bird/Compost. I don’t know what the volunteer inspiration is going to turn out to be, but I let it grow, out of curiosity and delight, and because it FEELS right. And oftentimes, that’s the best part of writing, and the best part of story.

Now I have to nurture the plant, and identify it to make sure that it grows well, and that it fits into the scheme of things. I’m going with it.

What has popped up in your life and writing that was unexpected? And what did you do with it?

And um, what IS my volunteer plant? Do any of you know?


Filed under Gardening, Life, Novel, Revision, Writing

Eliminating Noise

the coast

I am continuing my quest to be good.

Step 1: the elimination of noise.

By noise, I don’t mean all sound, but a particular kind of sound that keeps me from focusing on what I need and want in my life. And by sound, I don’t even mean literal sound, but information that is unnecessary and welcome.

Like FB or twitter: It’s so exhausting–it’s like trying to keep up with a conversation in which I’m not a major player. Do I really need to take part? When I walk away, it’s not like I’m missed; that conversation keeps moving, whether I’m contributing or not.

So I stepped away. I’m managing to step almost entirely away from Facebook and finding myself…happier, lighter, as a result. (But drats that Farm Town–is there a gum I can chew to wean myself off that addiction? I’m not even sure WHY it is I’m so addicted to Farm Town).

Within the realm of FB, I still trimmed down. I pressed “hide” on Facebook at least 50 times. The first time I hit “hide” I felt cruel, then the next few times I hit “hide” I felt crueller, then I felt guilty, and then I felt…relief.

I am beginning to hear my own thoughts again. And that’s important to me as a writer.

And when I logged off, I began to roam the world.

A friend came to town; and with her visit came a new romance with the city in which I live. She had missed San Francisco and Berkeley and I got caught up in a love affair.

We went to 3 museums in 1 day.

First, the Asian Art Museum, where we observed hundreds of Buddhas. This one, titled “Buddha as an Ascetic,” was most different, and therefore to me, most beautiful:
Buddha as an ascetic

He looks like a man, not a deity. I could have a chat with this Buddha. This Buddha looks like he could totally rip a loud fart and then laugh his ass off. I’m on board with that.

We have been friends for a long time. I tend to bond with women who buck tradition. Two lone wolves together:

Reflection of the Shanghai Exhibit and us

At the Academy of Sciences, where we ooh’d and ahhh’d over myriad sea creatures and where I needed a shower after walking through the Rain Forest exhibition, we observed male crotch on display. Awesome, kind of:

in this display: a male crotch

That clam in the picture is there by coincidence. Brilliant coincidence.

And then last but not least, the SFMOMA. Does Michael Jackson have 3 arms, or is that the monkey’s foot?

Michael Jackson has 3 arms

Over a weekend, the hubby and I took a mini roadtrip, during which we encountered this sign at a Taco Bell. Remember, NEVER go through that door late at night because “YOUR LIFE COULD DEPEND ON IT!!”:
awesome sign at Taco Bell

That sign is so melodramatic, I love it. It appeals to the melodramatic Korean in me. Oh, btw, I’m 100% Korean. Thus, 100% melodramatic.

Also, part of me wants to open that door after night. Does it open up to a world of bad gremlins?

There was snow en route to Tahoe:
snow Memorial Day weekend


Isn’t Lake Tahoe beautiful? This is by Cave Rock:

Cave Rock and Lake Tahoe

I wish we’d brought some sort of picnic lunch with us. I could have gazed at this vista for quite some time, with a lobster roll or sandwich or cold fried chicken and a drink in hand. Talk about the elimination of noise, right?  Just looking at this picture eliminates all noise in my brain.

That’s not to say I’ve achieved the elimination of noise; I still have a lot to go until I reach an optimal level.

The elimination of noise does not mean going on a diet. Thus, we ate yum food. A chard and mushroom frittata:
Monday brunch: swiss chard and mushroom frittata

And blueberry pancakes; using fresh blueberries:
Monday brunch: blueberry pancakes

In search of more vistas and sights and experiences, a friend and I headed up for a special visit and tour of Skywalker Ranch. I saw the real lightsabers of Luke Skywalker, and Darth Vader, there. And did you know that there are two different lightsabers for Obi-Wan Kenobi? Now you do. Oh, and I saw Indiana Jones’s hat and whip.

visitor day pass for skywalker ranch

It’s locked down like a fortress; photography limited. All I can say is that it is set in the picturesque Marin landscape, where again, the noise leaves my head because of surroundings like this:
skywalker ranch

Does this mean I’m a country girl and not so much a City girl?

You don’t have to very far to see something cute and funny. This is one of the Wiener Dogs, sleeping on his back, hind paws crossed. Weird.
Scarlet and Ziggy: whose crossed paws?

Meanwhile, the vegetable garden is well underway, albeit delayed by the past cold winter, for the season. That big thing up top left is my french garden sorrel. You know the weird thing about my growing sorrel? I only eat it like, once a year. I really need to eat more sorrel. Its lemony tartness is good. I need to eat more of this sorrel, not only into soup, but this tart.

vegetable garden, mid June 2010

I can’t wait to eat the peas and eggplant and odoriko tomatoes and the triamble squash. We’re devouring the radishes. And using the herbs. I love going out into the garden to gather my dinner. It makes me want a much bigger garden.

Peas in progress. Like embryos.
peapod embryo

Their leaves irritate my skin a little, but I really love pulling radishes out of the ground:
radishes pulled from the garden

And remember that crawfish stock I made? My friend and I used it for a paella this week. I love cooking with friends; I’m the kind of person who, when I play hooky, I spend the day cooking with a friend.


And most importantly, after two months off from exercising (with no reason good enough to serve as a proper excuse), I’m back on the treadmill. It feels good. Why oh why did I stop running regularly?  There are very few things that eliminate noise from my head like running can; every step smashes distraction from my brain.

So–that’s just a few of the things I’ve been doing to be good to myself, to rejuvenate, to eliminate noise.

There are quite a few things I still need to do, but I’m on my way.


Filed under Cooking, Life, Running