When I started teaching community college, my mentor teacher said, “You don’t know what seeds you are planting, or when they will grow, or how they will grow.” I left teaching for the finca, where I planted squash, peanuts, sunflowers, carrots, lettuce; transplanted sesame and cacao; and harvested bananas and citrus that someone else had nurtured to the point of ripeness. I saw some of my seeds sprout, but many stayed stubbornly under the surface of the soil, waiting for the blazing heat that would return after the rainy season, after I’d already flown home.
Everything having its own season, the relief of spring after the barren cold, the necessity of leaving fields fallow—these are literal and metaphoric truths worn to cliché, and yet, how many of us still slump when the days get shorter, though we have experienced dozens of winters? It’s hard to accept ebbs and flows, maybe all the more in a culture obsessed with inexorable progress—GDP, housing starts, technological innovations; also, population, extinct species, atmospheric CO2.
Writing, too, has its seasons: for observing, ruminating, drafting, polishing, publishing, promoting—and sometimes for nothing at all. I remember a productive senior year at Barnard under the tutelage of Saskia Hamilton, followed by a bone-dry summer leading up to my entry at Mills. A burst of inspiration bringing forth Forever No Lo, line editing, securing readings, and then silence. A couple of years grappling with sped, shopping the manuscript, radical revisions, many rounds of editing, more readings—
And still, despair post-book: that was the last thing in me, I will never write anything as good again, anything I write will only recapitulate or reject the previous manuscript. The only cliché in the cyclical is the repetition itself; the experience remains poignant with each revolution.
So now the pounding rainy season, deafening on the corrugated roof, ends again, and I watch new shoots come up: an excerpt of “California Building” in Quiet Lightning last month, five excerpts this week in Berfrois (many thanks to editor Russell Bennetts for the invite). I promise myself next time I will trust that the seed is working underground though I can’t see how, that I will let it take its time germinating—and for the moment, again, I believe that.
(c) Teresa K. Miller, 2014
* Photo by the author at Finca la Puebla, CR