Spring Blooms! Tulips, Irises, Penny Guisinger

13 Jun

When I need color most, Maine blooms. And reminds me of a local master of very short prose.

I continue to despair over our ongoing national catastrophe. At the end of April I hit the year mark on a difficult and painful family episode that will continue to unfold, no good news in sight. I’m gritting my teeth through a dry spell in writing life accomplishments—all writerly things I control are in a state of unruly, uncertain making, and those deeply important things I do NOT control aren’t breaking my way. In short: I’m in a funk. Which made me slip quietly away from this blog, social media, much of my usual routine.

As May opened up, I couldn’t see the end of my fog, so I did a lot of sighing and frowning (and, um, ill-advised eating) and kept my head down. Then one morning I looked out my bedroom window to see the first handful of tulip blooms—bright yellow and a shy blush of soft coral-pink. I thought, “Hello and thank you and aren’t you gorgeous.” Then: “Where’s that little book I bought at that workshop…??”

In March, when I and the tulips were still pushing through the final weeks of Maine’s winter, I took a workshop, offered through the Maine Writers and Publishers Association, on writing flash creative nonfiction. I had signed up for it on a whim. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing personal essay or memoir, but I’ve never known how to make a start. I didn’t expect marching orders from a 4-hour session, but if I could buy myself a bit of inspiration in a genre I know little about, that would be well worth the fee.

I’m a scalp-to-toes introvert, which means when I have a morning appointment, I tend to wake up grumpy and get mad while I get ready, and that day was no exception. I do my best to put on a good face and bring the good will when I get there. Fortunately, Penny Guisinger swept into the room in a spirit of cheerfulness and warmth, jokingly complaining about the lack of coffee and the frigid morning, all down-to-earth, approachable, big smile, we’re all just writers, here. I more than got my money’s worth. In fact I did leave with the genesis of marching orders. And something else: Her lovely chapbook of vignettes, Postcards from Here, published by Vine Leaves Press.

Over these last four or five weeks, I’ve rested my worries while pulling weeds around the early, middle, and late spring tulips, then tidying the beds of exploding bearded irises, then bringing the same attention to the delicate unfurling of Siberian irises and baptisia—thrilling me by blooming exactly together, as I’d hoped. And most days I followed up the calm earned in sweat with a few moments of the quiet wonder that comes of reading Guisinger’s tiny, beautiful things.

Blooms are short-lived, so you must feast on them. All day throughout spring and summer, whether outdoors or sitting by a window, my eyes are set on “gobble.” Guisinger’s prose, however, should be tasted. Savored in the small bites she’s plated on every page. Which is how her little book has kept me in such good company through these weeks of mental stillness.

IrisbaptisiaI’m welcoming myself back to the writing life today, a strangely hot Maine Tuesday, bad news still raging nation- and world-wide, family still finding its feet, the last two tiny plots of late tulips shedding their petals just yesterday. Thanks to mother nature’s insistence on pretty, frilly things, and a shining chapbook of word-presents, I’m on the path.

I’ll bring back the Daily Shorty words “Fiction Friday” next week when I review Guisinger’s book. Happy spring-almost-summer, Everyone.

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6 Responses to “Spring Blooms! Tulips, Irises, Penny Guisinger”

  1. cynthia June 13, 2017 at 9:57 PM #

    Fun to hear from you on this Tuesday evening but sorry about the family bit. Congrats again on your Maine Awards finalist placing–surely that deserves a whole post! Beautiful flower shots. I just love tulips. Happy spring-almost-summer to you!

    • Claire Guyton June 14, 2017 at 10:01 AM #

      Thanks Cyn! Tulips are my absolute favorites, just about any variety. They cheer me up like nothing else. I hope the noveling is going well over there at the beach! You must be excited to be only now looking into a long summer….

  2. Robin Follette June 15, 2017 at 9:02 PM #

    Good to see you here again!

    The state of the nation…ugh. That’s be most intelligent thing I can muster on the subject right now. I’ve just come home from three days at our off-grid cabin. Also an introvert, I needed a break from the world. Looking forward to your review of Penny’s book. I missed her when she was in Grand Lake Stream for a reading and hope to attend a workshop with her some day.

    • Claire Guyton June 26, 2017 at 9:39 PM #

      Somehow I missed this comment until just now–sorry about that! Thanks for coming by! Definitely do a workshop with Penny, she really was terrific, both as a master of the craft and a warm, friendly presence.

  3. Sarah June 17, 2017 at 8:54 AM #

    Oh Claire, your gardens are so beautiful! I’ve been right there with you through the depressing Spring slog, and I adore this sentence that captures it so perfectly: “As May opened up, I couldn’t see the end of my fog, so I did a lot of sighing and frowning (and, um, ill-advised eating) and kept my head down.” And all that weeding–I’m a big believer in the curative power of hands in the dirt. So glad we’re both on the sunny side now. Penny Guisinger’s book looks fantastic. I love collections of short form work. Looking forward to your review!

    • Claire Guyton June 26, 2017 at 9:40 PM #

      Thanks, Sarah, somehow missed this comment when you made it, sorry about that. Still a bit foggy here, but much better all around. I guess a little fog keeps me honest…. Very glad we’re both appreciating some sun, now, too!

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