Growing Ideas

As I sit down to write today, my fingers and hands look like they’ve seen a war. Small festering prickles are embedded here and there, my nails are blackened and broken, and I have defensive wounds on my forearms. My beautiful thorny rosebush attacked me last night and while I did manage to cut it back, so that I can paint my house, it made some slices of its own. I was wearing heavy-duty work gloves and its spiny thorns still got through.
 
When I told my son to be careful around the rosebush because “it’s very mean,” he shook his head. “It’s not mean, Mom. It’s just misunderstood.”   Cheeky kid. At least I know he listens to me sometimes. A little while later though, after a too self-assured brush against the plant, he decided I was right.
 
The rosebush made me realize something about the famous fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty. It had to be written by a gardener, one familiar with fighting mighty rosebushes, because only one so blessed (cursed?!) could understand just how adequately a rosebush left to its own devices could protect a tower and persuade any would-be heroes to seek easier rescues.
 
Other stories inspired by humans’ passion for (or struggle with!) growing things came to me.
 
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Aside from the pure magic of discovering a hidden garden to play in, the children who seek refuge there find healing and rejuvenation. So much so that it almost escapes the reader’s attention:  that place of new growth and life was also the starting place of all young Colin’s woes, the place that killed his mother and brought death, pain and estrangement into the family.  
 
Beatrix Potter’s hilarious tales of bratty Peter Rabbit, his kin, and neighbouring animal folk. I can’t help but wonder if she had to protect her cabbages from some bunny—too cute to resist being charmed by, too annoying to quite quell the desire to stick him in a pie via Mr. McGregor.
 
Ideas for my columns (nature-based or not) often sprout while I’m working outside, and last spring, after cleaning out a flowerbed, I penned (okay, I typed, but honestly, doesn’t penned sound more romantic?) my own tale inspired by digging in the dirt, “Wishful,” in which a woman is enjoying a lovely day and wishes things would never change. I guess I wanted to explore the truth in the adage, “Be careful what you wish for.”  In any event, I won’t ever look at the little faces in pansies quite the same way ever again.

Noelle, the main character in my novel SPOONS, shares my passion for dirt and flowers, and it’s laboring in a garden that gives her a renewed knowledge of herself and her strengths, plus the hope and vigor she needs to work on her marriage.  

 
I don’t know what it is about yard work that cultivates ideas, but that kind of labour definitely fertilizes the mind—and not just the writer’s muse either.  
 
Toiling in my yard, contemplating the growth and flowers (or lack thereof) of various plants, I make plans for summer, go over things I need to accomplish in the week, and ponder my relationships with my kids, husband, family, and friends.
 
Some of my best brainstorming sessions—for work, for writing, for house and home projects—occur with clippers or a rake, not a pen, in my hand. Problems too, imagined or not, get worked out alongside my muscles
 
Stress, angst, worry . . . all those negative energy zappers disappear as I help my plants move out of their winter garb, shed spring excitement that’s burst forth in go-no-where energy stealers—the plants’ own suckers and shoots—and get ready for summer growth and maturity.
 
I know that comparing garden growth to personal growth is an oft-used metaphor, but as with many things that get overused, it’s used a lot because people feel its truth. Seeing how things change season through season, watching how the tiniest seed grows into the most profuse plant, marvelling at how the “deadest” branch comes to life when the time and conditions are right is inspiring.
 
I was the one being cheeky earlier when I said my rosebush was mean—I was feeling guilty for pruning the beautiful thing back so vehemently. I deserve my scars. Really, I’m in awe of its warrior-self that in a few more weeks will be topped with the showiest, soft-as-velvet blooms you can imagine, and I’m already anticipating its heavy, delicious scent carrying in the warm evening air. My mind finds peace and inspiration in the same slivers and blisters that make my fingers and hands seem like they’ve done battle.
 
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This column is another blast from the past. Written with my wounded hands in May 2009, I reread it recently and wanted to reshare because rose bushes are heavy on my mind again for several reasons, some being: It’s finally warm enough to be out in the garden again, and I have three new bushes I want to plant reserved for me at The Spotted Horse. I lost a beloved bush in our brutal winter this year. I have no idea where my good gloves are and I need them. . . .
 

Don’t miss out this Thursday, April 20!

It’s definitely starting to feel FUN to be out and about during the evening now, not like a chore. Yay, spring! Yay, light! And on that note . . . I hope you’ll sneak away from your busy life and join me at the Terrace Public Library this Thursday night. Sarah, Norma, and Carol are not to be missed. It’s going to be a great night. See you there! 🙂

Kick off the merry month with free books!

I love December for many reasons–including that for the whole month, there’s pretty snow falling across my blog. 🙂 (Seriously, it’s one of my favorite WordPress features, LOL.)

Adding to the fun this year, to celebrate winter and the holiday season–and a love of reading, in general–I’ve teamed up with more than 150 fantastic romance authors to give away a huge collection of novels, PLUS over $1,000 in prizes! You can download my novel ONE TO KEEP for free, plus books from authors like Marie Force, Zara Keane, Victoria Pinder, Ciara Knight, Mary Jo Putney–and too many more great ones to mention. Enter the giveaway by clicking here: http://bit.ly/christmas-rom

Best of luck and enjoy a whole lot of cozy-on-the-couch reading this winter!

christmas-romance-2016-bishop-ev

A Wet Summer Lesson

Photo by Markus Reinhardt

Photo by Markus Reinhardt

The following ran as my July 27, 2016 Just a Thought column in the Terrace Standard. Because I’ve been distracted by wonderful things this summer (namely my new grandson 🙂 and my whopping 25th wedding anniversary), it was a reprint of something I wrote in July 2012 . . . and while the weather right now is glorious, hot, sunny and perfect, and I haven’t complained about it a bit, the words still resonate with me. I hope you like them too. Enjoy! 

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I’m guilty of complaining about the weather this year.  I can’t help it—it’s been so blah and wet the past few weeks. And when the leaden sky opens and pours buckets and the cold wind kicks up, I know I’m not the only one to bellyache. I’ve heard you!  
 
A couple of events challenged my negativity.  The first involved a plastic tote of gravel. I was at friend’s house and she came up with the notion that we should craft hot pan mats out of rock and canvas like material. We’d both seen similar done with agates, shiny black stones, etc., and thought, Why not? It could turn out really cool.  
 
She got her son to get a load of gravel from the back of their property. Surveying the dusty gray rocks, we started to second-guess the genius of our inspiration.  
 
“They probably look better wet,” she said a bit dubiously.  
 
I can hardly explain how surprised I was as we washed our rock collection only to have every single blah pebble turn a brilliant colour—purple, green, coppery brown, speckled black and whites, pale peach—it was amazing.
 
Something about the extreme beauty in something so plain and easily overlooked as the gravel that lies alongside ditches really struck me. Before I could commence gluing, I had to take before and after pictures of the rocks, so I would remember the difference looking at the stones another way made. 
 
Then one evening I took a walk with one of my sisters. It was almost dry—we thought were safe. And then when it would take as long to walk back to the car as it would to finish our walk, it started to drizzle. And then pour! It was exactly like someone had turned on a shower full blast. The water soaked our hair and jackets, ran in rivers behind our ears and down our necks. We looked at each other and had to laugh. 
 
The streetlights came on and reflections of the beams—warm yellow circles—shimmered up at us from the glimmering pools of water on the black cement. The clouds were a kaleidoscope of every shade of gray, from soft and light, the colour of dove belly, to sooty almost black—as they crept and sped and turned and bumped across the sky.   
 
And then I walked another night with one of my other sisters, around 10:00 p.m.  It had rained hard all day and the sky actually seemed lighter with the approaching night than it had in the afternoon. Above the deep green wall of trees beside us, the clouds, as if to prove that the sun was really in the sky somewhere, were opalescent—silvery with deep, glowing pink edges that gradually faded out into a soft purple hue.  
 
As we oohed about how gorgeous it was, my sister laughed and said something to the effect of, “And here everybody’s been complaining about how awful it a day it was, and we were just being impatient. It’s completely beautiful.”  
 
And here’s the thing I realized, true about rainy walks, gravel-turned-glorious and many other things: often what we see and feel has little to do with what’s actually right in front of us. Scenery and situations are coloured by mood, by expectations, by past experiences, and sometimes we just need to look at the exact same things slightly differently to appreciate them.   
 
I won’t make any promises to stop lamenting the lack of sun this July, but I will try to get out, consider the present without comparing it to some other moment, and open my eyes to the beauty that’s everywhere.

Huge KOBO book sale!

Calling KOBO readers!

Hello and happy (sunny!) Thursday greetings,

I just wanted to pop up a quick note for all KOBO readers. Kobo’s having a huge sale to celebrate the first week of summer. Hooray! For just a few days, a huge percentage of their stock is 50% off, including each of my River’s Sigh B & B novels and Bigger Things. Load your summer reads now–and please spread the word. Click this link to get shopping! 🙂

Wishing you a wonderful weekend (Come on, let me have it — it’s almost the weekend, after all) and, of course, happy reading!

~Ev

 

Kindness Matters

"Representation of Kindness " Photo by Moyan Brenn

“Representation of Kindness” Photo by Moyan Brenn

I’m ashamed to admit that kindness used to be way down on the list of what I valued as a character trait in myself and in others. Actually, it didn’t place at all. Sometimes I’d even scoff at people I dubbed (as if it were the worst of all things to be) “nice.” I thought intellectual ability mattered more. Or work ethic. Or strength of conviction. Or sense of humor. Or, or, or . . . so many things.

 
I no longer feel that way. In fact, the older I get, the more stridently I believe the reverse is true. That at the end of the day, at the end of all our accomplishments, struggles, learned lessons and journeys, only kindness—how we treated other people—will matter.
 
It’s important to look back at what has shaped you (and continues to shape you), to consider where you’re at presently—and to contemplate what you might want to change in the future. And when thinking on said topics, I’m always struck by two truths:  
 
1) The things that molded me most for the positive, that helped me mature, survive hard times, endure pain, find joy . . . have been the kind actions and words of people—some of whom were completely oblivious to the huge help their kindnesses, big or small, were.
 
2) The things that damaged me, that I still find myself having to work through (usually just after I’ve thought something like, “Ah, phew. I’ve finally dealt with all my crap and put it behind me”), were, well, to put it mildly: unkind things.  
 
Realizing that—that more than any class I’ve taken, lecture I’ve attended, or book I’ve read, I have been changed by role models, friends, and kind strangers—was (is!) a huge challenge to me. Am I someone who positively affects the world around me, or am I someone who poisons the atmosphere with the things I say and do?  
 
There’s a piece of wisdom, quoted by and attributed to many, but first coined by Carl W. Buehner, “They may forget what you said—but they will never forget how you made them feel.” I’ve found it true in every facet of life.

I think our problem with “kindness” is that it gets a bad rap; we’re confused about what it is. People, using “being kind” as their defence, let all sorts of shoddy behaviour slip by—and we see that and think, Not me. I won’t be that abused, co-dependent, taken for a ride sucker. I’d rather be a bitch, thank you very much.
 
But kindness isn’t being a doormat or letting everyone use you. In fact, martyr-types often hurt those around them, because they’re bitter, angry, sad, confused people, and they lash out in subtle but poisonous ways. Kindness sets boundaries, just doesn’t build walls.
 
True kindness is saying I value myself—and I value you. I need to be me, and I respect that you’re you. You are possibly quite different than me—but you’re equally of worth. Really believing that will affect how you treat and relate to other people. It can’t not.
 
It’s more than just a “live and let live attitude” though; it’s trying to live the best you can, with passion, with joy, with healing, with hope—and helping others do that too, via politeness, words of encouragement and cheer, and actions that speak louder than words.
 
Sometimes being kind is difficult, requiring great self-control and self-discipline. Other times, kindness just seems to flow. Either way, whether it comes naturally or feels like a sacrifice, kindness has an effect. And it matters.
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“Kindness Matters” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, February January 24, 2016, as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”  It’s part of a theme I want to explore in 2016—“Things I want my children (and future grandchildren) to know.” If you missed January’s, you can read it here: What Do You Know?

 

One To Keep by Ev Bishop – yours free!

EvBishop_OneToKeep_1400pxHappy news for all my newsletter subscribers, new and old, plus any and all River’s Sigh B & B fans. 🙂  New Year’s Resolution: ONE TO KEEP, a holiday novella, set in River’s Sigh B & B, is coming out to help you celebrate this winter – or hide from it. 🙂

ONE TO KEEP hits digital sale shelves December 15, but to thank all you who read my books and subscribe to my newsletter, I’ll be giving it to you as a free gift and sneak preview early December, so watch your inboxes!

Haven’t signed up for my newsletter, but want to enjoy a free River’s Sigh B & B getaway? What are you waiting for? 🙂  Sign up for EV’S NEWS today by clicking here! (I fully admit I’m trying to seduce you into reading all the books, LOL. I hope you do and that you love them.)

And please spread the word to any friends or family you think might enjoy my world. I’d love to give them ONE TO KEEP too, so get them to subscribe. The more the merrier!