Hearts and Flowers

heartIt’s November 21. National Novel Writing Month is two-thirds over and so far has not gone according to plan.

It was already out-of-wack on November 6 when I found myself in the hospital recovering from an angioplasty and stent placement. I’d been ignoring the off-kilter feeling just as I ignored the chest pain and shortness of breath.  My husband, who knows me very well, refused to let me ignore the physical signs of a flagging heart. Thus, a visit to the cardiologist and a hurry-up stent was efficiently placed to take care of the 95% blockage that was stopping up my heart.  All fixed.

Home from the hospital I settled in my little office and forced my fingers to tap-tap-tap for a few days, even though I knew I was writing crap and it was HARD to even do that.  Just keep the words coming, I told myself. That’s all that matters. Word count. By November 14 I was up to 20,542 words.  That night I went back to the hospital emergency room again. Pneumonia, they said. Not all that uncommon after a heart “event”. Antibiotics. Prescription cough syrup that actually  slowed down the coughing enough to let me sleep.

Sleep. That’s what I did for several days and nights, waking up just long enough to swallow pills and more of that lovely cough syrup. Once in a while I staggered to the computer to check my email or scan my G+ stream. But I did not write.

planting tulipsWhen a day came that I was feeling human again, I went outside, sat in the sunshine on the ground, and planted red tulips. That bag of bulbs had been lying on the counter, bothering no one, for at least two months. Suddenly, it seemed essential to get them in the ground so they could rest and be ready to burst into beauty next Spring.  As my trowel dug into the soft black earth and I patted each papery white bulb into its bed, I pictured myself striding down the walk on a sunny morning, smiling at the brilliant red flowers blooming beside my door.

It was a good day. But, still, another day I did not write.

November 21. I  know I will not write 30,000 words during the next week. It is possible, some people have written entire novels in a weekend. But, not me. Not this time.

I will sit quietly while a fat yellow cat snoozes on my lap. I will sip tea, listen to my wind chimes tinkle in the breeze.  I will feel grateful for the steady beat of my own heart, the breath easing in and out of my lungs.  If I wait quietly, the tulips will bloom.

And the words will come.

red tulips



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4 Responses to Hearts and Flowers

  1. Sharon says:

    Oh, Carolyn. God was good to you! (As to my husband, who had angioplasty and stent placement in 2010.) Lovely to re-connect with you, since the Barnes & Noble online memoir-writing class of 2005. Your blog is lovely, with your fine writing, as always, and your incredibly beautiful and artistic photos!

  2. Sharon says:

    Carolyn, I haven’t submitted anything for a long time. However, I’m getting ready to submit a book to a contest presented by Guideposts. Also, I’ve been working on “Letters to My Daughters,” a collection of family stories and essays on things I have learned, with accompanying photos. If you ever saw “The Metcalfe Family Album,” it is part of my inspiration.

    • Carolyn says:

      I haven’t been submitting, either. The older I get, the less important it seems to impress agents and editors. I went the self-publishing route and did a book for my husband’s family and another one for my sister and brothers. I still like going to conferences and entering their contests. Last summer the first chapter of my memoir “Snakes in the Kitchen” took the top non-fiction prize at the Midwest writers conference at Ball State University in Indiana. “Letters to my Daughters” will be a wonderful gift for your family and they will treasure it forever. Keep writing and Good Luck with Guideposts!

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