By Barbara Falconer Newhall
I want to write about tulips today. I don’t want to write about sex. The trouble is, for me, writing about tulips means writing about sex: something about their juicy curves brings erotic metaphors to my particular mind.
I thought that once my mother — and father — were no longer alive and reading over my shoulder, I’d be able to write my heart out. I’d get merrily, carried-away passionate about the curve of my husband’s chin, the stars on a summer night, God in God’s heaven, and . . . tulips.
My mother’s gone now and so is my father. The trouble is, my kids are still alive. Very much so. And they read this blog.
Back in the olden days of print journalism, when I wrote a weekly newspaper column for the Oakland Tribune and its tens of thousands of readers, I felt free to spill my guts about my children, my husband, my job, the Meaning of Life. Total strangers – thousands and thousands of them – read weekly about my every misstep and self-doubt.
But they didn’t count; they were total strangers.
The people who really mattered? Not a problem. Jon, himself an old news hand, didn’t care what I wrote as long as it sold newspapers. My mother and father lived thousands of miles away; they saw only the columns I chose to clip and mail to them. As for the kids, they read Roald Dahl; but newspapers, not so much.
Anne Lamott, I think it was, once advised memoirists and novelists to “write as if everyone you know is dead.” It’s a great writing tip, but one I’ve never mastered. Probably because most of the people I know just aren’t dead yet.
Which brings us back to tulips. Tulips are my favorite flower, and right now they’re blooming like mad over at a local cemetery. They were planted in January to bloom in late March, so yesterday
I grabbed my trusty point-and-shoot and headed over to the graveyard, drove through the cemetery’s wrought iron gate, and parked my car . . .
Anyone who knows me can stop reading right now.
. . . Sure enough. There they were – tulips and tulips and tulips in all their lusty glory. Pink, red, purple, orange, yellow — all voluptuous and phallic with their ovoid curves and upright stems.
I had planned to spend an hour here. I spent two. I bent over. I squatted. I kneeled in the wet grass. I propped my elbows on my muddy knees. I took 267 pictures. I went home happy.
Ha! You cheated. You read this through to the end. But I cheated too. I wrote it like everybody I knew was dead. But since you’re not, I toned it down. A lot.
Note to self: Next week write a post that doesn’t have the word dead in it.
Note to readers: For more stories about the writing life, go to: “The Trouble With Daffodils,” “Writing Tips From Jasmin Darznik” and “Splitting the Infinitive — How to Boldly Go There.”
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