David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the tag “Adam and Eve”

Contrary to Popular Belief (2014-07-08 Daily)

 

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?

—Eccelesiastes 2:24-25 NIV®

 

While serving pulled pork butt sliders, jalapeno slaw, and corn bacon at a recent church men’s dinner, a friend I hadn’t seen in a while walked over to my table and struck up a conversation.  We stood in the parking lot in the warm sun and talked about manly stuff, you know, engines and guns and how my team’s barbecued pork butt compared to the other twelve contestants at the cook-off.  He told me about growing up with his grandmother’s baking and how, over the past few decades, he’d become quite a connoisseur of Texas sheet cake (ours didn’t contain enough pecans, but he voted for it anyway).  He chatted about his family, and he filled me in on how well his work had been going, how he’d been putting in twelve to fourteen hour days in the field in the 90 degree heat, how exhausting yet thrilling it had been as his business exploded.  Then he leaned in and asked me a peculiar question: “You don’t work anymore, do you?”  The question smacked me back on my heels.  Really?  I thought.  Really?!

“I’m a full-time writer and a full-time editor,” I retorted, somewhat emphatically.  “And I do electronic design work on the side.”  I figured mentioning the concrete reality of printed wiring boards, op-amps, and custom-wound magnetics would anchor his understanding of what I do for a living to something a bit more tangible than a 50,000 word manuscript, a notebook full of story ideas, or what I planned to post the next day on my blog page.  In other words, I compensated.  You see, most folks just don’t get the writing part, let alone the editing.

Days passed and his comment continued to itch at me like a chigger bite under my waistband.  It seems many people believe that writers don’t actually do any work.  But just because my tools are creativity and inspiration, and my medium isn’t dirt but symbols strung together on a piece of paper doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.  Contrary to popular belief, I do work!  Hard!  My butt is tethered to this chair in front of this computer every day.  To the world at large, however, writing doesn’t compute as a legitimate business.  To many, writing is spurious, ethereal, magic stuff.  And it is.  But it isn’t.  So I find myself having to justify my vocation, even to myself at times.  After all, it’s not everyone who gets to work and play at the same time for a living!  It is labor.  And like all labor, it, too, originated with Eve in the Garden.

“To Adam [God] said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat from it,” ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life’” (Genesis 3:17 NIV®).  We scribes cultivate the written word with our computers, our pens, our pencils, and our experiences.  Sometimes it is painful, but there’s nothing I’d rather toil at.  Writers absorb life moment-by-moment, garnering the raw material through our senses, processing our experiences through the filters of life’s awareness, mixing them with insights and connections and juxtapositions, and giving birth after much labor to an essay, an anecdote, a story, a novel, a tome . . . .  Our toil produces life of the best kind!

“A man may work from dusk to dawn, but a woman’s work is never done,” goes the old saying.  Watching with amazement what my beautiful wife, Mary, does for our family, I can wholeheartedly testify to the absolute veracity of that idiom.  Mothers have the hardest, most rewarding, most demanding, most exhilarating labor on earth, and I salute each and every one of you from the depths of my being.  But as an artist painting with words, when I dare substitute the term “writer” for “woman” in that old saying, I create another truism.  Because we as writers—both men and women—work all the time.  Nothing will force a writer to pay attention and really listen and observe and absorb than knowing each and every incident, event, and experience is a potential story.

My daughter, Hannah, is a Level 3 competitive gymnast.  At six years old she’s as toned and fit as any athlete.  One day she pointed to her stomach and said to one of the neighbor boys, “I have a six pack!”

“No you don’t!” he exclaimed.

“Yes I do!” Hannah shot back.

“No you don’t!” the boy replied.  “You have to work out for a long time to get a six pack!”

“I have been working out—for six years!” Hannah declared.  And she has been.  But as a gymnast the girl never stops moving.  She drives Mary and I from the fairway of reasonableness to the putting green of grumpiness by her constant fidgeting, climbing, cartwheeling, tumbling, and rolling; our home features a non-stop gymnastics expo right in our very own living room.  In our house a chair doubles as a parallel bar, the kitchen counter provides a convenient chin-up rod, and the Pergo converts into a spring-floor when she slides the furniture to one side.  Even after she falls asleep Hannah will pull her legs into a split or raise her hands over her head in a dream salute to the judges after accomplishing a successful cast followed by a flawless back hip circle underswing dismount.  She may wake up with her head at the foot of the bed as she kicks, punches, fidgets, and rolls around in her sleep.  As a writer, I can relate.

The other morning I woke up at 3:00 with a thought that wouldn’t leave me alone.  I rolled out of bed in the pre-dawn gloom, shuffled into the bathroom, turned on the closet light, and jotted it in one of the yellow lined pads I’ve got strewn all over the house.  It wasn’t as pretty as a back hip circle underswing dismount, and it may become a future insight, blog post subject, or cool quote, but that morning it was just an irritant jabbing my addled brain until I relented and wrote it down.  And like Hannah’s gymnastics, even dreams can become potential stories, so I can literally say, along with Hannah, that I work 24/7.  Just look at the bags under my eyes and you’ll understand . . . .

My mind never slows down, hardly resting as it pulls in data, crunches it, and spits out ideas.  When I’m done with my writing stint for the day, how do I relax?  I read.  Yep, I curl up with a book on the couch or in bed and suck in the words another writer birthed.  We writers feed each other, and nothing is more satisfying than knowing others will read our efforts, nod their heads in agreement, smile with knowing, or frown with dissention.  That’s why we work so hard at this.  It’s all for you.

So, yes, I am a full-time writer and a full-time editor.  And I do a little bit of electronic design work on the side just so I can write about it in some future sci-fi novel that’s yet to materialize in my fidgety brain.  As the Preacher said in the Book of Ecclesiastes, there’s nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in my toil.  And that, my friends, is contrary to popular belief.

 

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

Life Began in a Garden (2014-05-30 Daily) [1 of 2]

LIFE BEGAN IN A GARDEN

by

David C. Hughes

 

If you want to be happy for a lifetime, plant a garden.

-Chinese Proverb

 

From the top of the door frame leading to our back yard hangs a wind chime.  Inside the house.  What a wind chime is doing inside the house only Mary knows, but it’s a beautiful work of art.  A cross sporting a maroon heart, an orange button, and a hand-painted bumblebee dangles from a shiny silver “S” shaped hook.  Below the cross hangs a flowery sky-blue rectangular plaque attached with two rusty coils.  “Life began in a Garden,” the small plaque proclaims.

“God Almighty first planted a garden,” wrote Frances Bacon, “and indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.  It is the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man, without which buildings and palaces are but gross handiworks.”  Life began in a Garden and He placed Adam and Eve there to tend it to the greatest refreshment of their spirits and their souls.  In the Garden they communed with God, walked with God, spoke with God, and enjoyed His presence both directly and within the realm of His creation.

After the Fall, God allowed the memory of the Garden to remain within the deepest recesses of human experience.  We now spend a good part of our lives building careers, establishing relationships, and piling up useless stuff while erecting barriers and taking up residence in self-made prisons of ignorance and self-focus.  But when we step inside the gates of a garden, thrust our fingers deep into the dirt, lift the soil and breathe deeply of that musky, earthy, messy matrix of life, we are transported back to the foundation of time.

Cultivating a garden is the antithesis of modern existence, one in which I willingly partake, a catharsis I’ve embraced since I can remember.  My parents raised me up alongside the yearly garden; as the tomato plants grew, so did I.  I remember my dad hand-digging the 20-by-40 foot plot with nothing but a pointed shovel, a pair of work gloves, and lots of grunting and sweating.  Even now, when I turn over the sticky black North Texas clay with my strong and steady Craftsman rototiller, I am once again connected through time and circumstance to those simple days of my ancestors’ necessity.  But I do it not out of the necessity for physical sustenance but rather out of the need for spiritual nourishment.  I garden because I can’t not garden.

Gardening slows me down.  Practically nothing happens fast in a garden and between growing seasons.  The seasons roll by, driven by the relentless precession of a wobbling earth, opening the window to planting and closing the window after harvest.  The moment I drop a seed in the ground, slow-motion unfolds right before my eyes.  It may take a week for those seeds to germinate, two or three months to harvest, eight months to die at the touch of subfreezing temperatures.  It’s all in God’s timing.  A garden demonstrates God’s urging to be still and know that He is God.  It takes away my control because once the seeds are in the ground, there’s nothing I can do to make them grow except to apply the water, pray, and wait.  A garden is counter-cultural, it’s a throwback to slower times, to a time of faith, of reliance, of worship.

From the first cultivation in late February to first frost in late October my garden grows.  Millimeter-by-millimeter the okra and the zucchini and the green beans thrust their heads above the ground, reaching for the sky.  Millimeter-by-millimeter the pumpkins spread their leaves and begin to crawl.  Millimeter-by-millimeter the peas climb their chicken wire trellises and open their ivory blossoms to the steadfast search of honey bees.  Only the asparagus runs counter to the rest of the garden, shooting straight up from the ground at the breakneck speed of seven inches a day, scrambling toward the sun in an attempt to spread their wispy leaves before I come along with my pocket knife and assimilate their lives into mine.  Their season is very short.

“Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination,” wrote Alice Morse Earle in Pot-Pourri from a Surrey Garden.  But it’s more than an exercise in imagination; it’s a workout of sensations. I breathe deeply the scent of rotting mulch, the prickle of disturbed tomato leaves, the sting of freshly-harvested jalapenos.  I squish the damp clay between bare fingers.  The two-inch layer of mulch yields to my sandaled feet after three days of rain has softened the earth, giving me hope that this growing season might provide enough natural moisture to keep the plants hardy and oh so dark green.  Verdant leaves shiver as a south breeze tickles the asparagus, the wispy fronds hissing back like petulant children going through growing pains.  Serves them right.  Sunlight excites the deep greens and plays across the oversized pumpkin blossoms waving their yellow orange greetings at every honeybee and red wasp flying by.  I snap off a pea pod and devour it, savoring the earthy sweetness and thanking God for the bounty surrounding me, doing what it’s supposed to do while I struggle to do what I’m supposed to do.

One afternoon I dropped my world-weary body onto the small settee Mary placed beside the redbud next to the garden.  I sighed, lifted my wine glass, and sipped the now-warm sauvignon blanc.  The wine flowed over my taste buds, its subtle citrus tones emboldened by the dry air rushing out of the southwest.  I looked at the garden, I mean, really looked at the garden, and here’s what God revealed to me.

We grow a traditional garden, nice neat rows planted side-by-side with peas, onions, green beans, lettuce and okra.  Pumpkins, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, cantaloupes, tomatoes, and zucchini reside in their own plots, spaced far enough apart to allow these larger, vinier plants to spread out without rubbing tendrils with their neighbors.  These are the “compartmentalized” fruits and vegetables.

Springing up all over the garden are the volunteers, plants we didn’t sow by hand but rather sprouted from seeds discarded in the compost box or plowed under during the fall cultivation.  This vegetation pops up in the dirt patches, pushes up through the mulch, grows outside the nice, neat boundaries we’ve set up for the other plants.  In other words, these are the wild ones, the unruly ones, the free spirits of the plant kingdom.  These are the “non-compartmentalized” fruits and vegetables.

And all are thriving.

(continued)

 

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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