sad peonies

peonies in happier days

peonies in happier days

Do you know what a sad peony looks like? Its little red heads, all swollen and ready to burst, lay huddled beneath a layer of prophylactic plastic, calling out to be set free.

This is what happens when it snows in May. Lilacs have frozen smiles on their wee little purple faces, roses look shocked and offended that they’ve been caught half dressed out in the cold, hollyhock leaves are sagging mopily on the ground, and columbine blooms are defiantly standing erect, shouting out “fuck you!” to the grey skies.

And me? I’m tromping around in the cold and wet, two layers of woollen winter socks shoved into rubber gardening clogs, t-shirt sopping and too-loose yoga pants sagging lower and lower as I beat the snow off of newly hatched leaves, stooping to peek underneath makeshift shelters for the smallest and most tender lodgers to make sure everyone is still with me. I never fully dried out yesterday, and this morning I was in past my ankles in last night’s freshly fallen snow – that’s a brisk waker-upper.

Tonight it’s supposed to freeze. And to that, I say FUCK.

one of the few welcome multi-eyed creatures in my garden

the bumblebee is one of the few welcome multi-eyed creatures in my garden

I used to think gardening was such a leisurely and refined little hobby, effortlessly sinking perky plants into soft earth and plucking a stray weed here and there while I stroll around, admiring my lush and beautiful borders. Ha. It’s plunging a shovel down with gusto, and ricocheting off of a boulder one half inch beneath the soil. It’s scattering seeds and seeing nary a sign of life. Ever. It’s bending down to smell a rose and coming face-to-face with a wasp, or reaching out to pick a flower, to meet up beneath the stem with the ugliest damn spider on eight legs. It’s surrendering to the weeds, which have launched an overthrow in numbers so vast, it’s useless to fight back. It sucks.

And yet, I am compelled to begin again and again, a staunch pessimist turned eternal optimist every spring. It’s a joke on me, my masochistic nature forcing encounters with arachnophobia, fear of hard physical labour, and continual disappointment. Are the occasional blooms from struggling survivors worth all the pain and heartache? I don’t know—when I see the lilacs in full bloom and contemplate crawling in between the bushes to live there for the next two weeks, when the roses are budding out and the peony is showing off and I’m excitedly waiting to see what colours the hollyhocks will be this year, I feel like Gertrude Jekyll and Beverly Nichols all rolled into one. I’m a gardening fool, a horticultural stud.

cardinal de richelieu, the most beautiful rose ever

cardinal de richelieu, the most beautiful rose ever

So yeah, I’ll continue to tromp around, shivering and hoping for the best as I fight to save my budding buddies from snow in May, cursing and dripping and crying on the inside at the very likely possibility that not all these little beauties will make it through the storm. And when the sun comes out again, I’ll peel back the plastic and give everyone an encouraging little fluff, hoping the little beggars will perform for me.

isn’t it romantic?

Romance. This is a word around which I’ve had a considerable amount of awkwardness. After having avoided The Word for so long, it’s now constantly dangling within my periphery, and I don’t like it. Which of course means there’s something to be learned from all of this hissing and cowering like a vampire who has just been shown a cross. It’s time to delve in.

A couple of weekends ago I participated in the Rainbow Book Reviews Blog Hop, on the topic of what writing GLBT literature means to me. Many participants boiled it down to one overarching inspiration – the love of love. I’m fine with love, I’m totally okay with love. Love is a many splendored thing and whatnot – though when I was a kid I thought the lyrics were “love is a many splintered thing” and I have to say, it still makes more sense to me, because true love, real love, isn’t all splendorific.

And I’m not a romantic. I don’t like all of those typical gestures of romance, the red roses, candles and champagne. I can’t stand rom-coms. Romantic words directed at me make me twitch (and not in a good way). But when I really look at it, I discover it’s not the love I’m rejecting, it’s the common associations with romance that make me cringe. It’s when love scarpers over to the side of puppies and hearts and flowers that I get squeamish. But how much of that is truly dominating the genre, and how much is it my own Harlequin-tainted fears?

I’ve said before that I don’t like labels, and it’s true. There are labels that have scared me off, and Romance is one of the top five. I’m trying to restructure that reaction. My friend and wurbling buddy, writer Anna Reith (aka M. King), pointed out in one of our many epic discussions that in literature, Romance has broadened its definition, and the common formula of boy meets boy, boy loses boy, boy wins back boy and they live happily ever after is no longer the focus. Happy endings – these are still key to satisfying romance, but there are many ways to reach that conclusion, many roads to take.

Overall, I write satisfying endings. Ninety-nine percent of the time, things turn out well for my characters (okay, maybe 96.7%). I’m all for positive storylines, and especially in this genre, there have been too many tragedies. Balance needs to be created. In fact, one of my books took on a decidedly romantic spin when it was accompanied by too many depressing movies about thwarted love, lost love, and heartbreak. In response, my story became romantic – sort of a “fuck you” romantic retaliation. So why do I feel like I need to defend myself – “I didn’t mean to! They made me! Hey, you know I am not like this, right? I’m not like this!” But I didn’t change it. I tried to when I came around and all of the sentiment had seeped out of my brain, but I just couldn’t. It was meant to be.

Urgh, it was meant to be. I guess that’s the key to romance?