Writing: Postpartum Shift

If you’ve ever finished a big project of whatever sort, one that took months or years, and required a kind of intensity and focus that left you feeling hulled out at the end of each day, you know something of what I’m feeling after sending my new memoir, the story I call Bless the Birds off to my agent last Monday.

The first "spring" bud on the cyclamen plant on my windowsill, finally beginning to open.... The first “spring” bud on the cyclamen plant on my windowsill, finally beginning to open, its petals unfurling like my postpartum creativity….

The feeling is something like postpartum blues, that sense of emptiness when the work (or baby) that absorbed you from within begins its journey outward into the larger world. It’s still yours, but no longer exclusively and no longer inside you.

Bless the Birds isn’t out of my life or my hands entirely. I still need to do some fine weaving, adding ordinary details and working threads of themes all the way through the larger manuscript. Nothing major, but important for the finished story nonetheless.

And after my agent reads and approves of the manuscript, then comes selling it to a publisher. Somewhere down the months, I’ll be working with that editorial team; the manuscript and I have a journey and more changes ahead.

Already my relationship to the work has changed. I can feel the inner shift; the story is no longer contained inside me, absorbing my attention in small and large ways over the course of the day.

I’m still thinking about it, just not every moment. And now I’m thinking about other writing too, specifically the feature article I promised to Rocky Mountain Gardening by (gulp!) March 1st, and beyond that, a bigger project. For the first time since I began work on Bless the Birds, I’m thinking seriously about the next book.

Part of my front-yard meadow (plus a drive-wheel from an old steam-powered pump Richard collected for a sculpture) drifting over with snow this afternoon. Part of my front-yard meadow (plus a drive-wheel from an old steam-powered pump Richard intended to use in a sculpture) drifting over with snow this afternoon.

Which is why on this snowy evening, I’m on the couch getting ready to pick up Robin Wall Kimmerer’s wise new book, Braiding Sweetgrass, first on my to-read list as that next book takes shape in my mind.

And I’m listening to Lyle Lovett’s “Natural Forces” CD, hoping that some Texas two-step will warm things up here in unusually frozen south central Colorado.

The world outside is white with wind-driven snow and a temperature of nine degrees F, down from the day’s pitiful “high” of 13 degrees. Yesterday afternoon, it was 52 degrees and sunny, and I was outside in a sweater, installing solar-powered landscape lighting.

I think I have climate change whiplash.

And yes, climate change is one of the themes in that next book, which may be called MEADOW, What I Learned About Healing Ourselves and the Earth From the Industrial Property No One Else Loved. It’s the book about plants I’ve been thinking about writing for most of my career. (No pressure there!)

Blessings to you all, and thanks for walking with me on this journey we call life….

A very much younger me, thinking about plants and the communities they weave as a field biologist in northwest Wyoming. A very much younger me, thinking about plants and the communities they weave as a field biologist in northwest Wyoming.

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