Brain Freeze

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 11.18.35 PMThree nights of freezing weather has done damage. The bougainvillea turned black at the top, then the middle, and finally the bottom–one section per day.  The top third of the lemon tree caught the cold air and the lemons at the top of the tree froze, then rapidly started disintegrating. Freeze cloth protected the pencil cactus and agaves, but the last night, when it was not supposed to freeze, caught me by surprise. Living in the desert prepares you for loss, but generally, it’s the summer heat that does a plant in.

The arborist was here the day after the last freeze. He was here to trim the cypress hedge, which is dormant and can take the trim right now.

I asked about the citrus trees–should they be trimmed now? “No,” he said, “Citrus trees will leaf out when cut, and that shouldn’t happen right now, or they will be badly damaged if there’s another freeze. And it’s early January.”

Similar to writing or drawing. There are times that my journal pages are trite and boring, and somehow the effort doesn’t show. I could rip out and discard the page, but that will just put a lot of pressure on me to make the next page “make up for the loss,” or to make the next idea the perfect one.

Like a killing frost requires me to leave the dead plants alone, it’s a good idea to leave a displeasing journal page in place. Give it time to teach me what I need to learn. Keep me from deserting the whole idea or branching out in a different direction too quickly.

Instead, I’ll become used to the imperfect page, and grow around it. The roots of the page will still be there, and new ideas will grow from them. And once I’ve learned what I have to learn, I can choose to cover the page with gesso and start out in a new direction. Just like the bougainvillea. Loss isn’t always a bad thing here in the desert. It can lead to a new, thriving, growth.

-Quinn McDonald keeps a journal in all seasons.

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6 thoughts on “Brain Freeze

  1. When I taught calligraphy at the community college level, I asked my students to leave all the pages in their calligraphy sketchbooks. That way, they had a comparison – what was done well in the moment and what could be improved on in time. I feel there’s a value at looking back at successes and mistakes, which can all lead to amazing work down the road.

  2. In the first four days of the year I read two novels where living with the past and loss were part of it . . . I noted quotes as I went and then copied them into a book when I finished reading This is something new for me and a habit I’d like to cultivate and I’m congratulating myself that I’ve managed it twice now.

    My point is, there are some quotes from your post going into my notebook today . . . I have something to learn before I too rush off into some new direction. Finishing? Equipping myself? I’m not sure.

    And the novels? Jodi Picoult: The Storyteller and Linda Olsson: The Kindness of Your Nature. Perhaps not the greatest works of literature but great reads for me right now.

    • I’ve read all of Jodi Picoult’s book except this one–no reason, just hasn’t been in the library when I have. I like her books. They ask good questions and the characters are likable. I haven read Linda Olsson yet. Keeping quotes in your journal is a great practice that is practical and will delight you for years to come as you re-discover them.

  3. Sometimes seeing, really seeing, what you have to learn is the hardest part.
    Best to leave it alone until it is finally revealed.

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