In the Ditch

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In the Ditch_800

If you look down into a ditch on a dry summer day, you can see all kinds of life floating around in the green. The way swamps and tidelands and mucky marshes teem with bio-activity.

My first novel hatched while on vacation in one of our favorite spots. There’s an old fort surrounded by ocean and history, where the past seems to whisper and the air is so fresh, you cannot stay inside. The quarters are pea-soup green, but the sky and hill and light are extraordinary, and there is no commerce, or really machinery or forward progress happening. Just kids flying kites, grandpas touching starfish in the marine center, and an octopus playing with its food.

This is a fertile place for laughter, and suppers eaten off paper plates on the porch. For small children to run and run until they fall down, with no one needing to yell “car!” or watch them eagle eyed, or make them stop.

This is a physical space for margins, and creativity grows and overflows here. Artists, musicians and writers are tucked into nooks all over the place.

And lest I think it’s a waste of time and money–all this bubbly joyful air and breath–I always come back with ideas and energy for new projects, for renewed effort on old chapters or in difficult situations.

But why do I even worry about every moment having to contribute to productivity? We love going there. Our lives are hectic and stressed, and we’re often too ill to take advantage of small breaks. When our son is well enough and we can carve out the time … Why ever not?

For days afterwards, I don’t turn on the noisy radio, or stay up too late surfing on the internet til my eyes turn red and my brain numb. I am able to dwell with silence.

Dry land produces very little, the seed starved of moisture dies, or waits, dormant.

Physical places like these are the luminous corners of my life, the green ditches fermenting wonder.

I don’t visit them nearly often enough.

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What is the state of your ditches, dearest? Are they low, or even dried out and cracked? Do you need to find time to visit them today, perhaps deepen them a little, or shore them up? Make a plan for a longer stretch of refreshment to refill them?

Here’s a mental sticky note on your forehead and mine: Take a Break! Fill up!

See you in the ditch?

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Anne-Marie Heckt

Anne-Marie Heckt

When not scrambling eggs, I manage a community garden which grows veg for a food bank. I’m a full time mom of two almost-grown boys. Saturday mornings you’ll find me at the Farmer’s Market, religiously. Goals include extending my rollerblading distance to marathon length and getting the courage to quit picking at my novel and publish it. A scary re-emergence into paid work may need to happen soon. Eons ago I taught ESL at a community college. Farther back, I taught in China and worked at a church in Mexico City. Childhood included a confusing mix of Spain, military bases and a tiny town in Washington State. What I would really love to have is not a job, but a puppy. I live north of Seattle and somewhere east of organized with a husband, our younger son, and a turtle.
Anne-Marie Heckt
Anne-Marie Heckt

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Anne-Marie Heckt