Debra Prinzing

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Waiting for answers…in the garden

November 15th, 2007

cycad backlitIn recent weeks I’ve been at loose ends, trying to find my voice and my “inner muse,” as I recover from a marathon book production schedule that has pretty much occupied the past 12 months of my life.

Lately, the big question just simmering beneath the surface of my consciousness has been: “What next?”

I just don’t know.

Having poured so much intense focus and passion into Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways, I now feel a bit of sadness because the process has ended. It was such an intimate, joyous experience of just two people sharing their individual gifts to create a book. It was glorious, exhilarating and painful (good pain) process. bill and deb on locationBill Wright, my partner and photographer, has been the best collaborator I could have asked for. He has been exceedingly gracious, patient and a good traveling companion to boot.

This week we proofed the second “dummy” – the entire book in color photocopied form, text, images, layout in place. All 224 pages of it! To hold the book in my hands on April 29th will be a dream come true. (photo: Bill and Debra, on location in SF Bay Area, 6 a.m., March 2007) 


But still… “What next?” The pressing question of the moment.

All I know right now is that I have to get my hands in the soil, literally. I planted today. Planted not just with a shovel but (unfortunately) with a pickax. I thought I would leave clay soil behind when I moved from Seattle to Southern California. NOT. There are parts of SoCal comprised of agricultural-rich soil, while other parts (the riverbeds) are sandy and still other parts seem to be compacted clay. I think one reason my garden’s soil is so horrible is that it has been suffocating under thick plastic sheeting and four-inch-thick layers of egg-sized red lava rock (the previous owners’ idea of having a low-maintenance landscape).

“Peeling away” a ton of rocks and huge sections of plastic as I begin to work organic matter into the dirt is part of the rebirth of this piece of land. That “rebirth” metaphor applies to my creative journey, as well. My dearest friend Britt, an Episcopal priest, put words to the emotions I’m feeling. I was fortunate enough to see her yesterday when she was in LA for a meeting. (photo: Deb and Britt, August 2007, Newport OR, celebrating Britt’s wedding weekend)

britt deb“You are in the process of unearthing the soil of your own life,” she said. “You need to get to the root, the essence, of yourself.” This makes some sense to me. I am trying to dig deeper and discover (define?) what drives me creatively. And it is both confusing and compelling to examine everything from small, exciting details (an unfamiliar bloom, a backlit blade of grass, a perfectly-shaped succulent) and  big macro ideas that stretch my thinking (notions of friendship, truth, fidelity, and integrity).


peach flambe heucheraSo for now, all I know is that in order to understand beauty, I must strive to create it in my own life. If that means stretching my muscles to wield a pickax, so be it.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Rainer Maria Rilke

3 Responses to “Waiting for answers…in the garden”

  1. Lydia Plunk Says:

    I have pre-ordered my copy of Stylish Sheds from Borders.

  2. admin Says:

    wow, Lydia, this is a first! Thanks for the ongoing friendship and support! You rock! PS, are you going to send me your piece from Paula’s class so I can post it on this blog?!! Huh?

  3. Lydia Plunk Says:

    I would go any where to take a class from Paula. I’m still having fun with what we wrote. Here’s a snippet from what is turning in to a much larger piece:

    Robert slipped in to their bedroom quietly. Sandra’s skin was thinner and the color of sand, but he refused to see the woman who lived in her mirror. Leaning over, he kissed where chestnut locks had been a few weeks before. He slipped her journal out from under her left hand. A pink ribbon marked where she had written that afternoon.

    “When one gets married, you just can’t see ahead to these days when you barely recognize yourself in the mirror. But you still have to do what is best for the other person.”

    Robert sat at the chair next to her bed. He put down his mug of tea to wait by her bedside for her to awaken. Being married to Sandra, Robert had come to know God’s grace. There was nothing he had ever done to deserve a woman who despite the agony of her insides being eaten away by the most terrible of diseases, she still thought of him ahead of herself.

    “Robert?” Her voice was quiet.


    “Do you think you could tell me a story tonight?”

    “Anything you like. What would you like to hear?”

    Sandra spoke with out opening her eyes, “I was thinking today about the Getty. I was thinking about that first time we went in to the garden. In 1998. Remember? It was in September and all those travertine blocks rising serpentine from the hillside: it reminded me of a Nordic castle. I called you ‘my prince’ and you bowed.”

    She opened her eyes long enough to see his eyes meet hers, “Outside the cafeteria, on that terrace under those square columns, there were so many accents. Some spoke in syllables which were roundly elegant. Others chopped their words like onions. I imagined some were dignitaries come to beg some indulgence from some monarchs who would soon be announced.”

    He took her hand in his and added, “Ah, and some were knights or knaves. And there were a couple who were definitely there as jesters.”

    Her parched lips parted, “Do you remember all the children scampering about? Their shoes clippety-clopped on the tiles; it sounded like ponies loose in the courtyard. “

    Robert moved next to Sandra on the bed. His right had lifted her head enough that he could help her sip some ice water.

    “What I remember most was how beautiful you looked, gazing out across the castle wall. You do know that is how I still see you?”

    She squeezed his hand, “Thank you. Robert. I want to go to the Getty again…. To the garden… You know I’m not strong enough any more to journey…Except through what you tell me. I want you to describe the garden to me tonight. Let me see it through your voice. Not as it was then. How it is now.”

    Robert crawled under the covers. His strong arms gathered his wife near him and he whispered , “The garden is like life. It has a beginning. It has an end. You would think that since where the end point is, is downhill, that it would be easy to just go straight. But things happen. Just like in life. Sometimes there are sharp jogs in the path that turn you nearly completely a wrong direction. But you just have to remember where you want to go and have a little faith that if you keep going, you’ll end up where you want.

    “And the water- it doesn’t flow down straight to the end either. It starts off quiet enough, but pretty soon, even with gravity in the water’s favor, it is having to fight its way to the end. Those boulders- they are obstacles to be overcome. Sometimes the water has to find a way around. Sometimes it has to just hurdle over it. The point is, the water knows where it needs to go. So it just has to stay fluid: like we do.

    “Eventually, the water will reach the end. The tide pool filled with the azalea anemone. At that point, at the very end. May be that is when the water is most beautiful. Not when it is energetic. But when it is quiet. It has fulfilled its destiny.”

    Robert wanted to go on. He wanted to tell his wife about the plants. About how it didn’t matter if one was standing in the cool shade or in the full sun. As long as there was life, it was all beautiful. But she was so quiet. Her eyes were shut, her muscles relaxed, her breathing so light. It was clear to him that she was nearing her destiny.

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