My "minder," a nice young woman in Indianapolis, has been urging me to post at least one new blog every week, if not sooner. You see, in the parlance of social media and publishing, publicity from readership is critical to one's success as a blogger, which in turn translates to a following—that's the word—that creates a "brand," a word I dislike, but which ends up with book sales. Are you still with me? So I've been trying to come up with something that would satisfy all these requirements, and help more people learn about the new novel.
So what does all this have to do with The Rock Wall? I had a theme in mind, a pretty good one in fact: a listing of my favorite books, since many people ask me that question. But for some reason, I just have not been driven to sit here and write about it. So after breakfast with Diana, a simple creation that I fixed, I decided to go out and do some yard work. Living 20 miles west of Austin in the hill country, we have plenty of that sort of task on these six acres, where Farmer Jim is the only yard man. On one side of our home, a massive bulldozer must have graded out the side of the hill to extend the original building site and the usable yard. We hired a crew to cover that area, a 10 foot high slash in the hill, with neatly dry stacked Texas limestone rocks a number of years ago. Rosemary now cascades down the slope, and along with one or two other mysterious plants, covers some 50% of the rock wall. Over a year, small shoots of grass and weeds pop up and attempt to find a spot to exist in the small crevices between the cut limestone.
My wife, Diana, did the annual clearing-of-the-rocks for years and years, but I'm taking it on this year. It's hard to imagine the amazing effort she has invested in our wall since the mid-eighties. But now I can. Over three work sessions, I'm some two-thirds complete after painstakingly picking out a zillion tiny-to-medium-to-large things growing in the dirt spaces. One must do this standing with each booted foot precariously balanced on the edge of a limestone rock, plucking out the dastardly little growths one by one, then tossing the "pluckees" into a pile.
It's a way to get close, very close, to nature. I've learned there are many different varieties of weeds that seek a place between the rocks, each with a different root structure and stem composition. Some have very gritty roots, and resist being yanked out, while others slide out easily. A few are woody in nature, can not be pulled out at all, and must be snipped off. Undoubtedly, they will be back and will need to be treated with Round Up to kill the roots. In addition to this up-close-and-personal look at the flora, I have met one colony of fire ants, and another colony of some other sort of ant-like critters. Both met their maker yesterday following application of Ortho Ant Powder, which dispatches them.
There is no great moral lesson from this exercise. I have two or three more days of working the wall, and then the wall will be ready for the remainder of the Texas summer, baked to a fair-thee-well in July and August. But for some reason, it has been important to me to have this wall in the rear of the house cleaned and ready to be viewed by our daughter, Juliet, when she arrives Friday afternoon for her dad's book signing at Book People. That dad, who resembles the person writing this blog, is excited that she is coming. Perhaps this manifests itself as a need to pretty up the joint around here. Who knows?
Speaking of the book signing, hopefully many of you in the Austin area will be there. It should be interesting.