Care of the Soul


Thomas More, in his books on the soul, tells of how one cares for the soul. (Yes, you'd have to accept the fact that you have a soul.) And one cares for the soul not necessarily in great gestures and grand art, but in small daily routines. The soul flourishes in bread dough, play, reading, dirt. Digging in the dirt nourishes the soul. I like that. When I garden, I think I'm planting novels, poems.

I've been putting some chapters of Hummingbird's Daughter II in today, that's for sure.

I'm mourning the loss of my pal, the great poet Rane Arroyo. And I'm getting ready for several soulful things: Megan's high school graduation, book tour. But most on my mind right now is the garden: in a few days, a crew of landscape architects hits our front yard and remakes it. Most of my stuff out there will be gone, baby, gone. Japanese maples and pear trees and all kinds of cool new plants and grasses and a new brick seating area and a wall. We will sit out there in the afternoons sipping tea and spying on our street like the old farts we just about are.

So I'm saving bleeding hearts, chrysanthemums (thinking of Basho and the haiku masters), lavender (thinking about France), columbines--my colorful connection to the holy Rocky Mtns. I am astounded that the columbines have decided that the entire planet must be covered in columbines. I have columbines coming out my ears. You want a columbine? How about a baby maple? My trees--King Ralph and Queen Sally (named, of course, by Chayo) drop 10,000,000 helicopter seeds and I am faced with the Godzilla-like task of annihilating little tiny forests every spring. Hate it. For a San Diego boy, used to brown, it feels wrong to off a tree. Even if it's two inches tall.

Oh my. These hands are black with Illinois soil. I'm soaking up that Vitamin D in the sun. I'm thinking of Rane, and hoping perhaps a bright red bleeding heart will blossom to remind me of him.

Soul--it's all soul.


youme (not verified)

The bleedings hearts
are blooming
in our very bodies.

This season has brought such changes!

I look forward to our next meeting, may there be homemade bread and enough time.

Sylvan Woman (not verified)


We've got 5 of those maples. One spring when we were gone for a weekend all the seeds came down at once. Then nine inches of rain. We came home to an inch of water in the basement (we're on high, dry sandy spot) because the seeds plugged the gutters.

HBDII chapters. Food for this soul.

The loss of a poet and friend holds much reflection. A red bleeding heart dedicated to Rane will be perfect. You and Mrs. U can toast him with your tea.


redcharlie (not verified)

Seems I’m missing the planting gene, but I love all things growing. At my Tucson place, am always getting a note from the HOA that the “weeds” are high in your yard. Coming from New Jersey, anything growing in Arizona became sacred to me. Now in Laguna, I have been transplanted into a garden that might challenge Eden. Sorry you lost a friend, Luis, hope the digging/planting helps dull the pain. --Charlie

dragon (not verified)

Columbines are quite prolific aren't they? Let them go to seed, and babies everywhere!
What color of columbines do you have? I love the traditional blue/purple columbines, but mine are the multi colored giant variety (they came with the house). I like how they have prospered though. Right now they are a multitude of green fans (leaves) filling in the spaces between the tulips and wayward grass.


rocketj (not verified)

Hi Luis,
Ah, I knew I liked Thomas More. Bread dough and gardening - I like the connection - both are gifts of the hand. And I think each, in their own way, pay back a certain respect to the Maker and our place on earth.

Each year, I am re-amazed at the expanding number of latter-day offshoots of perennials originally planted by my grandparents at their earliest home in Chicago. Cuttings have been planted at my parents' homes and more have traveled with us to each house we have lived in. There are purple flowered sedum and hostas, ferns, peonies, and a few irises.
To those we've added lambs ear, daisies, daylillies, and more. We had a mass of columbines, but they were overgrown by enthusiastic ribbon grass bought at a U of I mother's weekend plant sale. Wanna' swap hostas and ribbon grass for columbines?

el poquito (not verified)

Nothing like 'the ground' to ground one. [I take that concept very literally.] Digging, planting, planting ones own butt down, yer back leaning against the trunk of King Ralph or Queen Sally: ahhhhh... Dirty fingernails and poetic stones that find their way into your pockets to be found later -- these are the things that ground us -- along with the love.

We're still HERE on this blue marble whirling through space. Nice to be sharing it with you. My condolences with your loss. Let your tears water the columbines and bleeding hearts.

Cassandra (not verified)

Isn't it great how these little (or big) plants insinuate themselves into our souls becoming colorful markers for rich experiences and remembered places? I love all the flora I have planted in our yardscape -- even if not professionally installed or perfectly located.
In an odd way, it's better for me to have these blooms show up haphazardly in riots and fits and starts. I like it that way. Not too planned out, but if one looks really closely you can see an underlying reasonableness.
Caring for the soul...oh, my friend, what a task that is. I think I know dozens of soul-starved people who go around in desperate consumption looking to feed the soul.
It's kinda scary to do it right. Often times feeding the soul means taking the monkey-mind out of the driver's seat for a bit so I can take a dip in deeper water. There I can swim in a rainbow and climb the mountains in the sea. I can play checkers with a dolphin while the mockingbirds sing.
In this place the bleeding hearts bloom alongside the columbines, a glorious symphony tuned to the color of my eye.
Yes, get your hands dirty and sing a song. Make it a prayer for the soul needs its voice.
I am singing a prayer for you, dear mentor (I'm borrowing that one from Jackie, because I love it); for your soul to keep shining into your lovely works, for the passage of your dear friend, for the well-being of your sweet family, for all good things.
Thank you, Luis!Aho!
Blessed Be!

Add new comment

Book club members have been some of my most enthusiastic and careful readers. I’m thrilled to share my work with you, answer your questions and tell you some of the stories behind the stories. This is our spot, just for us. Here, we can chat:  If I’m nearby, I’ll come and visit your club. Otherwise, we can Skype, talk over the phone or email. Sometimes, I’ll send surprises or hold contests.

Tell us all about your book club!
Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.