January, 1995. “Today, I went for a walk. I was searching for something and I needed to release the tension that comes whenever I think about the abuse. I found what I was looking for in a scrubby, dense Palo Verde. Two saguaros, each a foot high, grew in its shade. It was a nurse tree.

In the desert, the shade provided by nurse trees gives moisture to germinating seeds. Desert soil is thin, rocky and sparse in nutrients. The debris from the trees and other plants which grow underneath their limbs enrich the soil. Those few, square feet of shade become a sanctuary, an entire microenvironment of plants and animals.

One of the saguaros was near the trunk of the palo verde. Years of slow growth from now it will push through an embrace of spiny branches to tower over the tree the way an adolescent boy, on his way to becoming a man, does his mother. At that time, the intimate arrangement of tree and cactus may seem haphazard unless the observer understands their history. It is the safety provided by the Palo Verde that enables the saguaro to grow.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Behind the Scenes or What Happened to my Blog?

May 25, 2009
6 AM

Groan. This morning, I faced the mirror and acknowledged yet another deficiency. I am an anachronism when it comes to navigating websites. Compared to today’s children who are born knowing how to move their little fingers on a keyboard to make things happen, when I was a little girl we didn’t even have remotes for the television, which, can I really admit this, was black and white. No color. No HD. No widescreen. Perry Mason and Gene Autry did their business in black and white, which implies my technical knowledge dates to the fifties and the miracle of an on-off switch.

I figured this out when I wanted to add a book review to GoodReads which I just, as in five minutes ago, signed up for, or on to, or whatever you call coming up with a user name and password. It was a lot like learning Algebra without a teacher.

“You never solve for X,” said son Nathan when he was in 9th grade and looked his father in the eye over Algebra homework. “It ruins the suspense.” His father, an electrical engineer, snorted. In his world view, math fuels the pump that propels the universe. A kid isn’t properly brought up unless there is some Algebra between his ears. Which, as an aside, has something to do with one of Nathan’s most embarrassing growing-up moments. He fell down at school and had a concussion. As he was going in for the CT scan, his dad asked the technician to cram some Algebra into his head while he was doing the study. “It was really bad,” Nathan said. But despite the math resistance, Nathan has all kinds of innate computer skills that must have come from some mutated DNA since neither Dwight nor I have them.

I have math skills and computer resistance. I can tell you, mind-melding with website designers is tough. It’s a virtual game of Guess What I’m Thinking. You know what you want to do. You believe the website will let you do it though first you must break the code. There is a smattering of conventions, but since you are a dinosaur from the black and white era, finding these is a lot like looking at the ground and seeing a silver dollar: sheer, random luck.

Perhaps this is why my blog, Nurse Tree, which I so eagerly launched months ago, has been dormant like a seed planted too early in the fall. The seed has to wait for favorable weather and soil conditions to sprout. Likewise, I am wishing for favorable computer conditions – step-by-step directions for website use that are easy to find and easier to use. I can’t read between the lines because I can’t find the lines. So, until I move further up the learning curve, I will continue slugging it out with my computer to get this out.

But about Nurse Tree and memoir: I found another good book about memoir, this one by the prolific and enthusiastic Natalie Goldberg, Old Friend from Far Away, which I down-loaded to my Kindle. (I’ve got to hand it to Amazon for creating this gem that is sooooo easy to use.) She writes about the risk we take with writing, and how good intentions and hard work may not be enough. You’ve got to be willing to take the plunge, to jump off a hundred-foot pole with no net to catch you and no assurances. She writes

Writing’s essential nature asks you not to go forward, not to be productive, not to be logical. In the middle of all your conservative striving, it asks you to take a step backward into the dark unknown—actually back into your real self, which has never been explored and you are not sure how to get there.

Why are there memoirs?

Goldberg gives this answer. Whatever your life, it is urging you to record it—to embrace the crumbs with the cake. It is why so many of us want to write memoir. We know the particulars, but what really went on? We want the emotional truths under the surface that drove our life….(It is) a desire to understand in the heat of living . . .


  1. Welcome back, Rene. I enjoyed your post--both funny and sincere!

  2. Writing truly is risky. And I'm not much of a risk taker. But with every word I type, I'm trying to break from my "norm" and embrace the discomfort I feel.
    Good, thought provoking post, Rene.

  3. I love your writing! Especially the imagery of the Nurse Tree nurturing the saguaros. It is an apt metaphor. Thanks for sending this my way.

  4. Wonderful, Rene! You described perfectly what so many people experience on the Web. Glad to see you on goodreads.

    more, more, more . . .

  5. I totally relate to your status with technology and the desire to writeabout the crumbs. unfortunately I can't get past the procrastination. The body is far to sluggish after using so much energy for the cake.

  6. I am really anxious to read the rest of "Nurse Tree". What I have seen so far is very intriguing. What you said about the letting go aspect of writing really reached me.
    Why learn about websites? They will be all obsolete in about 4 more years, just about the time I will have them mastered!

    MSG (I couldn't post--I'm not legal.)

  7. I love the nurse tree and think it is a wonderful name for your blog. Having lived in the desert parts of Arizona, I know that finding shade is almost impossible.

    I love what you write in your blog, also. I haven't figured out how to use my Google Account to I opt for anonymous and just sign my name. It works for me.

    Thanks for letting me comment. I am trying to make the rounds of all the ANWA blogs and have tried to start one of my own but can't get the background to show up. Woe be unto my computer if I can't figure it all out soon.
    Barbara Butler

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