Monday, July 20, 2020

Lessons From My Garden
By Saralyn Richard

I’ve always loved to plant flowers and vegetables and watch them grow, but never, until now, have I had the time to nurture, weed, water, and admire the horticulture. For all of the things the pandemic has taken away, the joy of gardening is one thing it’s brought to my life in technicolor.

            During days when time inside seems to stand still, when one day pours into the next, so it doesn’t matter whether it’s Monday or Saturday, the ever-changing splendor of my garden provides something new. In March, I planted the caladium bulbs kept in the garage all winter. Even from the first day after planting, they were pushing up shoots that turned into buds, that opened into showy broad red and green leaves. The progress was rapid and almost magical.

            The caladiums reminded me of the book release process. When I published my debut mystery novel, MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, in 2018, I experienced that creative push of final edits, review blurbs, pre-publication hype, and, voila! The book was “above ground,” out into the world. As the book was nourished by reader reviews and a dizzying book tour schedule, it opened up to book clubs, new readers, and beautiful new connections.

            The fig tree in my back yard, however, has taught me patience. The sequel to MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER, was released in February of this year. I had no idea that a pandemic would wreak havoc with every launch party, book talk, and book club I had so enthusiastically planned. Like the new mystery novel, the fig tree burst forth in a passionate profusion of fruit. Once the first crop was picked, though, the tree slowed down. It’s still full of potential. Hundreds of green buds remain, patiently awaiting their natural time to explode into luscious purple fruit. Though the book launch for PALETTE was not what I expected, the joy of the first crop of readers and the early reviews has been gratifying. Now I need to nurture the green buds, knowing that, if I’m patient, they will produce fruit.

            A final parable comes from the enclosed planter on my front porch. I’ve never been able to grow anything in this shady area. Too little sun, too little water, and too little attention from me were all to blame. I had literally given up on having anything there, except an air plant, a few aloe vera plants, and a touch of tradescantia zebrine (wandering jew). I decided that this was the time to experiment. I took a cutting from a healthy ginger plant in my back yard, and I planted it in the planter. I decided to keep the porch light on all night to give it extra light for growing, and I water it every day. At first the leaves turned brown and I was sure the plant was dying, but after a few more days, baby shoots started popping up in the soil. Now the plant is thriving, and the planter is a source of pride.

            So many times in writing, the easy path would be to give up. I might blame a lack of time, a dearth of creative ideas, a busy calendar, family demands, even a pandemic—innumerable excuses for not writing. The truth is, however, that an author with a creative spirit can produce a story to be proud of. Yes, there are obstacles, but obstacles can be overcome, as long as the passion and will are there.

            Those of us who read and write, who love books, have likely learned many lessons during these months of social distancing. Here’s hoping all of our lessons bear the sweetest fruit.

Award-winning mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard strives to make the world a better place, one book at a time. Her books, Naughty Nana, Murder in the One Percent, and A Palette for Love and Murder, have delighted children and adults, alike. A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and continues to write mysteries. Look for A Murder of Principal to be released in January, 2020. Reviews, media, and tour schedule may be found at


  1. After living the high-rise life for a decade or so, one thing I still miss about the house we left behind is the garden. There's something about digging in the dirt that is so salubrious to one's peace of mind. Glad you enjoy it too, Saralyn.