Memoir Garden

Why do we picture herbs on our memoir website? Why describe a Memoir Garden? Why feature products that use herbs? Writing a memoir can be guided and enriched through the use of metaphor. The metaphor of a special occasion, especially one in a garden, encompasses the same progression that is followed when writing a memoir.

By the way, we describe these steps — the What, For Whom, When, Where, and How in our new 5 DVD set: The [Essential] Women’s Memoir Writing Workshop – 21 Lessons from Planning to Publication. Click here for more information about the DVD set.

Why a Memoir Garden?

We’ve planted herbs in our Memoir Garden because their long history includes a language of meanings – many of which are relevant to memoir writing. In fact, we have carefully selected those herbs that we believe offer the most important messages for memoirists. The richness of fact and lore associated with herbs is a metaphor for the richness of our life experiences, especially the people, events, and feelings we recount in our memoirs.

Why products in the Writer’s Store that use herbs?

We could have stopped with the use of herbs in the Memoir Garden metaphor. But our conversations with women wanting to write or already working on memoirs brought out so many stories of times they needed encouragement that we developed a set of herbal products that are designed specifically to encourage, inspire, energize, stimulate, and refresh. (See Writer’s Store) Once the products, all designed and made by women for women, were available, we found that women were also eager to share them with friends. What could be more fitting? We share our stories in memoirs and we share products of encouragement with our friends and family.

My Garden: The Inspiration

When I moved to this hillside acreage almost 12 years ago, I brought along my practical sensibilities about land use. Perhaps it was because my grandfather was a potato farmer in Oklahoma. Perhaps it was because I have a passion for cooking and get a thrill out of walking outside to pick fresh ingredients. Perhaps it was just because I have an odd take on plants. I’d much rather cultivate a plant I can eat then one I can put in a vase.

Most of the ten acres were populated with weeds when I came here. One area did have a lawn but wild boar quickly showed how impractical that was. I started by putting in herbs — multiple varieties of sage, thyme, lavender, mint, chamomile, rosemary, lemon balm, lemon verbena, nasturtium, feverfew, yarrow, oregano, lemongrass, epazote, and others These aren’t in tidy rows in a vegetable garden, but are the only plantings in many “flowerbeds.”

These were soon followed by lemon, Kafir lime, Mandarin orange on Flying Dragon rootstock, apple, orange, apricot, fig, plum, pear, peach, olive, and pomegranate trees. Their sweet blossoms and fruit provide delights to all the senses across the seasons of the year.

Then came grapes, asparagus, ollalieberry starts from 25-year-old bushes shared by my neighbor, and more. On the deck outside the kitchen, I have pots overflowing with favorite annuals — basil, parsley, peppers, and even brightly colored calendula and pansies, both of which I frequently use in salads.

The Memoir Garden in this website draws on experiences with my herb garden. I can roam through the garden in real time or in my memory. Both are satisfying. I take delight in the scents, sounds, sights, taste, and touch associated with these herbs. Each has the potential to bring back memories.

I may touch the soft, velvety sage leaves, crushing one to release its scent. Suddenly, it’s a warm summer evening with friends standing in the kitchen, chatting about the penguins we had seen earlier that day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I’m at the stove, fixing a wonderful whole wheat fusilli tossed with olive oil from my trees, preserved lemons made from my bountiful supply, and roasted walnuts. Just before serving, I quickly fry sage leaves to add to each plate. Good friends, good memories.

On some days, the herbs may bring happy memories of family and friends, of experiences, of wise decisions. On other days I recall sadness in the death of my father, in dumb career choices, in missed opportunities.

Herbs can affect the body, the mind, and the emotions. They have had medicinal, culinary, decorative, and even magical uses across the centuries. During that long span of time, a language developed around their properties. In the descriptions of the herbs in our Memoir Garden, I’ve included meanings, some history, and suggested uses for them in your personal Memoir Garden.

I hope you enjoy reading about these herbs. Perhaps thinking about them will inspire your writing.

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