I know what you’re thinking, isn’t the phrase the opposite? Not this time. This time my uncle has quite literally found his marbles.
My Uncle Joe is the mastermind behind the Detroit urban farm our family has. We call it Hadad farms and it’s located on the lower east side of Detroit (see the tumblr if you'd like). He’s the youngest of my mother’s siblings, and the only man in the family. He is sharp around the edges, a smart man, but rough in his delivery. His humor is not for the soft at heart but that is why we love him.
Almost every day my uncle comes to my grandma’s house to visit, to tend to the garden, and to make sure everything is going alright. We have a lot in common. He works hard to build up the farm and to care for it. He’s always worked hard. A mechanic and a farmer, he works with his hands and enjoys the work.
We both love to work in this way. To dedicate ourselves to something greater, to give it all away in the end. When we first started to expand the garden he told me it just felt like the right thing to do. We don’t make money from it. We don’t do anything else with it but care the once abandoned land and share the food with anyone who is in need. And in Detroit my grandmother, our family, and many others have had their times of need.
The garden is now becoming an entity all on its own. You cannot not care for it entirely. It is so much work, so much dedication. You can feel it breathing, growing. It is my uncle’s greatest work.
We arrived to Edinburgh flying into a thick sheet of fog. The fog followed us everywhere the first few days of our trip to the UK, but only as jetlag. We rented a flat near Hollyrood park that was cozy; its windows showing us the layers of hills and cottages at the edge of the little city.
We walked and walked that first night in town with our friends Hannah and Brian who married that weekend. The city was large but small, winding towards a tall castle on a hill. All of the buildings were not red brick or white or colored with bright street art like Detroit. Here everything was grey, chiseled into the stone of Medieval time.
It was strange to arrive to this new place, to see so much history, so far beyond the little city and young country I am from. It makes me wonder, where does it all fit in? Where are we in the crooked lines of cobbled stone, ancient stories of long ago?
I’m a writer heavily influenced by place. I like to absorb my surroundings, to understand the pulse and flow of the day around me. To find a topic or a theme or a story that drives me forward.
I love the slow roll of cornfields and summer days traveling, and the hot heat of my grandmother's garden. I search for the people behind the place, for their language and their culture. This is what inspires me.
All writing should come from a place of inspiration. To write is to speak in a voice that is yours, to celebrate joys and share pains, to overcome trials and understand what it means to be human. It is to shine a little light on into the world. To leave the light on for the next readers.
But we aren’t always inspired. We feel the flutter of a thought or idea, and it is easy to let it go. It is easy to continue on our day with our duties, to lose the flash of inspiration. We don’t receive these moments every day. Professional writers do open up their channels and work to receive this every day. They leave their doors and windows open, beckoning the glint of light on broken glass, the moon shining into our dreamy minds.
Anyone can do this too. How do you find your place of inspiration?
Hone in on what brings you joy.
One day I was sitting quietly at the library with my college roommate. It was getting late and we were beyond able to focus so I was welcomed a late night call from my sister.
She called to tell me she was entering herself into rehab. She described to me how she approached our parents, how many pills she was on a day (20 at this time), and then at the end asked me if I was proud.
I wasn't proud. I was completely confused. I did not understand what was happening, not until years later after a second trip and a worse fall back into drugs changed her life completely for the better. At the young age of 19 I watched my sister struggle with addiction until she finally released herself from the muddiness of it all to safer, sober ground.