Life as I know It

My photo
San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Monday, November 4, 2013

Solitary Confinement: it isn't always bad!

Do you have a book that feels like a wise, old friend? Do you revisit it year after year? I do, and it is still relevant and important to me after reading it over and over since 1969. A book this well written and deeply considered never wears out. That is why I am so happy to share this vintage hardbound copy of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's book, Gift from the Sea, with my loyal followers and readers. It is a small thank you that I hope will enrich your life. Just leave a comment in the comment section of this posting. Also, if you are a member of the Grimy Hands Girls' Club, you'll receive a bonus gift. If you have a book you wish to share, well, now is the time to tell me (us) about it.

Oh, I should mention that most of the shells in this photo were picked up on Captiva Island, which is where Anne was staying when she began this book. The Spirula spirula (looks like a ram's horn), the two baby ears, and the worm shell and sand dollar are all finds from my walks. I use a micron 005 pen to write on the back of each shell with the date and place they are found. It is a wonderful way to remember where you had adventures.

November Garden

November in a corner of the patio. Jeff says he will divorce me if I make him move that huge boulder again, but I don't believe him. I love puttering around the containers in my garden. Mini worlds of pleasure. Can you see the little cherry tomatoes in the left hand corner?  Amazing. The tomatoes and basil are still thriving. 

November tapestry of Zinnias, nasturtium, geraniums, and succulents. Texture in a garden is one of the most important features.

A tattered and wind-worn Painted Lady on a glorious Bog sage.

I picked a trug full of fruits from my garden. Brown turkey figs, Feijoa (we call them pineapple guava and they are the BEST), pomegranates...

...and the last of the apples to be picked for pies, applesauce, and crisps.

Salvias are blooming, Nepeta is getting ready to bloom again, and 8 out of 10 of the artichokes are flaunting their sculptural beauty.


I spend so much time alone (my version of solitary confinement) when I am writing, or simply dreaming of writing a new book. Weeding, walking, cleaning, day dreaming, ironing, all these diverse threads of time and thinking are woven together in the fabric of your dreams and schemes. You may not actually be setting words down on paper or stitching an appliqué onto a friendship quilt, but your brain is working, organizing, and accomplishing way more than you could ever dream. Speaking of dreaming...I have actually dreamt entire passages in my books, also solved some problems during dreaming, and came to the title of Roots Shoots Buckets & Boots in a dream at 2:30 A.M. Your brain is active all the time. Even if you don't remember.

I have an aversion to the telephone, so sometimes I'll go for four or five days without speaking with anyone except Jeff (and I see him only at meals and in the evening). The phone jangles me out of my reveries, so I turn it off and concentrate wholeheartedly. Even doing drawings takes full concentration. 

Here is your recipe for fudging, no walking away from a project, no matter what your creative bent,  just set your heart to it and work, work, work (and enjoy the process). And if you do it it over, and over, and over until it is right.  Until it suits YOU. A labor of love to be sure, but you already know that, right? You do the same thing when you quilt, or draw, garden, cook, or create anything. 

This illustration didn't make it into my new Random House/Delacorte Press book, Running Out of Night (to be released Fall 2014), but I still learned lots from working on it for so many hours. I'll use it when I do school visits and talk to groups. My grandchildren gave it a two thumbs up for true creepiness, which is the mood I tried to convey. 

Never trust anyone who works in an organized, tidy space.

In answer to your questions about where and how I work, a video is worth a million words. This video shows my studio at our little house in San Luis Obispo, California. 

(Due to a technical glitch, this video doesn't show up on some browsers. Click this link to go directly to the YouTube video.)

Be sure to leave a comment on this posting so you can win the vintage copy of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea.

Love across the miles,


P.S. If you are in the San Luis Obispo area this Saturday, November 9, join me for a free talk and slide show at 10:00 a.m.. E-mail me for further information. 


Anonymous said...

Your November garden looks very different to mine! It is really pretty, and I enjoyed seeing it in the video.
I also enjoyed seeing your workspace. You have a lovely voice, very easy to listen to; it is a shame I cannot be there for the talk!
You remind me of me in so many ways. I am quite content being on my own with my thoughts, and the telephone drives me crazy. I too tend to silence it.

W-S Wanderings said...

What a delightful romp of a post. I have garden envy (frost has laid mine to rest long ago). Yours is so vibrant (in NOVEMBER!)and exotic to my eyes. And "Never trust anyone who works in an organized, tidy space" - hee hee hee. Brilliant, that. I love what you say about process and the "sleeping" mind.


From the Kitchen said...

How nice to find your post this morning. I've enjoyed your lovely garden while sipping the first coffee of the day. As I look around my cluttered work space, I have to smile at your observation about that very condition. I hope all is well with you and your's.


Marcie said...

I've said this before, but will again: I love the posts in which you provide little glimpses of where and how you work. It is inspiring to read! Thank you. I also love A Gift from the Sea and have read it many times... often in the spring as we near our northern season of "beach days." :)

Julie Marie said...

Oh Sharon, where do I begin with my commenting, so many wonderful things in this post... I cherish my time alone too, thinking, planning, writing, daydreaming... I think we all need this precious "solitary confinement" as you call it... I so loved visiting your studio with you, and your quote about never trusting anyone who works in an organized tidy space!... yours looks so lovely... no wonder you love spending time in there... your new red chair looks comfy and how nice your little granddaughter is now enjoying your little stool for her own... you have the softest, most soothing voice in the world, and that softness and calm reflects in all you do... I am so excited for your books... I have never been to Maine... I was just thinking about sweet little Audrey this morning, then here you spoke of her in your video... I am sure she is snug in her little winter nest by now... your garden is still so pretty... we had alot of snow here today... luckily I had gathered the rest of my tomatoes and put them to ripen in our kitchen window before the bad weather hit... oooh, and I also love that your studio looks right out into your beautiful gardens... and I love that your birdies welcomed you back home... please do not enter me in your generous giveaway... a dear friend recently sent me a copy of that very book and I am enjoying it also... much love to you, xoxo Cousin Julie Marie Yikes, I have almost written a book here myself... wanted to say I also love that you dedicated your new book to all of your precious grandchildre... hello little Luke!...

La Table De Nana said...

Oh..your home in Maine..and this one..such care ..charm..comfort...
This studio is out of this eworld..Love the path leading to it..the birds..water features..clay pots.. Charming charming..
The manuscript with the quotes:)

All of it.

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

I would love to win this lovely book! My go to book is Favorite Stories of James Herriot because of their pathos and humor. Beautifully written!

Jan said...

I sure could use a book like this right about now :) I am in the midst of several conflicts right now...and my 'go to' place is the ocean; but I cannot get to the sea at the moment. The book looks lovely.
I also enjoy all of your photos and tales, Sharon. I like to spend alone time...and do, quite often. Thinking, wandering, digging,'s all good:)

Elizabeth Ann said...

Last weekend I was re-reading some of my gardening magazines and there you were! Ages ago working in your garden, sunflowers everywhere. I'm so happy I saved those magazines, too bad you couldn't put a book together with all the old articles from years past. I enjoyed your posts about the wine and Susan Branch's visit!

Pat Stansel said...

I love your cozy garden with all it's nooks & cranny's. Every turn there's something new to see! And your studio, it's a dream come true for every girl that had or wanted a playhouse ! A magical place all your own.

Pom Pom said...

Hi Sharon!
I love your words about solitude. Your California spot is so lovely! I love your Maine locale very much, too! Thank you for touring us!
Oh, I DO ADORE Anne Morrow Lindbergh's book. I read it again last summer. I've read her biography, too.
You're so great! Thank you for posting.

Lori ann said...

dear sharon, how i would love to drive up saturday, maybe just maybe...(we were just up there last week)
oh how i love your garden and work space and your work! and love that you can disconnect to stay connected to the beauty that surrounds you.
LOVE aml, and that book. i think it was the first one i read that i really identified with as a young mother, we both had several children. i felt like she was speaking to me. it's a beautiful copy, love the vintage edition.
enjoy these sweet autumn days.

Melody said...

I looooved the walk thru your studio....*happy sigh*
So fun to see the "nest" from which you create, and all the little goodies stashed around...

Anonymous said...

Sharon, I have never even heard of a micron 005 pen but am thrilled to learn of this technique. I wish I'd known of this many years ago. Thanks. And thank you for another soothing read.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear Elizabeth Ann,

I did write a book called "A Blessing of Toads," which has many of my garden projects and stories. It has been re-purchased and will be coming back into print soon.

Thanks for your visit,


Dawn Brown said...

I came here to win the book, but it's the first time I've ever visited your blog. Wonderful pictures, great gardening, and I really like the glass bottles at the top. I'll have to visit here again!

Lori said...

Hello Sharon! Thank you again for a glimpse of your gardens and creative space. The weather here is wet and blustery - the leaves falling as fast as the raindrops. How proud you must be to see your new book coming to fruition. Blessings from Indiana. <3

Marti said...

Gift from the Sea is indeed a treasure. Thanks for offering it in your giveaway. A book that I turn to year after year is Country Matters by the late Jo Northrup. For many years, Jo was a columnist for the magazine Country Living and this book continues her insights on living in season, and the joys of life in the country, etc.

sue said...

Hi Sharon from Sue the Seedlady--I've reread Watership Down so many times I found a hardcover copy. Also Annie Proulx's That Old Ace in the Hole. I also reread most of Ivan Doig's books about Montana, and Anthony Trollope's books. Barchester Chronicles, mostly. Love the prose in Pride & Prejudice. I enjoy books about the human condition.

Lorrie said...

Such a lovely post, filled with pretty pictures and things to challenge the mind.

I love L'Engle's "Walking on Water." It's a book I turn to from time to time and come away refreshed and renewed. There are so many books I read and re-read.

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Dear Sharon ~ this was a very inspiring and encouraging post for me at this time in my life. I looked through my books and got out my copy of Gift From the Sea to re-read.

Your statement below was just what I needed to motivate me.

** Here is your recipe for fudging, no walking away from a project, no matter what your creative bent, just set your heart to it and work, work, work (and enjoy the process). And if you do it it over, and over, and over until it is right. Until it suits YOU. A labor of love to be sure, but you already know that, right? You do the same thing when you quilt, or draw, garden, cook, or create anything. **

Don't put me in the drawing since I already have this little book.

Thank you again dear Sharon for being sweet, gentle you.


Barbee' said...

Oh, Sharon, I enjoyed the video so much! What a lovely place, congratulations for your accomplishments.

Nellie said...

Oh, Sharon! What a delightful post! I love your garden! I know it is not in Maine.:-) It seems like such a calming life you lead when you are in "solitary confinement." Very appealing. I have a years-old copy of Gift From the Sea. Such a good one to have.

Thinking about you and yours!

Happy November!

Unknown said...

Welcome home to California! Thank you for popping into my life today with inspiration and sweet memories.

Bernideen said...

As the snow falls here I am viewing your lovely November garden photos. It's it amazing how many weather patterns there are! Your photos are lovely and the fruits of your labor!
Bernideen's Tea Time Blog at:

Anonymous said...


Ronda D. (from Facebook post)

Anonymous said...

This is one of my mom's favorite books. I would love to win a copy.
Thanks so much Sharon.

Pat said...

Lovely soft colors in your November own have been asleep for weeks awaiting their annual white blanket.
Remember reading Gifts From the Sea years ago - a special book indeed and one to savor. The book which I have read time and again takes me to 19th century England - Jane Eyre. My all time favorite to take me away from today's world.

africanaussie said...

Oh what an awesome studio! I can just imagine sitting there with the sun streaming in, and the sound of tinkling water, and the birds... Not sure I would be concentrating on my work! Dont put me in the draw as I live in Australia and it would be expensive to post. I will look for it in the library though - thanks for the recomendation. what a lovely idea to write where you found the shells.

Donna said...

Hi Sharon,
Upon your recommendation for the book,Gift from the Sea, I was so delighted to find your blog, with so many inspiring thoughts and ideas. I enjoyed the glimpse of your lovely garden and your a personal tour with a mix of art and whimsy! Was like a nice change of surroundings for me...very encouraging to me, reminding me that the journey should be enjoyed! Thank you!

Mim said...

while Maine is gorgeous, I think the Central Coast of CA is the most lovely place. My brother lives in Cayucos, and I am a dedicated sister who visits him often!

I loved hearing your voice and seeing your lovely studio - what a perfect place to work.

I'm with Lori - I'd love to visit, but perhaps another time.

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Thank you for that wonderful tour, Sharon, and how exciting to receive your manuscript!

I guess being from Florida I understand how great it is to be a snowbird. We have lots of people who enjoy our warmer winters and the Northeast's cooler summers. Maine and California are each delightful, and you have the best of both world's and marvelous homes in each.

I have a copy, that very edition of the book, so I will give others a chance to win. I have favorite books who like old friends I enjoy communing with again and again. As to your alone time to create, I completely understand. Creative people need their space to create. I have been housebound for nearly two months due to an accident i had, but the time has flown. I know how to entertain myself, and I love my home, though it is a wee bit messy right now. I think that writers are not afraid to be alone, and a lot of people are. I enjoy my own company, and I imagine you do, too!

Enjoyed this post and the tour of your California studio and garden.



P.S. please excuse any typos in advance. This IPAD has a mind of its own, and tends to make odd corrections. I am also typing with one hand.

Larkrise garden girl said...

Hi Sharon,what a beautiful garden and workspace. What a delight to see!
I get so many ideas when I get a peak at your life. Please include me in chance to win ann's book. What an interesting woman. I have always admired her.Today I am going to be busy planting some lavender!cheri

Sharon said...

Over twenty years ago a dear friend loaned me a copy of Gift From the Sea. Anne wrote about so many of the feelings I had as a mother. I like to give the book to young mothers so they know they are in good company.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Sharon I am alone almost everyday watching my infant grand daughter while my daughter and son in law are at work. It is a labor of love at my age to do this, as well as the reason my husband and I moved from NYC to Colorado. It'very solitary here, as most people in my community are at work, but I am beginning to enjoy a slower pace and have gotten back to reading again. I'm spending less time on the computerthese days and enjoyingblife more! You are an inspiration! I love your wonderful garden. I lobe California and if I could live anywhere it would be in that state.
This is a lovely edition of a " Gift From the Sea"-- I love vintage books!

Anonymous said...

such wonderful advice and a visit to your garden is always a treat.I can't tell you how wonderful it is to see zinnia's in November or any flower for that matter, we have snow now and its here for the next six months! Would you like some, lol!!!I have always said my books are my friends and I have books I read for different moods or feelings I'm in, they have brought me through some rough spots for sure, I can no longer see to read so now they are book on tape, lazy me, I don't even have to read them lol,

Unknown said...

As always, such an enjoyable peek into Sharon's world. And what a beautiful world you make it for us all.

Little Bird said...

Well, Sharon, you have done it again. Spoken straight to my heart, with your post! I recently pulled my lumpy copy of Gift From the Sea off the book shelf to revisit AML's wise words. My copy is lumpy because we had a roof leak a few years ago and many (ugh!) things got wet. We salvaged this sweet book, but it still tells the ugly take of that big high desert rain and our leaky flat NM roof! Thank you, THANK YOU! For giving from your heart!

Vicki Boster said...

Dearest Sharon- I've fallen behind while we've been away on travels--
As always you gardens are so delightful-- I had to laugh about the rock!! I'm a rock lover too-- and love to incorporate them into our landscape.

Your beautiful studio is so YOU. I can see how this place is so special to you. Your devotion to your career is the very reason we all love you-- your light shines through in every page- every book- every drawing and sketch.

The beach speaks to my very soul. Every shell I have ever picked up--(and I have more than a few!!) is so precious to me. I love Gift from the Sea-- my very own copy is so special to me. So beautifully written-- she was in such a special place within her own soul when she wrote that book- it is a treasure. I'm not entering the contest-- just sharing my devotion for that beautiful book.

Sending much love-

Unknown said...

Sharon, trying this blog again! LOVE LOVE LOVE Anne Morrow Lindbergh... Patrick and I have read her books out loud to each other for years! Such a treat to see this book. Thanks for sharing and reawakening old friends... Susan and Patrick, Central Coast buds!

Gert said...

Oh...I love your studios! Now I see how you get your inspiration for your wonderful books. I have a Great Granddaughter who would love "Gift From the Sea". Her Mommy would read it to her and save it for her!


rufuspt said...

I wasn't expecting your garden to look like that in November - that's when I realized you were no longer in Maine. Seems like a perfect life - Maine and Ca- we're looking into something like that now that we've retired. I loved your comments on being on your own and sometimes not wanting to talk to others. I do the same and at other times I'm quite social. I always felt bad about it, but after reading your blog I feel better!

Terra said...

Uh oh, do not make your hubby move that boulder again! And yes, that drawing is creepy.
I like hearing about your creative process and seeing your writing studio area and cozy garden scenes.
I am having a book give away too, on my blog. I am giving away one copy of my co-authored Christmas book. Just leave a comment to be entered.
And of course I am a Grimy Hands buddy.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog! Love your blog. I too have one of those "large rocks" that every one dreads when I start redesigning the garden :)

Happy blogging!

Jane the Booklady said...

Dear Sharon, You have just discovered my blog and left such a lovely comment that I have dashed to visit yours whilst still in my dressing gown!
It must be serendipity,because you have written of ' A Gift from the Sea' a book I love and that has influenced my life. I recently gave away my copy to a friend who I felt needed it, so it would be lucky for me if I was the winner!Jane x

rebecca said...

Your Recipe for Success is so well composed! And I love seeing where you work. Thanks for the chance to "win" A Gift from the Sea. (I hope! I hope!)

Debbie3640 said...

Hi Sharon, love all your Facebook pictures and comments! Gift from the Sea is one of my favorite books. As a busy working mom of a college student and high school student, I need inspiration! This year I was able to visit the sea at Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beach NC for the first time in my life. I went on a "girl trip" with a sisterchick to visit another sisterchick who was lucky enough to fulfill her lifelong dream to live near the sea! Blessings to you always Sharon!

Darla said...

What a lovely post and wonderful way to catch all of your friends and followers up on your garden and studio. I love Gift From The Sea and will re-read it this winter. Another book I adore re-reading is The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. It is such a thought-provoking read as is Tuesdays With Morrie. I am going out to do hopefully one final clean-up of my Ohio gardens before it's too cold to work outdoors.

Fondly, Darla

Sue said...

I would love to win. Such a pretty cover! I love Jan Karon's Mitford series. I have read through them several times. Kind of like old friends:)

La Petite Gallery said...

Don't live far from Bristol, Maine and have a stepson in luis Obispo'
I like vintage books also.


Lili said...

Oh Sharon, your place is a magical and heavenly paradise. I enjoyed that video soooo much. The sights and sounds of the fountains and birds and of course your beautiful soothing voice throughout. Oh and speaking of books, I just picked up a copy of Gardens: Maine Style and was thrilled to see you wrote the foreword. There was so much in this post that I would love to comment every turn you delight. Enjoyed learning little tidbits of how you work and especially inspiration you receive in dreams. You are such a gentle and amazing person. Enjoy your gorgeous paradise this Winter. It is quite chilly here tonight. xoxo

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi dear Lili,

Didn't the summer just disappear? I am so sorry we didn't connect, but work called.

Yes, I was honored to do the foreword to Gardens Maine Style. They also featured our porch and container gardens. I don't remember the page numbers, but our porch was set up for breakfast and we had an antique aqua tea cart in it. American flag hanging from the edge of the porch. Can you find it.

Miss you and sending love,


One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

I comment seldom
Just wanted to share
I love this book
mine is tattered and is taken
off the shelf frequently
Have given a copy
to each of my daughter's over the years.
Your pictures
and life you share
makes my heart smile...