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Marilyn Simonds, reading among the lilies

Merilyn Simonds reads in the garden at her home north of Kingston.

mark bergin The Globe and Mail

Reading, to me, is best done out of doors, away from angles and hard surfaces. I've tried hammocks – the idea appeals – but cloth is too cosseting. I can't read in a cocoon. On the grass, then. Under a tree. To the jazzy drone of honeybees. No lotus in my yard, but August lilies do the trick, wafting me unencumbered into other written worlds.

Sometimes, that world is my own, for I write outdoors, too, in my head. I'll be weeding the cleome or digging up carrots and words will flit through my mind, bright and perfect. They'll gather themselves into sentences like staging monarchs, and I'll walk gingerly to the house, trying not to disturb the configuration, knowing it can burst apart and soar away at any moment.

I write as I move through the gardens, but when I sit, I read. Today, it's Summertime, in the air and in my hand. This "fictional autobiography" by J.M. Coetzee reconstructs his life after he is dead through a series of interviews, one of which takes place in Kingston, Ont., a city he's never visited. He'll be here soon, in September, for our WritersFest. The trees will be getting naked, then, and the grass too damp for sitting on for hours. But in this moment, I can still sit happily among the flowers, wondering: What will happen when fiction turns to fact?

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Merilyn Simonds's most recent books are Breakfast at the Exit Café, co-written with Wayne Grady, and A New Leaf: Growing With My Garden. She lives just outside Kingston, Ont.

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