Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt

Nature vs. Nurture

June 15, 2021 Susan Quilty Season 1 Episode 17
Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt
Nature vs. Nurture
Chapters
Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt
Nature vs. Nurture
Jun 15, 2021 Season 1 Episode 17
Susan Quilty

In this week's story, Nature vs. Nurture,  a young girl contemplates her life as bees buzz in her family's lush garden

Suggestions for writing prompts are always welcome! Otherwise, prompts are chosen in random ways. This week's prompt was inspired by a trip to a beautiful walled garden at a historic home.

More about Susan Quilty

Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society.  Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.

Website:  SusanQuilty.com
Patreon: Patreon.com/SusanQuilty

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/SusanQuilty)

Show Notes Transcript

In this week's story, Nature vs. Nurture,  a young girl contemplates her life as bees buzz in her family's lush garden

Suggestions for writing prompts are always welcome! Otherwise, prompts are chosen in random ways. This week's prompt was inspired by a trip to a beautiful walled garden at a historic home.

More about Susan Quilty

Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society.  Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.

Website:  SusanQuilty.com
Patreon: Patreon.com/SusanQuilty

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/SusanQuilty)

Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 17 of Freely Written, a podcast by author Susan Quilty:
  

Welcome to Freely Written where a simple prompt leads to a little unplanned fiction.

[Light piano music]

Hi, friends! I’m Susan Quilty and today’s prompt is Nature vs. Nurture 

Thanks for making time for a little fiction. If you’re a new listener, here’s how this podcast works: I use a writing prompt to inspire a quick story, with no planning and very little editing, and then I share that story with you.

Today’s prompt was inspired by the time I spent out in nature over the weekend. After visiting a vineyard for outdoor yoga and a garden for a photo excursion, nature has been very much in my thoughts. When I sat down to write, the first phrase that popped to mind was “nature vs. nurture,” which isn’t necessarily about the beautiful outdoors, but I still decided to use it as a prompt. 

And here’s the story it inspired:

 

Nature vs. Nurture

There were fat bees buzzing around the butterfly bush, but Naomi wasn’t afraid. The bees were more interested in gathering pollen than in stinging her. Knowing that gave her a rush of power. She was safe from the bees because she was beneath their notice. It was like being invisible. Invulnerable. 

Though Naomi also knew her safety was conditional. If she were to threaten the bees, say by swatting them away from the flowers, they would be more inclined to sting her. But why would she do that? It was strangely calming to watch them dart from blossom to blossom. They crawled on the swaying stems like tiny acrobats. Upside-down, right-side-up, twisting this way and that to get their precious pollen. 

The butterflies were not bothered by the bees either. They flitted among the flowers, resting here and there with delicately fluttering wings. When Naomi dared to lean a bit closer, she could see the details of their wings. The tiny veins that reminded her of the pressed leaves hanging in a frame on her bedroom wall.

The pressed leaves had hung in her bedroom her entire life. Actually, they’d hung in her nursery before she was born. Which she knew from stories and pictures but didn’t remember herself. Her baby album had pictures of her room when it had been furnished with a crib, a changing table, a rocking chair, and a ridiculously large teddy bear. 

It seemed strange to Naomi, to see her room that way. It was familiar yet unfamiliar. The walls were still the same pale green as they were today. The pale wood floors still gleamed in the sunlight. The framed row of pressed flowers still hung beside her closet door. 

Otherwise, the room had grown with her. The crib had been replaced by a wrought-iron daybed with a roll-away trundle for visiting friends. The white, flowered curtains now matched her bedspread and lacy pillow shams. Stuffed animals rested against her pillows: a bunny with matted fur and a squirrel whose fluffy tail had seen better days. 

Naomi wondered when she would be too old for the stuffed animals. She’d already begun to outgrow her other toys. Her baby dolls had been packed away, and the beautiful dollhouse her grandparents had built for her was gathering dust. 

She didn’t bring her dolls to the garden for tea parties anymore. Instead, she wandered the lush paths simply taking it all in. 

The garden was a point of pride for her parents. And for Naomi. She’d learned to nurture the plants just as she’d learned to walk. She didn’t remember the beginning of either of those skills, they simply were. 

Her grandmother said Naomi had nature in her blood. Her grandfather said she was born with two green thumbs. They said it was because her mother was a botanist and her father an arborist. Her parents merely smiled and said that Naomi was a very big help in the garden. 

Sometimes, Naomi wondered what it would be like to grow up in a house without a garden. She had friends who lived closer to the city and their small backyards were neatly mown swaths of green grass. There were usually some shrubs and flowers planted around their front doors, though those simple displays seemed inadequate in Naomi’s eyes. Sad in their scarcity.

Naomi’s garden was luxurious. It stretched for a half-acre beyond their back patio, sprawling in loosely defined sections. There was a vegetable patch closer to the house, alongside a raised herb garden, and fat berry bushes lined the stone patio. Fresh vegetables were a staple at their table, and Naomi’s friends delighted in picking their own berries. 

Beyond these practical plantings, a stone path wound its way between clusters of flowering shrubs and ornamental trees. Perennials bloomed through different seasons, giving the garden its own ever-changing personality. There were water features tucked between the flora, including a koi pond where a tall cluster of rocks supported an ever-flowing trickle of recycling water and a still pool where reeds and lily pads sheltered families of frogs and turtles. 

As Naomi stood in the butterfly garden, watching the bees gather pollen from the pale purple flowers, she imagined what it would be like when she left her beautiful home to live in a college dorm. She’d visited her cousin’s dorm once. She had a cramped, shared room in a boring brick building. The floors were polished cement, and the walls were thickly painted cinderblock. The only personality came from the jumble of personal items strewn about the cluttered room. 

And Naomi had loved it. 

The dorm didn’t have the charm of her home, but it had an energy of its own. Students lounged on battered couches in the common room or swiftly passed through the hallways on their way to classes. They weren’t governed by bells or living in rooms lovingly decorated by their parents. They had their own schedules, their own agendas, their own dreams.  

Now that Naomi had started high school, she often wondered about her own future. Her family was sure she would pursue some form of nature study. Agriculture, botany, conservancy. Naomi wasn’t so sure. 

While she loved being in nature, Naomi also loved math and English. She was increasingly curious about politics, and, most of all, she adored foreign languages. 

Naomi’s mother was French-Canadian and had raised her to be bilingual. Even her father, who had grown up in New Jersey, had learned to speak fluent French with the family. In middle school, Naomi had added Spanish to her repertoire, and she was now taking classes in German.

Naomi dreamed of traveling the world as an interpreter or working at the United Nations where she could help world leaders communicate their important ideas. 

Her parents thought learning foreign languages was an admirable hobby. They said it would be an asset when she traveled. They didn’t know Naomi wanted to live in a city of cement and glass, where the streets were abuzz with energy and the people had no time to tend gardens. 

They didn’t know, because she’d never told them. 

Naomi was afraid her parents wouldn’t understand her choosing a path that involved the cultivation of ideas instead of plant life. She worried that they would be hurt if she didn’t follow in their footsteps or didn’t make use of her natural-born two green thumbs. 

But what if she hadn’t been born with a knack for gardening?

It was a question that nagged at Naomi. In school, her science teacher had once talked about the idea of nature vs. nurture. Did children exhibit certain traits because they were in their genes or because their parents encouraged those traits from the time they were born?

Naomi had grown up in a beautiful garden. She’d learned the names of plants by her mother’s side and visited countless orchards and forests with her father as guide. 

Nature was in her blood. But did it have to dictate her future?

Naomi watched the bees flit from flower to flower. They did their job without complaint, carrying their bounty back to their queen. That pollen would become the honey she one day spread on her morning toast. She could see the cycle of life in the bees and knew that the bees were in danger. 

She could help the bees. Or she could help her own people. Using language to bridge divides and, hopefully, create a better world for everyone, including the nature that supported life on Earth. 

From the house, a brass bell rang out through the garden. It was time for dinner. 

Naomi turned away from the bees, heading toward her waiting family and setting aside her future, letting her path into adulthood be decided another day. 

 

The End

 

Thank you for listening. If you have suggestions for future writing prompts, I’d be happy to use them for new stories. Otherwise, I’ll continue to find inspiration in the world around me. 

To learn more about me and my books, please visit my website, SusanQuilty.com. You can also follow me on social media or support me through my Patreon page. Until next time, try a little free writing of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you. 

[Light piano music]