Hilary Custance Green has many roles. She’s a daughter, wife, mother, author, sculptor, blogger and gardener.
It’s the gardener role that first caught my eye.
More specifically, it was her Japanese maple seedlings that caught my interest.
Hilary had written a blog post about growing Japanese maples from seed. Being a gardener ( and having failed to grow Japanese maples from seed), I was impressed.
Hilary loves gardening, of course. She brings both art and science to the task. (Did I mention she also has a doctorate in brain science?)
She even had a knot garden, which I know from experience is not an easy thing to create.
“I love all the phases of project work, creation, engineering, labour, completion and peer review. I am never happier than working to exhaustion on a big 3D piece of work, or weeding for hours in the garden.”
“As a teenager I dreamt of becoming Rodin or Michelangelo. It was not to be, but I spent twenty (mostly happy) years making large semi abstract sculptures and also, to earn a penny or two, portrait heads.”
“In both sculpture and writing, it is the crossfire of unrelated elements that makes the story.
“So this sculpture developed out of The Song of Hiawatha (Longfellow) and the sad time in my twenties when my boyfriend was drowned.”
One of the recurring themes in all Hilary’s books is this question: What gives individuals strength in adversity?
By the time I met her through her blog, Hilary had already written three novels — Border Line, A Small Rain, Unseen Unsung — and was working on a special non-fiction book.
Each novel explores the question above, with themes of “love, grief, adventure, disability and both good and bad luck.”
“I hope to give readers something positive to take away as well as a hefty dash of the music and poetry I love so much.”
Family and home are important parts of Hilary’s life.
“Home is where I have the wondrous fortune to be loved and feel safe,” she says.
“My husband Edwin and I both had parents with jobs that moved around. To give us a good education they sent us to boarding schools far from our homes.
“When we found this house, and had our two girls, we never wanted to move again and our children walked to school in the village.
“When we outgrew the space, we built an extension (or two or three!).”
Hilary’s parents, Barry and Phyllis, went through great adversity during the second world war, and in 2016, she published a book about their experience.
Surviving the Death Railway: A POW’s Memoirs and Letters from Home is that book. Both acclaimed and very successful, it may well be her signature work so far.
“It includes the 68 men captured with Barry and their families back home in Britain, who kept in touch with Phyllis throughout the war. The real story is the amazing support these ordinary men and women gave each other in horrific and testing times.”
Today, Hilary and Edwin’s daughters — Eleanor and Amy — are grown up with partners and lives of their own in other cities.
Hilary too has been busy.
She has done many author presentations for her latest book, and is working on yet another. The work-in-progress is about “a brilliant, crazy woman, her concert pianist mother, their young, troubled and disabled biographer and a prickly young jazz pianist.”
She and Edwin are also redesigning the garden.
Like everything else Hilary creates, one senses the finished products — book and garden — will be intriguing, powerful and beautiful.