Who knows what the world is like in other parts of the country, but here in Albuquerque, we are having a Spring like no other. Usually, when March rolls around, so does the wind, and if the weather is beautiful, it is difficult to tell with the sand being blown in your eyes. And while the wind is still there, its been a much tamer year so far. Weather like this, everyone is outside, walking dogs, taking bike rides, and – at least in my neighborhood – gardening.
It occurred to me as I sat down to write this post, that writing and gardening make a lot of sense when considered together. It makes so much sense to me, that I thought for sure I had written posts and posts about the relationship, but in truth? Not so. Not a one! (Though there was a reference to “planting seeds.”) And so, today, my friends, a few gardening/writing thoughts for you as we head towards the end of this month:
1. Don’t be afraid of the weeds
There’s a flowerbed in the back of the house that has been over-run by weeds and cats and trash blown in from the wind. The other day, Jenn and I set about clearing it all away. We were outside for an hour or two and the flowerbed is little more than a California King sized bed, and I felt like the progress was slow and arduous. “This weeding thing is such a pain,” I said, and Jenn in her wisdom pointed out that weeding is not always like this. Once we had it cleared, the rest would just be upkeep.
Is the writing metaphor glaring for you as much as it was for me? As you probably know, I’ve been working on a novel – the same novel I’ve been working on for almost seven years – and many of the days, my work feels like that – like I’ve slaving away and my progress appears minimal to the actual task. Those are the bad days, the weed days, and sometimes the only thing I can do to make it through them is remember that those are the days of clearing the way. Tomorrow, I tell myself, I’ll have cleared a path. (And it is usually true).
2. Don’t be afraid of planting a variety of seeds
When I lived on Walter Street, Randi and I were a part of a community garden, and every year (at about this time) we would have our first meeting of the planting season. Bonnie, the head of the whole operation, would pull out a white board, and we’d list the different seeds we’d want to plant, starting with tomatoes and peppers and eggplant and usually ending with a discussion about marigolds and zinnias. Even within each type of fruit, we planted a variety, and by the end of the season, there would be almost a dozen different types of tomatoes, half a dozen varieties of basil, multi-colored and multi-textured lettuces, and peppers of different shapes, sizes, and levels of spice. Cooking during harvest season is always spurred along by the inspiration of what the garden has to offer.
Lately, I’ve been wondering why writing cannot be like this as well. Usually, I am a fan of the process, of sitting down every day and hacking away at my novel. This is good practice. It has gotten me through some tough days and tough drafts. Since moving back to New Mexico, however, I’ve been wanting to get back to the fun. Maybe it is a product of returning, which is reminding me of all of the reasons I moved here in the first place – I had a strong urge to create. My first days in Albuquerque were spent writing story after story after story, and I wasn’t worried about doing any one thing, and I wasn’t worried about being any one thing. I was just happy to be living the life of an artist. Today, my days are more full and my writing has more weight, more pressure. BUT, this month, when I’ve been sitting down to work, I’m letting the fun win more. I haven’t always worked on the novel. I haven’t always worked on prose. One day, I sat there and drew pictures and called it the beginning of a graphic story. Another day, I cut out bits from a magazine and glued them into a scrap book. As artists, aren’t we allowed to sow as many seeds as we see fit?
3. Don’t forget to add water
What to say about this other than we live in a desert. Sometimes the seeds need shade. All the time: they need water. Even the ground needs water if you are going to try to pull up the weeds! And so, if we are planting seeds of stories, poems, photographs, drawings, what are the things that water you? Is it the walk in the woods? Is it waking up before the rest of your household? Is it conversations over beer? Long road trips? A month spent sleeping in your childhood bed, hanging out with your mother?
Of all the metaphors, perhaps this one feels the most cheesy to me – especially because I want to caution you about over-watering (when does a walk go from inspiration to writing distraction? Isn’t a weekend with the mother enough? Sometimes you need sleep, too, don’t you think?), but I still think it is true. Maybe our stories (or at least my novel) feel like they have deep, dark, twisted roots, but we don’t. I don’t. I guess you could say that my task is to bring the story water… Feed the story, feed the soul: isn’t it the same thing in the end?
The metaphor can go on. We plant things. We watch them grow. We harvest the fruit. We slice it up, cook it up. We share it with others. But that is for the summer months. And this is March. …the month of getting the garden ready. So what are you waiting for? What does your garden need today? Now, go!