Writing is, very much, like having a garden. You plant your seeds, water them, talk to them, fertilize them, wait a bit, weed the sprouts, water them some more, stake flowers up when they’ve been trampled, thin the plants, move around a plant or two so that it looks better, weed out the crabgrass, water when it doesn’t, stress when it rains too much, and, eventually, sit there with dirty knees and grubby fingers and be dazzled.
You learn to deadhead so the plant will bloom yet again, you cut a bloom or three to take inside, and then realize the garden looks better for it. You learn that upon seeing it for a first time, the looker cannot tell you had to move a plant, compost one that didn’t make it through the hail storm or that the for-get-me-anyway smells absolutely horrid and your daisies ran away from it!
There is a satisfaction from seeing hummingbirds, butterflies and hummingbird moths sharing your calla lilies, butterfly bushes and phlox. There are smiles in every palm-sized tomato I pick and more as they migrate to neighbor’s kitchens. What is a garden, if not to share the bounty of vegies and blooms?
red as a barn and black as peat.
It’s yellow as lemon and white as the snow;
bluish gray. So many colors below.
Hidden in darkness as thick as the night;
The only rainbow that can form without light.
Dig you a pit, or bore you a hole,
you’ll find enough colors to well rest your soil.
~Francis D. Hole (1913–2002), “A Rainbow of Soil Words”
A poem is planted, the seed of thought sends forth shoots, that, with brainstorms, the light in one’s eyes and a sprinkle of energetic scribbling blooms that one, perfect flower. Ah but flowers fade, need to be deadheaded (which let the plant bloom again) and ‘played with’ a bit. Perhaps this verse here, that planting there nudged between the red and blue… verse six between verse one and two.
The writer is a gardener, you see. Every review a chance to show off the bouquets, and then prune or cut back, encourage and flaunt! It is said that a garden never looks the same two glances in a row. So too, it is with a poem: author or readers–the words may lie untouched upon the page and yet, the time between one reading and the next is colored by happen-chance, a kittened- smile or a pot of overdone coffee. Very much like a storm’s hail, a blustery day or a a week with a dry well. With care and tending both gardens and writing will endure the storms and spring rains, And each, upon a new viewing has something completely new to offer the discerning viewer!
The searing heat played havoc with the garden until I, brain-numb from editing, tossed the pen and grabbed the shears on my way out to the garden. There, without mercy I cut, beheaded, de-budded and hacked at the over-grown and the ‘in desperate need of’ cutting back. Afraid, I’d over done the onslaught, I worried a bit, but knew the plants would grow back, if not this year, then in the next. Not too different than the character I’d just performed a theoretical lobotomy on; changing their focus, motivation and destiny in a few swoop of several pages. Feeling somewhat like I’d had a cathartic cleansing, I then washed the dirt from my hands and went back to hack heads off dead plants–only this time in the book.
Funny, a few weeks later, lo and behold, the garden’s in full bloom, yet again and the character, having shed the unnecessary plumage I’d buried her in, went on to do exactly what she needed to, wanted to do!
Harvest time comes round with that last great burst of foods for canning, and sharing, the ‘invite the whole block’ meals and the plotting and planning for the next garden-generation. The plucking, the plowing under, the reinventing, the tilling, the layering, the mulching…much like the revision/editing of a novel. When the last word is written; tis then the true work begins! What worked, what didn’t, what bloomed and which needs to be plucked out and tossed? Was the garden at its prime all we envisioned or was there still more we could fertilize and revamp? Did the bees move from flower to flower or did some plants wither along the way? Were there plants/story lines that never bloomed or plot holes left by the side-tracking moles burrowing through our minds?
The harvest is in, the nights grow cool. Still, after a few weeks, there will be one final harvest: the last flowers plucked, the last paragraph rewritten, the final batch of still green tomatoes bagged and the last proof gleaned for any stray weeds of omission.