Monday, October 16, 2006

How gardening is like writing

Both are about creating something where before there was nothing. Bare ground, blank page. With both, the best stuff comes when we dig deep. With both, we strive for beauty and for contributing something to the world around us.

My husband and I started out with a plan for our yard, which we mostly followed. We had the rock company put the boulders where we wanted them, and we planted evergreen shrubs and trees where we wanted. We (when I’m referring to hard physical labor and say “we,” I mean “he”) dug up the lawn with a sod cutter. Then we (this one includes me too) laid down long sheets of brown paper to cover the weedy soil, which we topped with a few tons (literally) of recycled wood mulch. We let this sit for a winter and then the next spring we started planting perennials — blue flax, yarrow, California poppies, black-eyed Susans, moonbeam coreopsis, fire witch dianthus (how could a writer resist these names?). And we (well, ok, I) strayed a bit from the plan.

We started with a list of half a dozen or so low-water, low-maintenance plants, but something happened as I started to work in the yard. The plan didn’t go out the window so much as the garden transcended the plan. Friends offered me Shasta daisies, irises, four o’clocks and hens and chicks from their gardens. I fell in love with cosmos, snow-in-summer, wine cups, Elijah blue fescue, sunset hyssop (a late bloomer with purple and orange flowers that smell like root beer barrel candy) and orange carpet hummingbird trumpet (which brings hummingbirds to our city yard). A vacant lot nearby sprouted blue salvia and a virtually indestructible plant that is either feverfew or chamomile, and I dug them up and brought them home. And, of course, I had to plant some orange mint.

What we ended up with isn’t nearly as easy or as orderly as we envisioned, but the combinations of colors, scents and shapes of the blooms, the different views between rocks and over seas of flowers are much better than I could have imagined when we first started. It was good that we had the plan and laid a foundation of the rocks and evergreens to anchor everything. But it was also good to go a little crazy with the flowers.

This is also how gardening is like writing: have a plan, but don’t be afraid to ignore it when your own work leads you to something better.


Brenda Oig said...

Hi Carleen. I came over from The Squeaking Noodle. I love your post. It is so true that you start with a plan, but that usually goes out the window as you write. For me, the characters often take over and go in directions I didn't expect. That is so much fun, though, because the story usually ends up so much better for it, as I'm sure the garden does, too. :)

Carleen Brice said...

Hi Brenda. Well, you get a book too! Thanks for the comment and thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Karen's early morning rendezvous: You might be wondering what I am doing up at 3 a.m. --I just wrote a story (personal essay to be exact). I can't believe it! An actual, completed draft!! I've been reading Murakami (who wrote Kafka on the Shore, which Nathan loved and told me about). I'm reading a collection of his short stories, Blind Woman, Sleeping Woman. The man has actually inspired me to write! I had one of those evenings where driving home in my 45 minute (turned into an hour with snow) commute where I planned my dinner: wine and popcorn. Forget the planned house projects--painting a door and installing vinyl baseboard in my downstairs closet. Both of those things were on my agenda for tonight. So I called my long time old friend Deidre who had just attended a storytellers' conference in Tennessee (she lives in North Carolina and it's just a few hours away) and the seed which has been germinating--my desire to write again-- is taking hold. Not the right mataphor for winter, but it's a house plant, OK?) Had wine, popcorn, cheese, a roll, a piece of avocado, carrots, a cupa tea, two pieces of candy and a popsickle for dinner--it doesn't get any better than that--while reading Murakami, fell asleep in my clothes about 8 p.m., woke up at 2 a.m. Was wandering around, doing little things, putting new pages (Oct-Dec) in my Day Planner--and there was the story! So finally instead of forgetting it as I usually do, I stopped and wrote it down. And I like it! Yea!