I love honesty and freedom and giving. I love making, I love doing. I love being to the full, I love everything which is not sitting and watching and copying and dead at heart. – John Fowles from The Collector
I stunned myself this past week when I said aloud to my husband. “I am a much happier gardener than I am a writer.” Of course, he agreed.
Gardening is not a committee process. There is no one standing over you editing or critiquing your artistic creation. The garden isn’t yours. You are a laborer at best, offering gentle guidance. It’s between you and the earth. Simple as that. Sure, there are some parallels to writing of course: there are some basic rules, but mostly, gardening, as with nature in general, is more free form and the enjoyment comes from the doing. That being the process of creating without control. With story writing, we, the author, control everything. In nature, we control nothing. We can attempt the illusion of control by choosing the right plants for the right spot, making sure we have tended to the soil and so forth, but even then, the end result is at its best when we relinquish all control and enjoy the unpredictability of it. With writing, you can’t do that, not entirely. The garden is full of mistakes and happy accidents. The less of a plan you have, the better the whole thing turns out, and no one needs to be around to witness the final result, which is never actually final in the true sense of the word. Mother Nature does her best work in solitude, and it is always a work in progress. There is no “done” and never a human eye need gaze upon it for it to be beautiful and satisfying. If the flower is happy, then I am happy, and I am happy a lot when I am in my garden.
And so that is how my vacation went. I only went online once, and that was only because none of the six nurseries I went to had the self-pollinating dwarf blueberry bush I wanted, so I had to order it online. Yes, the interwebz is good for that at least. Beyond that one twenty minute online excursion, I spent the entirety of my time outside. We had great weather, and I had a lot to do. We had some wood rot to tend to around the back patio door, and our side yard, due to poor drainage, has become a mud pit. The soil needed to be amended, tilled, and then dug out for a path. Digging and lugging stone around is an exhausting and satisfying job. I also got all my cooking herbs in the ground and a few trees that suffered wind damage this winter had to be pruned. Actually, the only less than pleasant job was the Annual Shed Cleaning, but this year, I didn't have to wear a respirator: thank you stray kitties for eating all the mice. I did take a break one day for a trip to the little artsy village we like to go to and stumbled upon the 1960 Golden Anniversary Edition of The Wind in The Willows, illustrated in full color by Ernest Shepard. $25.00 bucks, and it’s in stellar condition. Only a bit of fading on the dust jacket. That was my happy dance find of the week. It was one of my favorites as a child, and I tend to revisit it again and again. I also read some really great books in between the digging and the planting. My review last week for Comfort Food had me in the mood to revisit John Fowles debut novel The Collector, which is on the surface a psychological thriller but in reality is an allegory, and much like Ellis’ American Psycho, it takes a satirical view of our beloved dysfunctional society. Even for being written in 1963, it’s still a haunting story of sexual neurosis, class neurosis, and bourgeoisie vulgarity. Then I read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar again because my review book this week was subtly evocative of it. Lastly, I have been meaning to read The Baby Jesus Butt Plug, but it had gotten lost in the shuffle until Emily’s review of Razor Wire Pubic Hair reminded me that it was sitting on my shelf. I hope to review that soon.
All in all, it was nice to just *be* every day. Up at six-thirty AM, in the garden by nine, getting a ton of exercise that was anything but boring. I also had the opportunity to cook every day. Two squares a day. I ate well and only gained a few pounds that will drop off as fast as they went on. But Alas, I am back to my stuffy office, and the pile of paper that seems to have multiplied on its own in my absence is staring me down like I have done it some kinda wrong. I hope to get back to the reading, writing, editing, and reviewing shortly, that is if I don’t wind up in a padded cell because my stapler started making sexual advances at me.
Cheryl Anne Gardner