July 14, 2014

Bastille Day. Spent the first half of the day working around the snag. Cleared the hydrangea. Cleared the raspberry patch. Ate three berries from the anemic canes, crowded all season by horsetail fern and blackberries. Very sweet and mild. Found a woman’s low-heeled shoe, two Santa Claus statuettes, a couple broken pots, a lawnmower (I think—still mostly covered), and a hefty iron part to some contraption that consists of a split wheel, a shaft, and a couple rods. Old ideas about the garden emerge as patterns of rotten 2x4s and brick edging stones, interconnected sections of hose buried shallow as part of a makeshift irrigation system. It is satisfying to pull them out—like removing blackberry thorns from my hands at the end of the day. I could do this work all day every day. I have a hard time stopping. Right now I want to be out there even though it is so hot and even though when I am done with this area, it won’t really look better—just tamer, more tended. I don’t feel this about writing—I do not indulge in it because it is satisfying, I am not eager to continue, I have to force myself to continue, and when I am done with something (a sentence, a paragraph, a story), if it isn’t beautiful, then it discourages me from future work. In the garden, as I clear things out and begin to see the edges, the shape of things, I am inspired. I can conceive of the next phase of work and am eager to undertake it. Not so with writing: I do not seem able to stand back from the work and be compelled, either by my progress or by what there is still to do, to step back in again. What is the difference between how I garden and how I write? In the garden, I value and enjoy the labor itself, not just the beauty. I recognize and appreciate progress. And the land—the plants—hold my place when I stop for the day. It is also never done. There is no narrative in the garden. Some day, someone—or just time—will undo what I have done with a sense of satisfaction or relief or frustration or with no sense at all. And nothing will have been lost. Because it all will have been only a very labor-intensive process—a long, long middle with no beginning and no end.

One thought on “July 14, 2014

  1. natalya

    Hey Anne,
    Sweet summer posts about the garden and writing :) I have been trying to track you down, email and FB. I am not sure what you check more, but I thought I would give this a try. Are you teaching in the fall?

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