One Writer’s Garden

Frank managing the sale

Frank managing the sale

Today the tops of half a dozen cucumber seedlings in my garden disappeared. Snapped up by a marauding ground squirrel, no doubt. The dog would love to trap the trespassers but refuses to sit outside alone, preferring my company to the satisfaction of killing the raiders. Frank would be a serial murderer if I were able to sit in the shade for the better part of the day, waiting patiently beside him for a chance to catch the vermin. I can’t. My day job calls.

In private, I dream of a yard swathed in a sea of green, an opulent English garden, the talk of the neighborhood. In reality, my patch of ground is an odd meandering little space, built on bad soil, poorly managed, begging for water and doing really well in spite of me.

Although I like to think I consistently nurture my hodgepodge of herbs, veggies and natives, in truth my charges live a fairly neglected life, intermittently ignored and showered with adoration. I’ll admit to intense interest in spring, when most of my perennials are in bloom, but bottom line, the fruit trees and plantings I’ve installed on my acre of land survive pretty well without my constant attention. Kind of like my novels.

To flourish in this mountain microclimate, growth requires a bit of hard work, the willingness to learn and experiment, the wherewithal to research best practices and methods, and the gardener’s ability to cull the unproductive. And kill the thieves that steal the bounty. Appropriate nutrients must be added at just the right time to enrich the tender growth. Oh, and you have to be willing to haul water and cut wood. But most of all, gardening requires patience. Damn, you have to be patient.

If you’re like me, you seek a few simple practices that “set you free,” in a sense. Gardening does that. So does writing. A good gardener educates themselves. Does research. Chooses. Plant seeds. Waters, fertilizes. Practices patience. Cuts what can’t survive intense weather, scrutiny, attacks by hostile editors – ummmm, pests. Keeps what makes the cut. Sound familiar?

I acknowledge that – like a good book or a happy life – a successful garden thrives on goals, daily loving care and vision. I’m encouraging three young hops vines this year with an exuberant scheme to make my own beer next fall. Actually, a year from this fall. That’s not unusual for me – not anymore – forming a plan for something that won’t see daylight for over twelve months.

I’ve learned to see my life in the long-term. My farsightedness has grown along with my life experience, in more ways than one. I’m willing to wait for things to evolve. I’m down with the fact that perspective changes in the second half of our existence, and I’m happy about it.

I’ve come to believe that gardening epitomizes the choices we can make. When you’re digging in the earth, you don’t think of problems or issues, you think of loam and mulch and earthworms and possibilities. Writing is the same. It sets your imagination free. After a serious session with a spade – or a pen – you’re less tense, less stressed, less hostile, more focused on what can be accomplished as opposed to what can’t. I garden, I write, I walk in the woods, and love my dog. And my day job pays for it all. For now.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

19 Responses to One Writer’s Garden

  1. Jolyse Barnett August 16, 2011 at 2:48 am #

    I enjoyed your analogy between a gardner’s and a writer’s patience. I’ve learned patience. After fifteen months of serious writing, I’m realizing that the fruits of my labor may take many more months to blossom. And that’s okay. It’s part of the process.

    Thanks for the great post. I feel calmer now for having read it.

    • Molly Greene August 16, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

      Jolyse, if I can help anyone feel more calm I’m grateful. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and leave a lovely comment!

  2. Diane Hughes (@dianewordsmith) August 16, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    This was such a pleasant read, Molly. As Tess said, it made me smile. I feel like going outside now and deadheading my impatiens, but it’s bedtime and sleep beckons. Thanks for the sweet bedside story. 🙂

    • Molly Greene August 16, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

      Diane, lots of deadheading here for you whenever you want to visit!

  3. Tess Hardwick August 16, 2011 at 2:23 am #

    This post made me smile. In your description of your garden and care of it, I was reminded of my mothering skills! Thanks for a wonderful read, as always.

  4. Bonnie House August 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    I like how you compare your garden with your writing. I like to do art so art is your garden and it takes me away. So does writing. But haven’t learned to let go and write what I am thinking. Feel I need to write the truth instead of filling in with things that might have happened. So not so good at fiction yet, but enjoy haiku poetry and non-fiction articles and doing Bible studies. Have a new blog and it is about being disciples for Christ.

    I love the picture of your dog. Looks like it could be mean if it wanted to but for the right reasons.


    • Molly Greene August 16, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

      Hi Bonnie! Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment – I appreciate it. Time to let go!

  5. Jacqui Murray August 16, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    You might like John Verdon’s latest thriller, Shut Your Eyes Tight. His main character retires to the mountains around Mt. Shasta with his wife who spends much of the book tending her gardens. I kind of got into rural life through it, but not enough to move!

    • Molly Greene August 16, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

      Thank you Jacqui, I’ll put it on my to-read list!

  6. Mary Yuhas August 16, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    Great blog with great analogies! I love your dog too. I’m a dog person and a gardener. Florida gardens are terribly challenging because anything will grow. Trying to keep things from growing is the trick here and you do have to watch out for coral snakes but you probably have rattlers. Great job!

    • Mary Yuhas August 16, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

      I mean Florida gardens aren’t challenging

      • Molly Greene August 16, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

        Hi Mary! Sometimes I wish I had that problem – cutting things back & down is so much easier than begging them to grow and bloom. Thanks for the read and comment!

  7. Jan Romes March 20, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    Very nice article, Molly :-)) I love gardening too. Your
    comparisons of gardening and writing were excellent!
    Thanks for the enlightening post!

  8. Caroline Gerardo April 1, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    I love this article about gardening. I am a gardener and have organice produce, flowers and even some rose patents. I love that you are a planner then randomly neglectful, a sort of let them go free, well not the squirrels…

  9. Rick Bylina June 6, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    I grow large nouns and vibrant verbs in my garden, but I have to watch out for invasive adverbs and adjectives that are helpful, but must be controlled lest they crowd out the flow of the garden walk. Truly, a magnificent garden mirrors a well-crafted novel. And like the writing, the garden takes time to reach its full potential.

    • Molly Greene June 7, 2012 at 6:44 am #

      I love it! Rick, thank you so much for stopping by!

  10. Diana Underhill Dinverno April 13, 2014 at 6:04 am #

    Glad to have your post as my companion as I sit with a cup of coffee this morning. Your style of gardening mirrors mine. BTW, Frank is a cutie!

    • Molly Greene April 13, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

      Thanks, Diana – Frank says hi!