Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Writer's Garden

By Amy

Isn't it magnificent? It's an Asiatic lily. I discovered them two years ago when I started my flower garden in this new home of ours. I didn't think I could grow that single blossom in my humble garden, I wasn't even sure if it was a perennial or annual. It simply captivated me. It was beyond my ability as a gardener, I thought, but over two years it's thrived and spread, my ambitions exceeding my skills with stunning results.

From the first day we looked at the house, I saw a cacophony of flowers where only grass grew. The landscape was bereft of color, of passion and life. So I tilled the earth, shoveled in yard after yard of loam, planted seeds and adolescent plants, scattered fertilizer, and, of course, watered daily. Watering was a grind; I didn't always feel like doing it, but it was necessary to go to the hose each day, even in the beginning when I wasn't certain anything would grow.

There were mistakes along the way. Sometimes I placed a flower that preferred partial shade in full sun. They died, it was hard to let them go. Other times, events beyond my control -- a caterpillar infestation last summer -- nearly destroyed everything I'd worked so hard to create. I had to pluck them one-by-one from each petal and spathe, every leaf of my Weeping cherry. It was laborious to be sure, but such attention to detail saved my garden. Still I weed each day, pulling out both the plants no gardener wants (grass) and some of my own flowers I didn't notice had infiltrated nearly the entire length of the garden. Ah, the hardy B-bomb.

And there were surprises, starting with the mulleins that appeared out of nowhere. I first noticed the downy leaves running along a section of border, scattered in the rugged lawn rather than the relative ease of churned soil. I trusted my instincts and invited them into my garden, not sure how they would blossom. My, they're beautiful. The astor and variety of lavender I'm not familiar with have found their way there, too. A burst of willful surprises. Or serendipity.

By now you probably understand where this is going. My garden, something that was conceived first in my imagination and then committed to reality through uncertain labor, constant tending, with pitfalls and glorious surprises along the way is much like my book. When I first started writing it, my ambition outweighed my skill tenfold. I sat down each day and wrote, never certain the words would come. I made mistakes, characters whose POV died. How I mourned them. The events beyond my control were all the nuisances of reality that infiltrated my writing life, or nuisances I created on the page that simply killed the narrative. Oh and the weeds, the commas and words we use far too frequently; mine is moment. I'm still weeding those. The surprises were plentiful, not the least of which were the flowers. Perhaps someday you'll understand what I mean by the flowers.

I don't know yet if I've succeeded with my literary garden. What I do know is that I've enjoyed every shovel full of dirt, every grub and every bud, even the daily grind of sitting here when I didn't necessarily feel like it.

When I look now at that Asiatic lily, I can't quite believe I had the daring to try to grow something magnificent. But I did, and I do. My hope now is that it has a chance to fully blossom.

Literary Happenings: If you live in or near the South Shore of Massachusetts, please come by Grub Street South at Buttonwood Books tonight at 7:00 pm. The Writers' Group is hosting a workshop on finding members that work for you.


Michelle Zink said...

Okay, forget the deep analogy between gardening and writing (which I agree with, btw).


I SO admire people who garden. I suck at gardening and, even worse, can't muster the enthusiasm to try and grow one. Oh, I like the way they look and everything, just have no desire to do all that work myself!

Hopefully there's not some connections to my writing. Heh.

Larramie said...

You have a beautiful garden (from your description and picture), Amy, and even toiling away in it must give you time for creative thinking as well. Also, I need to know if any daisies grow among the lilies ? ;o)

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Ha! You're so funny, Michelle.My garden is not quite so lush as in years past because I'm finishing edits. But I hope next year it will be as I imagine it.


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Larramie, we were posting at the same time! Yes, of course daisies. Unfortunately, my father and I lost most of our shasta daisies this year; they're so cheerful. Anyone else? I'll plant more. Dop you grow them?


Lisa said...

We moved into this house last July, so we got a few perennials planted in late summer that I was delighted to see came back. I planted some annuals and some ground cover just last week. The annuals seem like such a waste of time in one way, but I do love how they keep on blooming. I love daisies! More perennials this fall...

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

I like to mix my perennials with annuals, but don't tell anyone. Real gardeneres don't do that I'm told.