This past weekend was a long weekend in Canada and between the weather cooperating and a bloc of available time, I finally had the chance to do my spring gardening. I swear this is not going to become Evan’s Hobby Blog, but with writing at kind of a standstill the past while (not permanently, but I’m still struggling to find a time to write that’s going to work) I thought I’d share some reflections on digging in the dirt today.
Wait, where are you going?
For those of you who stayed, I have always enjoyed messing around with plants. My Mum gave me a little corner of her garden when I was quite little (I believe I successfully grew carrots) and whenever I have had a place with a little space to grow a plant or two, I have. When I spent a year in England for my MA I got a little cactus for my dorm room; this turned out to be a rather fraught relationship as I had a singular talent for knocking the poor thing off the windowsill and it retaliated by leaving evil little spines imbedded in my flesh. The cactus stayed behind when I returned to Canada and I hope it found someone to take care of it.
Most of the times plants and I get along pretty well though. Some years I have done vegetables, some, (like this one) the garden is mostly flowers. Both have their charms. You can’t do much better than a vegetable fresh from your own garden, and having a little oasis of colour to step outside and enjoy is a wonderful antidote to stress. So I enjoy the results of gardening.
I also enjoy the process. I like digging in the earth and getting my hands dirty, planting seeds or little plantlings, and then the day-to-day care of tending to the garden – watering, getting rid of weeds, picking off the dead blossoms, and so on. Obviously lots of people have written about the meditative qualities of gardening and I’m not going to try to do better than them. I do also think that the practicality and tangibility of working in the garden is part of the attraction for me. Most of us probably have some problems in our lives that we’re not sure how to solve, if they even can be solved, or that we struggle to make progress with. Gardening has a very nice immediacy to it; you can spend some time pulling weeds and very clearly have Done A Thing, and step back and look at what you just accomplished. Really the whole garden works that way; you can see the results of your efforts very clearly and without wondering ‘well, is all the work I’m doing really making a difference?’ In the garden, it clearly is.
There is (I guess obviously) some connection to writing, or at least I think there is. It is very satisfactory, in I think a similar way, to spend time writing and then look at all the words on the page and realize that you’ve created A Thing, something that people may even enjoy in a somewhat similar way as they may enjoy looking at your garden. I suppose writing takes the process a little further in that when we write, we create something wholly unique and new out of ourselves, whereas the snapdragons in my garden are basically the same snapdragons you’d see anywhere.
I wouldn’t say I’m much of an artist at gardening (although some people certainly are), but it’s something I enjoy and that I think improves my mental health and that I like to think nourishes the parts of my makeup that also help me to write things. So perhaps working in the garden will help me get past this writing standstill.
I have an ancient geranium that is now in its 15th year. It has been through four moves and, perhaps more difficult for the plant, many winters. Winters are hard because the geranium has to move indoors, and I’ve never had a place that has windows that face the right direction to give full sun through the day. As a result the geranium dies back each winter, waiting for spring so it can go back out in the sun and start to grow again.
I mention the geranium because I’m trying to take it as an example for my writing, at the moment. Sometimes it isn’t a very good season for creativity, and productivity dies back. I think that’s ok, and for most people probably inevitable. I also think for most artistic people, as soon as conditions are better, the art will come back, just like the geranium always gets green and leafy and flowery as soon as it can go back outside in the springtime. Right now my writing is kind of in ‘winter geranium’ mode, but I’m sure ‘spring’ can’t be far away.
For now I’m going to water my garden before the day gets too warm, enjoy the flowers, and trust that my writing will have some new growth as well before long.
Thanks for reading.
My friend Su Sokol is doing a reading from her novel Cycling to Asylum in Ottawa on Sunday, May 29th. It will be at Perfect Books on Elgin St. and gets started at 2:30 pm. The event is free (yay!) and Su will do a brief Q&A afterwards. This is a great chance to come out and meet an exciting Canadian author in a lovely venue and if you’re a fan of SFF you should come on down.