It’s January, and I’m going to perversely write about my garden. I’ve reached a point in which gardening, painting and writing have fused for me. Each feeds off the other. So I’m thinking about my garden all the time. This started late last May when I left my writing go and wandered out into my backyard. I was sick of writing and all the business related to it. I’d spent years on projects that came to nothing. I doubted I’d ever return to spinning stories, and that terrified me. I wandered around the yard in a manic state. Who was I if I wasn’t writing something? I had treated my yard with a kind of desultory hit or miss attention since moving in here 12 years ago. The kids were small during the interceding years and happiest digging in the mess, the yard was narrow and swallowed inside out by invasives—ivy, mean-ass prickly raspberries, and just plain old weeds. Blinking like a pale mole in the sunlight, I felt ravenous for color. In most respects I’d ignored color for years, and that was a disservice to it and to me.
At that moment last spring if I could have safely ingested the burning orange of zinnia petals or the pinks of new rose buds, hard and fascinating as coral, I would have done it. After years of writing in enclosed rooms and fabricating the colors out of my mind, I sloshed in the muddy paths between my neglected raised garden beds keenly aware that I had unintentionally but certainly masochistically locked myself out of my own life, the one closest to me.
So I started ripping out weeds and hauling in seeds and flats of annuals. Since the weather was not always kind and the flowers slow to erupt, I bought gallons of used paints from the Habitat for Humanity Restore. I had some vague ideas but largely no specific plan about what would come next. As I hauled old wooden bed frames and chairs from the garage, I was euphoric but also frantic. So much of what I’ve written has not added up to anything tangible. Drafts take years. I had learned much from the close, hard work and been deeply transformed by the process, but I suspected those who work with colors and textures of all kinds experience daily immediate flashes of adrenalin and grace to the heart. Reading and writing, my life’s blood, does not offer the same sudden thrill that comes from spying and then painting a plot of dahlias in the last light of day when the feathery blossom heads glow as if from within and the stems cross and uncross each other in the wind like lovely limbs.
My next series of blog entries will touch on what happened when I dove with little planning into creating with my hands instead of words.
Book recommendation: Starved for words infused with flowers and color? Go child-like and try The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small