At this time of year my garden goes bonkers. It takes on a life of its own.
Just enough warmth and rain has tripped the switch on new growth, and before my eyes the landscape is transformed into an acid-hued world, dripping with fecundity (love that word). When I step out the door on a mild and misty morning it feels as though, overnight, this green beast has slithered closer to the house, threatening to wraps its tentacles around it.
I find myself waging a battle between cultivating nature, and keeping it at bay. If I don’t get out to weed the vegetable patch at least once a week, virulent native weeds soon overrun the seedlings of spring greens.
And yet, how many times have I knowingly allowed pop ups from my compost heap—serendipity seedlings, I call them—take root and been thrilled by the bonus mini pumpkins or wild garlic. On my morning walks I even carry a plastic bag and spoon so that I can transplant common native wildflowers into my woodland garden. My perennial beds are full of poppy seedlings and daisies that have found their niche. I tell myself I must be doing something right when they start merrily throwing the next generation around.
Everywhere I turn the concept of balance screams at me. In kick boxing class the instructor dreams up challenging balance poses to strengthen our core muscles and improve our overall physical wellbeing. The latest dietary studies exhort us to eat a balanced diet. And I swear, I strive to balance the carbs and the chocolate.
Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference between good and evil. I just read Michael Pollan’s fascinating article in the New York Times magazine: Germs, What we can Learn from our Microbiome, about the community of microbes that colonize our bodies, keeping our bodies functioning optimally. Contrary to what our mother’s said, sometimes it’s beneficial to get down and dirty.
Our lives are one big balancing act: pain versus pleasure, task versus reward, reality versus fantasy. It’s a daily struggle to maintain a middle path, not to become engulfed in one thing over another, to strike the balance.
How true this is in the world of the writer. You have to fall in love with your characters and plot so that you can write from the heart, yet remain detached enough so that you can cut them to ribbons if that’s what it takes. Yes, you need to make time to connect with your reading audience and interact with the writing community. But when chasing the tweet dragon gets in the way of writing, you know things are out of whack. As I tug weeds in the garden, I often think how similar the process is to editing. You want to clear away enough detritus so you can see your story grow and bloom, but you don’t want to remove all those serendipity seedlings.
How to strike that balancing? For me, the key to standing on one leg and not collapsing in a sweaty heap of giggles is to be mindful, but not obsessive. I have to focus on gentle breathing (not the shooting pain in my hip), while staying tuned in to the big picture (the pain is worth it if it makes my butt look awesome in my new shorts). Hey, no one said it was easy!
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Thanks for your kind words, Horsam. Glad you found the writing advice helpful.
Your writing has sprouted and outgrown the garden, Melissa. What a lovely piece of writing. And great advice about loving my characters and knowing when to cut them to shreds and maybe even kill them off. (I like that last part.) Keep up the great writing.
i love watching those kids playing with dirt.
Your stories are always such a gift – powerful metaphors interwoven with everyday life so eloquently described.
Carol, thank you so much for saying so. I try to put my world into words in as honest a way as I can, and it’s always a pleasure to make a connection with a reader.