The Constant Gardener

The Constant Gardener

No, I don’t want to talk about the excellent thriller by John le Carre, author of cold war classics like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Russia House.

I want to talk about actual gardening.

I love gardening. I love watching gardening shows and reading gardening books. At every opportunity, I stroll through other people’s gardens, admiring textures and colors, scents and arrays. I talk to master gardeners. I read our community newsletter’s gardening column every month.

I own four different kinds of trowels.

So three years ago, when I was feeling flush and a drought was on, we hired a landscape company to come rip the St. Augustine out of our postage stamp-sized front yard and put in Texas natives. The designer installed a river rock bed and heaped loads of weed suppressant and mulch around the skullcap and pigeonberry, the Pride of Barbados and the hummingbird bushes.

“Remember,” he said to me before driving off, “each year is different. In the first year, the plants will sleep. The second year, they’ll creep. The third year, they’ll leap.”

At “leap,” he made a pouncing motion with his hand contorted into a claw. I was to remember that pounce — and that claw — recently one sunny weekend when I stepped off my front porch and into a jungle.

True, it had been five weeks since I’d mowed the city right-of-way or wielded the weed eater at the large rocks we’d placed along the street. True, it was late spring in Houston, and we’d had about fifteen inches of rain. And it’s true that I had let the lovely evening primrose run wild across the mulch because I love all the pink blooms. And yes, that nice wallow-looking spot over by the yellow bulbine could be where the neighborhood Muscovy ducks have been spending their evenings. Or hatching eggs. Who knows.

I love gardening, I thought as I got out the weed whacker and waded in.

I hate gardening, I thought four hours later as I stood on one foot in the shower, prying the last of the biting ants from my ankle.

Then I thought of our neighbor, Lynda, who has a gorgeous garden. When Dear Him and I take our evening walk, we often see her kneeling next to her plants, floppy hat drooping artfully over her impeccably made-up face, a sturdy trowel clutched determinedly in her designer gardening-gloved hand. She always has a cheerful smile and a wave for us; all her plants nod and bow in greeting with her.

And then, the probably-obvious-to-you-Gentle-Reader moment occurred a little later while I scraped cat poo from my docksiders: I don’t actually like gardening all that much. At least, not in bulk.

Because the truth is, if I truly loved gardening, I’d be like Lynda, out there every day or every other day, digging and prodding and mulching and clipping.

Instead, I binge-garden, mostly out of guilt.

This is perhaps not the most effective way of getting gardening done.

I love the idea of gardening more than the actual doing of the gardening.

And yet… I sometimes treat the writing in exactly the same way. I say I want to write. I read books on writing and take classes on writing. I plan my writing meticulously. I meet with other writers to talk about writing, and yet… Do I actually take the time each day to just… you know… write a little? To keep the weeds down and the plants trimmed, as it were? Or do I procrastinate and then binge-write just before a deadline of some sort wallops me and I’m tempted to pull out a dog-ate-my-homework excuse?

So this morning I went out with one of my trusty trowels and my non-designer gardening gloves and dug up some weeds for a little while. Then I came back inside and punched out about 500 words, which edges me closer to my goal of finishing my second short story for this WoC challenge.

And you know, I think I really do like gardening after all.

12 thoughts on “The Constant Gardener

  1. Would love to see pictures of your garden! Here’s my ‘truth’ – I love gardens. I’m not to keen on gardening. I’ve killed so many plants, they should put my picture up at the register at every plant store and refuse to sell me more victims!Fortunately, for my plants (at the least ones outdoors) I can hire a service to care for them.

    If I apply your analogy to my writing, I love having written – the writing, not so much. Actually, that’s not exactly true – once I get started, I do enjoy the writing. But I can find a gazillion ways to procrastinate before starting. Then, I to tend to binge write – and miss the deadline, anyway.

    With my second ice dunking due in just a few days, I really need to figure out my ‘process’ and take better care of my garden!

    1. Girl, I hear you. It’s so easy to look at the story and think, “Yeah, I’ll get right on that. Tomorrow.”

      In the crazy webinar-watching schedule we had over the last two weeks, I ran across a tip that I’ll use for the next challenge: To commit to sitting at the computer (or with a notebook open and pen at the ready) for five minutes and doing nothing except either actually writing or just sitting there. The speaker talked about just getting over the hump of not even trying by “suiting up and showing up,” and he said that 9 times out of 10, he’d write that first sentence and then the next time he looked up, a half-hour had gone by.

      Sounds like magic, doesn’t it? And I could use the wave of the magic wand from time to time when it comes to motivation!

    2. Terri – I remember back in the day, before you moved to the Creek that your house used to be full of plants. We used to sit on your back patio and talk about the plants in your backyard in between bouts of serious plotting. When we dunk you this weekend, will that gal sprout?

      1. You miss the fine point here – we sat on the patio, OUTSIDE. I can keep those plants alive. But I love the greenery and health benefits of having plants indoors – THOSE I KILL 🙁

  2. In the first year, the plants will sleep. The second year, they’ll creep. The third year, they’ll leap.

    Kay: This is my mother’s — the garden center owner — favorite quote. I guess it’s like the oath they must memorize before being given their license!

    I think we’re all binge writers. Something about a distant deadline makes it seem like we have all the time in the world, and then when that deadline is suddenly “right around the corner” we realize we’ve got to get our butts in gear. Personally, I love those frantic writing sessions, where you tell the world it has to wait because you have a deadline. My creative juices flow so much better when I don’t have a choice!

    But I will say, you can’t beat pulling weeds when it comes time to a no-brainer activity designed to let you mull over plot points in the back of your mind.

    1. I agree completely about pulling weeds being a great activity for letting the Plot Bunnies loose! There’s something meditative about weed pulling (the relaxed kind, not the OMG-I-can’t-see-my-yard-and-where’s-the-birdbath kind).

      I was reminded recently that a project will naturally expand to fill the time you give it (amen!) and so it’s better to give ourselves an aggressive goal that we can still meet. I’d add to that: And that won’t make us tear our hair out with anxiety.

      Right now, prepping to press Publish on Saturday has my nerves singing… or is it just general nerves around putting my babies out there?!?!?!?!?

      Deep, deep breaths…

      1. While I personally don’t share your delight of weeding, I did put garden therapy in my WIP which was all about weed-pulling. But writing that scene made me tired and I had to go and relax in my pool. *sigh* Guess that behavior is symptomatic of my rotundness. ;o)

  3. Lovely post. I enjoy puttering around in the yard. I love sitting on my baby tractor mowing the two acres we live on. I also love to “have written.” But you have to sit down in the first place and write. Sigh. I’m trying to rewire my Polack brain to sit at my writing computer first thing in the morning instead of my big computer where I play on the Internet. That way, even if I only write 100 words, at least I feel as if I’ve written that day. It’s a battle, for sure.

    1. Sorry AMN – you are operating under a fallacy. You cannot rewire the brain of a Polack. Polacks have no brains!! And of course, I meant that in the nicest possible way. Hee hee!

  4. I like planting things. I do not like pulling weeds, especially when it’s hot. I like writing a WHOLE lot more than gardening (though I enjoy gardens…)because I can do it inside. 😉

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