Outside the window, the robins criss-cross the soil of the newly turned vegetable beds, listening for worms beneath. The recent years, filled with appointments and meetings and what seemed so important, witnessed the plots disintegrating into a weedy mess. This year, I’m out there again, with this mixed gift of virus-induced-stay-home-time, edging the garden earth against the encroaching lawn. It’s heavy work but satisfying. It’s work that can only go at the pace that I can, my legs and arms and back complaining if I do too much at a time.
And it’s work that unfolds—can only unfold—as the temperature rises. It can’t all be done at once, but rather moves in a predictable and ancient pattern of seasonal shift; only cold weather seeds can withstand the sudden wet snow squalls, the winds whipping in from the north. The nightshade cousins like it hot, the tomatoes and peppers and eggplants, and it’s a month or more before those seedlings will be planted out. By that time, we will be harvesting the first lettuce greens and hopefully some sugar snap peas. Spinach and rhubarb will already have bolted, erecting obscene seed heads into the humid summer air.
Digging out there, with the grit beneath my fingernails, the worms squirming against the light and the scent of earth wafting round, I can’t help but read the metaphor so blatantly presented about artistic practice. Yes, I know the comparison has been made before a thousand times over, but when one discovers something for oneself, it retains the fresh surprise of truth.
For all these veggies to grow, I must work with them, nurturing them in concert with their environment, just as I do my words and sentences when I’m trying to write a piece. And the thing is, when the first twinned leaves of cotyledons poke through the soil, it’s hard to tell the veggie seedlings form the equally virulent weeds. One must be patient, observant. With experience one knows, but it’s seasons of trial and error for the neophyte. As a writer, I’m still in the spring stage, the early spring stage. But with continual care, attentiveness and nurturing, what I plant on the page will one day grow, be trained and weeded and shaped into something beautiful for others to consume. As the writer, I am the only person standing between the garden of a finished piece and the chaos of the word weeds. How and what will grow is really up to me and will only unfold at the pace that it can, that it will for me alone. No rushing how a plant grows; only solid dedicated care will bring it to fruit. Writing too.