I squat beside my garden bed, a satisfying ache in my legs, and look for new shoots asserting themselves in the soil. Every day the veggies in my garden are taller by miniscule amounts. The beans have sent out little tendril-feelers, so aware in the way they caress the green racks they’ll soon go scaling. The bright orange flare of a squash blossom halts me with delight. Every time I find a new sign of life, a thrill runs up me.
At night I take my wine glass out with me to water, almost as if I’m having a date—and it is sort of a romance, with newfound quiet and lengthening stillness. After days spent with information rushing at me in electronic streams, my garden is like a lover I can’t stop thinking about; I want to run my fingers over it, inhale its scent. Hours melt away as I tend to it.
Gardens are great for creativity, and not just because its seeds and blooms are metaphors for the creative process—my garden is urging me back to deep thought, to focused attention, to being present.
It’s sad that those things sound cliché, as though one must apologize for an urge to pull back from the noise. Yet writers need to do more than promote and blog and connect; writers need to tune in, to get quiet enough to connect with the words that lodge inside us. I can’t do that when my attention is being fractured. And frankly, as the mother of a young son, sometimes I forget what it’s like to even experience silence—or rather, the soothing noises of nature. My crepe myrtle tree is full of lively, boisterous finches; my neighbor feeds the big, barking crows next door that hold ragers on my front lawn so loud I can hear them from the back; the scrub jays squawk their displeasure at local cats—but it’s all a cacophony that feeds my mind.
So yes, if you’re wondering, I am telling you to plant a garden. Or walk somewhere that you can hear your own breath and heartbeat, where the air smells like earth, where the light comes from the sun, not fluorescence.
I don’t know about you, but these spring and summer months are terrible for my output, but marvelous for filling myself back up with breath and earth and life and sun—from which to germinate new writing.