By Lisa Alber
I happened to be browsing my defunct blog and came across a three-year-old post that holds as true today as it did then. It’s really a post about writing, I realize now. And as I sit here a year after my mom’s death, I’m struck by how much gardening helped my grieving process in addition to my writing process. The garden is looking pretty fabulous this year because of all the work I did last year.
Have I grown since three years ago, since a year ago? I honestly don’t know, but I do know that time spent in my garden is still a balm to my soul. Writing my current novel is on the upswing again, and I’m grateful for that. I’m looking forward to hours and hours of writing in my backyard in the coming months.
Anyhow, without further ado, here’s the post with a few notes and things.
However many years she lived, Mary always felt that she should never forget that first morning when her garden began to grow.
— Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
The other day I was talking to my writer buddy, A, about the usual thing: how behind I am on my work-in-progress (LISA NOTE: Gawd, some things don’t change!). I joked that with all the time spent in my garden since April, I could have had the novel completed, revised, and polished by now.
So what’s up with me and my garden? Yet another procrastination method or a requirement for mental equilibrium?
I’ve owned my house for
a year four years(!) now, and (still) much to my surprise I’ve become what I call “one of those crazy gardening ladies.” I suppose it’s better than being a crazy cat lady or a crazy-looking Botox lady, but still, I’m fascinated by this newly discovered side of myself. I hadn’t realized I would take to gardening to the extent of digging up bushes and transplanting established plants and sifting through the soil to dig out every, and I mean every, bluebell bulb I can find. (<–Yeah right, I don’t do that anymore–futility, thy name is bluebell.)
So what gives with that?
I (re-)realized as I was talking to A that I always need a project. You might think, But isn’t fiction your project?
No no, oh no — not any more, it isn’t. It’s my *work* now. A while back, writing fiction was my soul release, my labor of love. I pursued it just for me — writing is the way I connect and process — but once I started to get published, I was forced to think of it as a business. Which it is, definitely, and I don’t have a beef with that.
With the advent of fiction writing moving over to “the dark side,” I was left with a void. A project void. I no longer had a creative outlet that was just for me in the spirit of Elizabeth Bennett …
… I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me. —Pride and Prejudice
Over the years I’ve tried out all kinds of creative activities in addition to writing: photography, painting, guitar, piano, pottery, drama, cooking (which may surprise people who know me well), crocheting, knitting, decoupage(!), printmaking, scrapbooking, and more I can’t remember.
Ultimately, fiction (with photography on the side) stuck, but now I need something to replace fiction. Looks like it’s gardening! And I’m content with this, more than content, actually. Gardening seems to be doing my poor, beleaguered, neurotic mind some good.
- There’s a meditative thing that happens where I don’t think I’m thinking at all. (I must be, but you know what I mean.)
- I lose time, which is signal enough that I’ve been 100% living in the moment.
- I’m outside and physical and getting dirty—a nice opposition to the cerebral, clean world in front of my laptop.
- Unlike writing, I can immediately see the result of my work. Instant gratification. While writing I can see my word count, but I can’t tell if what I’ve written is good or not. Whereas, a de-weeded flower bed? That’s nothing but good.
- The excitement of seeing perennials pop up, watching buds grow fatter until one day the rose or the lily or the peony pops open. That’s just good for the soul.
- And, I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect that mucking about in my garden enhances my creativity when I sit down to work. (TRUE! I need time to let my story thoughts ripen.)
So, I may joke with A about all the time “wasted” in the garden, but I know it’s time spent on what’s important rather than just on what’s urgent. Life needs to be more about the important than the urgent.
Do you have a just-for-you activity that ends up being therapeutic?