The Literary Gardener

The last weeks of summer arrive on a hot wind and a prayer. Birds of unknown origin cluster in the wildflower patch and nestle in the branches of the pine tree. Our newest addition to the backyard scenery — a tulip tree native to Ohio — defies a summer planting, the promise of white-orange blossoms in the spring now only a long-distance hope. So much like the chapters springing up on my computer screen, a newly-drafted manuscript that settles now, resting, watered by revisions and that fragile promise to become a book.

How much the exterior world mirrors my interior landscape. I am a literary gardener. I read for pleasure and to discover the tricks used by authors to make the work live beyond the moment. Like a tree establishing roots in the rock-strewn yet fertile moraine of this area, my writing searches for that deep connection, sends out a taproot into the dark, underground heart of the universe.

I use my hands to delve in the dirt of my garden beds, spray red pepper solution to keep insects from devouring tender leaves and maiming the new growth. In much the same way, I use my hands to create new paragraphs, use form and function to deter errors. I toil over words as much as I toil over vegetables, sorting the useful from the stunted, checking for weeds. Both are chores I welcome, the rewards from the labor sweet enough to keep me going in the face of the elements. In the garden and in writing, many things are beyond my control. Still, I refuse to abandon the effort, convinced that the process provides its own reward.