I want to weed my gardens.
I wasn’t much of a gardener until I hit my mid-thirties. I admired others’ landscaping and colorful flower beds, and always appreciated my mom making her yard a poolside paradise. But I never caught the gardening bug myself. It was all I could do to keep the grass mowed and weeds and vines from overtaking my yard.
When I met Lee, that all changed. He’d always loved gardening, but had never lived in a place that offered much space for it. He saw my yard the way a painter sees a blank canvas. Even before we moved in together, I let him have at it. Early on it our relationship, I worked days and he worked nights. The only time our schedules meshed was Sundays. Often, he’d come over and spend the whole day playing in my yard, turning it into something beautiful.
It didn’t take long to get me out there planting and weeding with him. To my surprise, I discovered that I loved the whole experience, down to the dirt under my fingernails and the mud-stains on my bum.
Even so, I’m amazed at how psyched I am for gardening season. I’m not a winter-hater. The cold keeps me indoors more, but it also seems to refuel my creative well. I write more in the fall and winter months than I ever do in spring or summer. Knowing that, I rarely wish them away.
I’m blaming my eagerness to put winter behind me on two things. The first is that Maryland’s winter has chomped a hairy butt this year. It hasn’t been brutal, just a constant roller coaster of almost springlike days followed by cold temps and wild winds. Each changeover brings a spattering of rain and some sad, slushy snow. With no lasting snowstorms to turn the landscape into a fresh, clean wonderland (and get me a home-from-work-free-card or two), I’m just done with it. I’m done with slippery roads and the wind making it sound like some serial killing psychopath is banging on my door at 2 a.m.
But even more than that, I think my eagerness for dirt-digging is about relief. At work, I’m in the midst of a project that involves reviewing tons of records and statistics in a painstaking, line-by-line fashion. There are days I dread it so much I want to scream and beat my head against my desk until I am as concussion-dumb as a quarterback who has taken one too many sacks.
I am also editing my book. I enjoy doing so. But it is work of a similar nature – careful, painstaking reading and attention to the most minute details. Writing is pouring everything out. Editing is reeling it back in.
Editing is … weeding.
But when you weed a garden, the sun warms your back. You yank and pull the things that are choking your flowers from the earth. They come away in your hands, dribbling dirt on your legs. You reach and stretch. You notice weeds you don’t want to pull, because they are rather pretty. You work until you are done, and then sit back and bask in your finished product. Yes, the weeds grow again, but not right away.
For a moment, you can survey your landscape and say “I did this today.”
Weeding a novel is a much lengthier task. You cannot finish in the hour or so it takes to weed a garden. Depending on your other obligations, you may not even finish in a season.
I want to play in the dirt so that I can finish something. I want an immediate, tangible, beautiful end result. I know my book will give me the same thing eventually. But I need some instant gratification.
Last year, I left the gardening all to Lee because all my spare-time energies were going into writing the book. I won’t do that this year, even if it means it takes me longer to finish editing. I am on my own deadline, and if I learned one thing last year it was that a life without play is no life at all.
Will you be playing in the dirt this spring?
Addendum: This post was inspired because I can feel spring in the air. But after writing it, I heard we might get our first major snowstorm of the year on Wednesday. Sigh. Dudes, REALLY?