Monday, June 15, 2009

Benign Neglect

I like to garden when I'm between writing projects. While I'm writing, my gardening mode can best be described as "benign neglect". This week-end, though, I finished weeding the long rectangle in back of the house that I call the flower garden. In the middle of that rectangle are the lime tree and the tangelo tree, and I surrounded them with bark to hold back future weeds. The garden itself is filled with geraniums, cone flowers, mums, gerbera daisies, and creeping thyme in the sunny spots, and ferns, sweet woodruff, Corsican mint, and a hydrangea in the shadier spots. Yesterday I added a larkspur to a sunny corner.

Then I made my way to the front lawn. One strip of it, near the brick planter, has never been more than a mudpatch with a few grass blades. I put a hydrangea at one end, near our front steps. Today I'll fill in the rest with stepping stones.

But the curb garden is the real tribute to "benign neglect". Last year the city cut down a diseased elm tree between our house and the apartment house next door. When it was time for a replacement, my husband and I requested the new tree be planted directly in front of our house. I filled in the old plot with hardy perennials: mallow, lantana, coreopsis, cone flowers, gazanias, Spanish lavender, geraniums (again), a purple flowering bush whose name eludes me, and seeds that produced blue mystery flowers. Then I more or less forgot about them, and they are flourishing.

If only writing benefitted so well from benign neglect. Or maybe it does. More than once, I've returned to a rewrite, or simply revisited a story idea I had filed away to consider later, only to find surprising things had happened behind my back. Muddy ideas now were focused; dull characters now had life; resolutions were in sight.

Hopefully, after this gardening spree, I'll find a few such surprises when I return to my next project. Until then, the stepping stones call.


George Erdosh said...

Mitty: Many times when I look back at things I've written in the past and never quite finished, I'm horrified at the mess I left the piece in. Yesterday I ran across a piece that you could only call a poem, something I don't usually write. It was amazingly sage, although I wonder at the actual structure because I know so little about poetry. But I slicked it up a bit and will take it to my writing critique group tomorrow. Since they all write poetry as well as prose, I'm sure I'll get some good advice. I don't know how writers function without a critique group - and writing friends who like to "talk shop."

George Erdosh said...

It wasn't George who just posted that comment - it was Marj.

davidhb said...

you know, benign neglect is absolutely how I've been behaving to my 'writing'.. as for weeding, I just put a big sheet down and plant through that.. no more weeds..