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It’s been interesting to see how differently people react to the Grow Write Guild prompts. Some people say they’re too easy; others too hard. I’m behind schedule with my responses and was very tempted to throw in a super easy one for number 4, but I promised myself from the start that I would not write prompts to suit my own needs. Falling behind is not the end of the world. That said, I do have a simple one in mind for the near future. It just didn’t feel like the right time to pull it out.
I didn’t find number 3 particularly difficult to do. I’m late because I was feeling lazy and didn’t feel like writing it. However, I did enjoy taking the pictures.
Grow Write Guild Prompt #3: Describe your garden right now.
Stand in one spot in your garden and describe what you see in front of you. Turn to your right. Describe what you see there. What’s behind you? Your left side? What is underneath your feet? What do you see above your head?
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This was a tough one. Even now, as I force myself to sit down and write this thing more than a week after it is due, I am still fidgeting, still looking for a way out. Hoping for some little task of not so great importance to divert my attention.
“I should really clean my desk!”
“Are there any aphids on this pepper plant?”
“You know, the rug could do with a quick vacuuming.”
Grow Write Guild Prompt #2: Describe your fantasy garden.
I am blocked. The brain does not want to think about a dream garden. The brain really doesn’t want to put it into sentences and paragraphs. As time passes, it is getting harder and harder to do. I have noticed that the block is seeping into other writing assignments. I am growing unsure again about the words that I allow to come out of my fingers. So now it’s not just that I haven’t done this assignment that I assigned (you see, I do not write these prompts with my own ease in mind), or the feeling that I am asking others to step outside of their comfort zones and that I must do the same. Now it is like an infection or a poison that must be drawn out.
I could not understand why it was so hard for me to do this so I talked about it in therapy. So now my therapist asks about it, too. “Did you write that thing yet?”
Even now I am avoiding writing about it by writing about how I keep avoiding writing about it.
[And then I picked up a book that was sitting on my desk and procrastinated further by underlining passages.]
The book I picked up was “There is a Season: A Memoir” by Patrick Lane. I picked it up at the thrift store last week and have only just begun to read it. The passage I underlined was something that I read the other night that stuck out. I didn’t have a pen nearby at the time, but had kept it in my head that I needed to go back and revisit it.
Sometimes, when I look back on the photos I take in my garden, I can hardly believe how much transpires within a single growing season. In the springtime I can see the pathways between beds and most of my plants are just a few inches tall. Everything is exposed. By the end of the growing cycle the garden is a wild, unruly beast. The pathways are devoured by foliage and there is no exposed soil left. How and when did that happen?
“So the days float through my eyes, but still the days seem the same.” -from Changes by David Bowie
It’s amazing when you think about it. Our gardens begin as one thing, and stealthily, silently they transform into something entirely different in just a few months only to start over and transform again, and again and again. Some years, I lose perspective. While I am in the midst of it all, I forget what has transpired. I don’t appreciate the work I have done, and focus instead on what I haven’t done. Sometimes, while knee-deep in the late-season struggle to keep things neat and tidy, I start to take the amazing growth around me for granted — it becomes something to rail against rather than something miraculous to behold.
I want you to appreciate the work you do in your garden. I want you to walk away at the end of the season with a sense of satisfaction regardless of how it went, and a focus on what you have accomplished, rather than on what you haven’t. One way to achieve this is to document and record change. For this reason, we will practice this exercise a few times throughout the growing season, beginning with our gardens as they are now. It will be fun to see how they progress and perhaps even see how our attitudes change with the seasons.
“Memory is a gardeners real palette; memory as it summons up the past, memory as it shapes the present, memory as it dictates the future.” – from My Garden (Book) by Jamaica Kincaid
Hello writers. Our first writing prompt was meant to jog memory and take us back to our beginnings (or somewhere nearish), back to where we have come from as gardeners. Memory and past experiences have a place of distinction in our gardens. It doesn’t always dictate the outcome, but memory (conscious and unconscious) folds into our gardening practice, building a basis for why and sometimes how we garden, and infecting the many choices that we make.
I considered guiding us further down this path, but in the end decided that it makes more sense to come back to the past intermittently rather than sinking into it all at once.
Instead, with the winter behind our backs (or very nearly in some cases), it is time to look to the future, or at least, the fantasy future that we desire. I don’t know about you, but I’ve just spent several months dreaming about my garden. What will I grow? What changes will I make? Where will this growing season take me? Lately, I’ve been marking up the calendar with plant sale dates and anticipating all of the new plants I will be bringing home in the next few months. I have enough springtimes behind me now to know how it will play out. Some plants will be planned for, but others will be the product of pure impulse and spontaneous desire. I think of these as Id plants. “OH, I must have that!”
Sometimes these Id plants come home and take me and my garden in new directions. Other times they are a disaster (and a predictable one) because they are in direct conflict with the practicalities of the real garden that I have. But sometimes in these spontaneous choices lies the key to something that I need. Something that I have not brought into conscious thought.
I hope you enjoy this first writing prompt. Future prompts will range from simple to complicated and silly to serious. Some will be straight ahead and others will be surprising and unexpected. Please join the newsletter if you’d like to be notified when prompts are posted to this site.
In interviews, I am often asked to relate my “Genesis” story. “How did you get started gardening?.” It seems like such a simple question. You’d think I’d have a great response in the back of my pocket by now, given that I have been called upon to answer it countless times. Instead, my response is always the same: sheer panic.
“Uh. Well. You see. It’s sort of a long story to tell. Ummmmmmmmmmm… It’s, uh, complicated.” Fumble, fumble, stammer.
It’s not that I don’t know my own story, it’s that it is not a story with a single, definable beginning. The way I see it, there are many things in life that are like this. Sometimes there is no singular act that sets you off on a path, but several acts and experiences — some conscious and others unconscious, that lead you to a destination that you may not have been able to foresee.
After the initial fumbling, my response to this simple/big question is often to begin with my first plant. I’m not certain that it is the beginning of this thing that I do (growing things), but it is an important experience that I can recall with clarity. I was only five at the time and growing a plant was not an activity that I had a hand in choosing. However, my memory of it is telling and a reminder that the urge to connect to the natural world in some way was always there, even if it took me a while to put conscious thought and action to it.
So this is where I thought we’d begin. At the beginning. But not really.