Grace and peace to you

Gardening and writing are close relatives.

When I think of gardening, I think of planting. Planting seeds, seedlings and saplings into freshly fingered furrows of moistened soil. Yet I find in practice it is just the opposite. Instead of planting I am forever pulling “stuff” out. It is commonly known as weeding. Or “editing” as a gardening-guru-friend calls it.

My misconception of gardening is similar to the misconception many of us have about writing. As authors have noted: “To write is human, to edit is divine.” ~ Steven King. “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” ~ Mark Twain. “People think writing is writing. But actually writing is editing otherwise you just are taking notes.” ~ Chris Abani.

Told you gardening and writing are close relatives: Both demand editing, and editing is demanding. For this reason some have advised: “Write without fear. Edit without mercy” which is a slightly more Methodist way of saying, “Write drunk and edit sober” as Ernest Hemingway suggested.

Here are a few things I have noticed about “garden-editing”: It starts by not knowing where to start. And then moves to: “Why start if accomplishment looks impossible? Yet, not starting makes impossibility too much of a certainty – so I start. When I do get going I notice – certain weeds edit easily – while others need a firm tug. As some are pulled out they kick and scream and spray soil into my sweaty face while others break-off at the surface – demanding a jab with a small garden fork or to be frustratingly left to live another day – knowing they “will be back”. I notice that each time I stand to straighten and stretch my back that I catch sight of a “missed-edit” in an area I thought I was done with…so I move over to remove the stubborn lone resister and to my horror I discover it is not alone – it is legion. Could they have sprouted in the last twenty minutes or did I miss them first time round? They must have strategically timed their sprouting. They must be on steroids. Garden-editing can be quite addictive – especially if one has the slightest hint of compulsive obsessiveness. I say to myself, “Just one more then I will sit down and relax” – but as I am leaving my eyes fix sharply on a new patch that is overridden and I feel compelled once again to pull and tug. Finally and sadly, I realise it is possible that I may be so focused on editing the garden that I seldom enjoy it.

As it is with gardening and writing, fruitful living demands endless editing. By editing I do not mean self-loathing and judgement, but rather attentive reflection on the patterns of our living that rob us, others and creation of life in its fullness. Some of these patterns (both in thought and deed) are ripe to be removed while others will fight to stay. Some will require assistance to be extracted and several may break off at the stem – removed from sight but leaving the roots still deeply embedded. And yes, this inner work runs the risk of becoming obsessive – so best we set aside a specific time for this work – (knowing when to start as well as knowing when to take a break) remembering as important as editing is, it is equally important to enjoy the garden of our lives.


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