The Writer’s Garden in Spring

Lined or unlined 

I grew up with a garden and I loved the lines my mother rolled out across the patch of soil that was designated as a vegetable garden. To me, it was like a magical labyrinth, to the dog it posed more as a tripwire. With fine knots, she tied a white thread between two small sticks and made line after line. The size of the crop to come decided the space and height she put between the lines.

In school, I filled out my own lines practicing the handwriting of each letter. Here the fixed lines decided the desired outcome of either a small or large letter. In kindergarten, I tried so hard to get my B’s perfect that I made a hole through the paper with the eraser.

Now I have a garden of my own and my days of perfection are over. Often I am a little too lazy to put up the sticks with the thread between them. Instead, I wing the imagined lines when I put the potatoes in the ground. And in my writing, I never use an eraser instead I cross out words or put brackets around a sentence. I still cherish the fact that I learned proper handwriting and that my mother taught me the basics of gardening but I also embrace the space around the set structures.

I always use an unlined notebook but perhaps I will still have a go at a labyrinth of white thread and sticks in the garden this summer.

Handwriting and hand-weeding

I just watched the documentary about Margaret Atwood “A Word after a Word after a Word is Power“. In it, there is a scene with her picking up weeds from a walk along a forest path. She talks about how not all thing that relates to her ordinary life is suitable for fiction for example weeding. It would be repetitive and boring.

Later on, in the movie, she crosses out a word in a manuscript while editing and I couldn’t help to see it as part of the same process as weeding.

The sentences become stronger when they are guarded against intruding and superfluous words. So perhaps it is not part of the story but it weaves into the craft of storytelling to be able to discern what belongs and what does not. This also goes for the difference between wild nature and a garden. When I know my preferences and I train my discerning eye I gain a curiosity and attentiveness to what sprouts and blooms both in the garden and on the page.

Atwood writes in hand at the beginning of a project. I think she said it was about 50-75 pages in hand before she goes on to type the story out. We get a glimpse of her notebook. The page is filled out with words, sentences, arrows, and other signifiers both horizontal and vertical. I recognized my own notebooks in this picture. It poses another intriguing labyrinth than that of lines

There is a secret garden in the center of the wild land and from there a flowerbed springs into the world.

Spring is here 

Spring this year

I am sitting at my desk trying  to write but my mind wanders out the window around the corner into the back yard garden. The sun is out the projects outside are calling begging to be handled. I write a little more and then I go out. I do some weeding. Neither the writing or the weeding brings me the usual feeling of flow.

I pause in the small space we have named the Italian patio. It is in a sunny spot, the lavender thrives here and I hope to have a lot of tomato plants growing up the brick wall when summer arrives. Now with the coronavirus, I sit down here and send my thoughts and prayers to Italy, my own country, and the rest of the world facing this pandemic. The sun warms my cold cheeks and shoulders. Tomorrow I will spread some flower seeds on the bare soil next to the patio and hopefully when they bloom all this will be over and the together-apart-gap can be crossed with a flower in hand and gifted to a loved one.

Let us do the same with our words and stories.


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