I felt a little sheepish this morning as I took up a pitchfork instead of a pen, but the garden--not my book on clouds--was calling. The sky was uniformly gray and my garden was just shy of a eyesore. See for yourself:
|The mid-summer garden: a good place for a writer.|
You're right, the rhubarb in the foreground looks healthy. That yellow thing behind it, however, is an undisciplined goldenrod whose variegated foliage I welcomed in spring. Clumps of nepeta (lower right corner) are in their second bloom and, to be honest, I am a bit tired of their constancy. The pink echinacea hovers mildly above what's left of a hacked-up nine-bark that needs a new home. The real disaster is just past the handle of the pitchfork: two patches of iris that gave me no blooms this year, but filled the garden with yellowing, unlovely leaves.
T.S. Elliot writes of the "objective correlative
", a high-falutin' name for an objective fact,circumstance, or series of events that correspond to an emotion. When the objective correlative is presented, the emotion is necessarily evoked. Elliott was arguing against the vague and abstract use of words and language and in favor of the presentation of things--real things--in literature.
When I am writing, I often spend my breaks in the garden. This is because my garden is full of objective correlatives. There is always something in my garden that exactly corresponds to the state of my writing at the time. Just look at what I found today after a very aggravating few weeks of trying to work out some structural problems with my book on clouds. Just look!
|Iris grow from underground corms (like a bulb), which multiply and become multi-corm masses that do not produce blooms. Does my book have too many sections? Too many themes? Too much going on to "bloom?"|
|Corms need to be dug up and divided every two or three years. Do I have too much material--enough for two books?|
|After you dig up your corms, you hose off all the dirt and gently separate corms and their roots. Are my stories entwined skillfully or tangled in an ugly and amateurish mess?|
|Here is one pile of irises (quadruple the biomass of what I planted three years ago), shortly after corm hosing. Where do I start making sense of all the material I've accumulated and organized?|
|After they bloom (or in August when you get around to it), cut iris leaves down to six inches for easier handling as you inspect them for rot, boring insects, other ills that will result in inferior or non-blooming plants next spring. How much editing do my chapters need? Can the book survive a drastic pruning? |
|Some corms are too shriveled to save. Do I have to toss out entire chunks of text? Any way to resuscitate? |
|I'm afraid, the corms tell me, to get blooms like these you have to do the hard work--the digging, the cleaning, the cutting, the sorting, the nurturing, the waiting. Ah yes, you have to do the work, put in the time.|