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on writing and gardening

The Life of a Writer, Part 7642: I am waiting. In limbo. The manuscript of the essay collection is out at 8 or 9 publishers, none of whom has acknowledged receipt of it. I assume they have it and are so busy weeping with joy at its beauty that they forgot to get in touch with me.

There’s a short-ish essay out at a competition and a long one out at three American magazines, two online. Last week, realizing Saturday is Paul McCartney’s 80th birthday, and who should celebrate harder than I, I wrote a piece about him, his life, what he has meant to me and countless other fans. It’s time-sensitive so I sent it immediately to two editors at the Globe, then to a bunch of editors at the Star, then to a program at the CBC. One of those editors, who has bought my work before, said not for his section and suggested someone else to send it to. Who like the others did not reply.

I’m not complaining. Well, I am, a bit. But mostly, I just wonder sometimes if the words mean anything, if anyone is out there, or if the pages are simply tossed into the void. HELLO! IS ANYONE THERE? 

On the other hand, as you know, there’s the garden, which provides joyful satisfaction every day. This is the year I turned into a real gardener; I was loving but neglectful before. Now I go out every morning with my secateurs to inspect, prune, find the diseased leaves, the toppled raspberries, the tentative new blooms. 

Here’s what’s not working in the garden so far this season: the infuriating peonies, three healthy-looking plants that have never produced a single bloom. I have a severe case of peony envy as I see the gorgeous pouffy blooms all over the ‘hood. And the spinach is spindly and weird, as it was last year. 

What vanished over the winter: the buddleia and a cranesbill geranium. 

What’s working, not the plants that wintered over but newly planted on the deck: parsley, chives, dill, tomatoes, lettuce, lavender, basil, dahlias.

In the garden: astilbe, William Morris heritage roses, day lilies, phlox, Jackmani clematis, fall-blooming clematis, Annabelle hydrangeas, climbing hydrangeas, boxwood, lettuce, bleeding heart, ferns, rose of Sharon x 3, coreopsis, huge clumps of rudbekia, echinacea, Mexican sunflower, yarrow, pinks, cosmos, allium, anemone, wisteria, grasses, comfrey, spiderwort, goldenglow, spirea, honeysuckle, holly, hostas, climbing tea roses. 

In the garden cage: a few plants of peas, tomatoes, basil, onions, zucchini, cukes, beans, thyme, oregano, summer savory, sorrel.

At the back: raspberries. And the weeds, goutweed and Virginia creeper, going nuts, because it’s too far from the house for me to tend.

No waiting here – every day work to do and beauty to relish. Here a quote from Rebecca Solnit.

“The American poet and devoted gardener Ross Gay told an interviewer, “There’s probably been nothing else in my life that’s trained me to go slow the way gardening has, that’s compelled me to look very closely. Part of the delight of my garden is that you just get lost in it before you even start to do anything. I walk out to my backyard garden at certain times of the year and I can’t get 30 feet without stopping for 20 minutes because the goumi’s need trimming. And then I watch the wasps and notice that the lavender and the thyme right next to it need weeding. I love how my garden is very productive outside of the logic of productivity. It makes a lot of stuff that’s edible and nourishing and all that, but it’s also productive in ways you wouldn’t think necessarily to measure.” 

Productive outside of the logic of productivity! I feel now that even if my books mean little, I’ve created beauty on this earth, a small something that was not there before. I hope the garden is my gift to the planet; it is definitely the planet’s gift to me.

Another gift: my third grandson and his dad, who visited yesterday.



2 Responses to “on writing and gardening”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Beth. Greetings from Nanaimo, an important stop on my Western Swing 2022. I would love to read your piece on Paul McCartney turning 80. I already know it's brilliant. Cheers. Alan

  2. beth says:

    I posted it on FB, Alan, but will email it to you. Much recycled from "All My Loving." I tried to sell it to two newspapers and the CBC but had no takers. Happiest of birthdays to our favourite!

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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