My hands smell amazing – like dirt and the broken stems of weeds, like spring. I just came in from planting peas, greens, chard, carrots, and my favorite radishes. We turned the soil yesterday, so today, I took to the warm afternoon sunshine and used my hoe to make those perfectly, imperfect little rows into which I rolled out seeds so small that the mustard seed parable becomes much more clear.
This is simply the first step of a garden, of course. When frost has dusted us with the silver for the last time, cucumbers and tomatoes, and squash and pumpkins must go in. Then strawberry hills must be weeded. Each day for months ahead, I will be bent at the hip to pull weeds and thin rows and then, finally, to pick that first strawberry that tangs the back of your mouth just by your jawbone. I’ll weigh a tomato in my hand before plucking it and twist a cucumber until it relinquishes itself to my grasp. Finally, these precious foods will make their way to the counter, the frying pan, the casserole – and to friends tables . . . carrying with them the care and attention I have cherished them with.
Such is writing. We show up each day and do what must be done. We might be turning the soil in preparation for the planting of our words. We might be hoeing careful rows in which to lay ideas neatly. We might be editing out the excess weeds of words and tangents or laying the ripeness of our writing against our own standards to see if it’s ready. Writing, like gardening, takes time and attention each day, but each day does not require the same thing.
As I was covering up my last row of swiss chard today, I lost myself in the process. I disappeared into that fuzzy world of thought and idea, the place beyond any place where I can spend time without purpose. . . this is the same place I enter when I write with my full attention.
If you haven’t been there, the place feels like the softest blanket you’ve ever laid against your cheek as a child. It’s the warmest sun shining on your bare arms that lay against the softest grass. It’s the breath of smoke that sometimes you still need in spring. It’s all comfort and joy.
The work, of course, is getting to this place, the back-bending, the dirt under the nails, the hours of weeding . . . everyone of them worth it for five minutes there in the warm, soft sun.