Thyme surrounded by bush beans
My raised beds are lush and green. Flowers cover the tomatoes, peppers, squash, and beans. My anticipation of a bountiful harvest is tempered with memories of difficult seasons past, of hailstorms, drought, and blight. I choose to be optimistic, as the hard physical labor of spring soil preparation and planting has segued into mid-summer weeding and watering.
I’m clinging to the moment. Summer is short in Colorado, and the times of having breakfast on the deck or enjoying the backyard in the evening are limited. I must get seed in the ground or there will be no harvest.
The life of the writer runs in similar cycles of preparation, cultivation and harvest. Authors and gardeners alike may plan their projects in great detail. Others fly by the seat of their pants, tossing characters or seeds into fertile ground just to see what will happen next. Some gardeners let the plants and the weeds run their natural course, then dig through the vegetation to pick the fruits. Others trim, water, and weed, nurturing their plants and guiding their production.
As a child, I recall the rivalry between my father and his avid gardener neighbor. Dad let the raspberry vines in the backyard go wild (much like his children), while the neighbor pruned and fertilized. Both techniques yielded similar results.
The harvest cannot be rushed. Vegetables are ready when they are ready, and picking them too soon leaves you with a tasteless, or even ruined, product. A good story is done when it is done, perhaps requiring one last rewrite or edit before it will catch an editor or reader’s attention. A luscious red ripe tomato, or an anemic half-green specimen?
Most often, some combination of labor and whimsy go into successful writing and growing. The basil fails, so I plant beets in its place. Dill planted last year failed to germinate, but this year it threatens to take over. Likewise, stories and characters may go in directions contrary to what the author originally intended, but with satisfying results.
Once you have experienced that near-perfect garden with its bountiful harvest, the next season may fill you with either wild optimism or dread. Maybe both. I have enjoyed gardening and writing success, and neither came without its share of sweat and tears. As I move on to new writing projects, I’ll try to remember that the harvest only comes after consistent application of loving attention and ruthless weeding.
In the meantime, please enjoy photos of my July garden – a work in process. Do you have any projects in the preparation, cultivation, or harvest stages?
My favorite gardening books:
Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook by Ron Kujawski and Jennifer Kujawski
Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
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