Although it is the middle of winter, I have been gardening. I may not have been digging in the frozen earth or even pruning last year’s spent growth (too soon for that) but I have been gardening nevertheless. Last week, I ordered seeds. Yes, that is gardening. In fact, it’s one of best parts of having a garden, a forward-looking exercise, a sketch of the design for warmer days. It’s a kind of practical daydreaming.
You might wonder why I would order seeds in February since they will be available in a month’s time in every home supply and grocery store. The answer is: choice. I don’t want garden-variety varieties! I don’t want Kentucky Wonder beans (although they’re a good variety). I want French purple velour beans for their tender little pods and magnificent color. I want Algarve beans because they taste amazing and keep going and going and going all summer long. I don’t want cantaloupe. I want Charentais melon because they taste like sunshine.
Here’s last year’s seed haul. I may have gone overboard.
The other sort of gardening I’ve been doing is planning: when to plant what and where to plant it. The logistics are considerable because I employ a rotation system. I know, I know. Garden geek. (If you are one, too, read about it here.) And this year planning is more complicated because we’ll be hiking in Portugal for a month this spring, which means putting early crops in before we go (peas, radishes, potatoes (Yukon, red and purple!), turnips, onions, and more) and abandoning them. If I think about it too much, I might not leave. My babies…
For me, writing follows much the same course. Even when I’m not typing words into Scrivener, I’m planning, thinking, planting a seed. Writing happens via a keyboard but it also happens on the sly. I’ve learned that some of my best work occurs ex camera, at the edges of my consciousness. If you want to see a faint star, you should not look at it directly. (There is a perfectly good biological reason for this having to do with rod vs cone vision but I’m not going there today.) Writing, good, deep writing, is easier caught off guard, when you are looking the other way.
I try not to worry about whether I’m writing enough. Like my garden, spring will come and summer will follow. In the meantime, I can daydream. That’s how gardens, and stories, happen.
Sonja Yoerg grew up in Stowe, Vermont where she financed her college education by waitressing at the Trapp Family Lodge. She earned a Ph.D. in biological psychology from the University of California, Berkeley and wrote a nonfiction book about animal intelligence, Clever as a Fox. Sonja is the author of four novels: House Broken, Middle of Somewhere, All the Best People, and the upcoming True Places. When she’s not traipsing around the world with her husband, Sonja can be found in her garden overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.