Friday, March 28, 2014

Shear Happiness--Cutting Away


Yesterday was Happiness day in a writers' group, and I missed it because I had a date with the outdoors to begin the Spring cleanup. Outdoors. Let me say that again. OUTDOORS!

After the longest, coldest, snowiest winter in memory, the ground is thawing, the snow is gone, and the mess left behind became glaringly apparent. I set the date for the day this week that looked, from the ever-reliable forecasters, to be the best, set the time for my yard helper to come, and, of course, the forecast changed from mid-50s and sunny to mid-40s with intermittent showers.

Ha. As if a gray, chilly, drizzly day would stop me. It's Spring, dammit, and I was committed.

We worked for two and a half hours and filled two trash barrels and four large trash bags with the shriveled lamb's ear, the old hydrangea blooms, and, the biggest task--the ornamental grasses.

I have several kinds, from huge maiden grasses to smaller fountain grasses and reed grasses. They are some of the few things that stay when the rest of the gardens are cut back and cleaned up in the fall. In winter, they are lovely, their straw color emerging from the snow.

But by the end of winter, battered down by snow and wind, they become like those passages that survived all the edits. Until the final cut. The time you need to get out the scalpel, like Hannibal, and slice out the last of the lovelies.

Or, in the case of the grasses, the shears.

Okay, the day was chilly, it did rain, a bit. My back, as usual, complained at the bending and stretching. And it was all pure pleasure. Happiness in doing the work. Happiness in being outdoors, feeling the wind, even getting sprinkled upon.

Where tangled, bent things lay, now just shorn clumps remain, ready to spring into action. And that will come soon enough.

Right now, though, happiness is cutting. Actually having cut. Before, doing, and after. That part of any creative endeavor where taking away, eliminating, editing out, is its own reward. Now I can see the daffodils and hyacinths pushing up.

Or maybe it's just that it finally is Spring!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring, The Ruthless Season.

It's been a long and brutal winter, but Spring has arrived, and with it, a time for new beginnings.

Pushing up through last week's snow, the snowdrops are blooming in my garden. The first sign of renewal. Outside, just now, in a browned butterfly bush, a cardinal sits, a tiny splash of bright red in a tawny landscape.

It's been a human gestation period since I've visited this blog. I'm obviously not a dedicated blogger. I read so many writers' blogs, all writing about writing. I don't know more than they. Sure, I have a decent critical eye and a fair mastery of the craft, but I have little more to offer than the thousand other offerings.

So chances are, when I blog, it will be more about being creative. Not just with writing. I don't have any formulae. I just keep working at whatever creative activity needs doing, and aren't they all, in some way, the same? Taking our sense, our vision, putting our personal touch to it, and sharing it?

I've had people chat me up when I'm working my gardens to tell me that they drive from other parts of town for their morning walk just to walk past my home to see my yard and gardens. They have no idea how many failures have gone into it, failures that took serious revision. Digging up and moving plants. Replacing ones that just didn't work. Subtracting and adding.

Not unlike what a draft of a novel requires. Or a painting. A sculpture.

So here it is. A new season. Who knows what will have survived this winter? No doubt there will be plenty of pruning, cutting back, moving, and replanting.

I'll be going through edits on my (soon to be published) novel as I renew and plant in the gardens. Not so much different. What will the editor see that I've missed after a hundred edits? I look forward to it, with a bit of trepidation, as I look forward to what will need fixing up in the beds around our home. Each little thing has to work with the whole.

And that's the thing about doing anything creative, meaning anything that needs your personal sensibility to bring it to life. You get it all out there, make mistakes, and some things don't work and need to be moved, revised, changed, or completely deleted. But you stand back, look at the whole, and realize that to "get it right," you have to cut, move, and replant.

Sometimes that takes ruthlessness. I read once, it might have been Gertrude Jekyll, that to be a good gardener, one must be ruthless. So must all artists.

So here we go, into a Spring that may reveal some serious damage to correct. And how different is that from the novel you're working on, or your garden, or your painting, your sculpture, your song? An artist in any medium has to embrace ruthlessness.

But it's Spring. Ahh. Enjoy what's good and beautiful and then fix what needs fixing. I'm loving the snowdrops. The rest will come, and my shears are ready.

Are yours?