Thursday, March 26, 2009

Slow Gardening & Fast Writing

I have an excuse for saving all my Jameson Whiskey bottles for a new bottle tree! Man, it's gonna be a big tree.

Now I know there's a term for my yard: slow gardening. LOVE this profile in the NyTimes today on Felder Rushing. (Pictured at right)

I'm mulching over the last remnant of lawn this week, and have always been a big fan of outsider garden art--using what you have on hand for containers and decor.

Now that I think about it, my obsession--er, interest-- in "slow gardening"-- reared it's flowery head while I was writing SECRET KEEPERS. A major theme: manicured lawns and landscapers versus wild beauty and the stubborn grace of plants.

I think surrendering to the rhythms of nature is tremendously gratifying-- aligning yourself, really, with the seasonal cycles and inherent design unfolding right there in your garden or clay pots--without imposing by adding chemicals or pruning something to a nub.

It's all about letting go, being open to what is.

I've found there's a similar kind of alignment in writing. Ironically, getting in "the zone" is often, at first, fast and full of energy. Not editing or revising, which comes later with subsequent drafts, but honoring the flow of pure inspiration in first drafts, of surrendering to characters who take on a life of their own.

As the prolific Stephen King writes in his memoir, ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT, "Writing is at its best--always, always, always-- when it is a kind of inspired play for the writer. I can write in cold blood if I have to, but I like it best when it's fresh and almost too hot to handle."


  1. Loved this post. I left you a message over at Blotanical--several have piled up, I noticed. Hope to see you over there some time.

  2. Boy, I do enjoy Jameson—on the rocks. Yum. Crown, too. A tasty blend for such a pedestrian brand. My wife says I’m a liquor snob. She drinks beer from the bottle. Kind of funny juxtaposition. Bombay Sapphire Gin—talk about a beautiful bottle—runs neck and neck with my taste for some single malt scotches. I have my own name for this concoction—blue bottle elixir. There is also a fairly new whiskey being distilled here in Denver, Colorado, called Stranahan’s. It’s a single malt, believe it or not (quite a feat this side of the Atlantic pond), and it has a lovely bouquet of flavors (It’s garnering high marks among those who frequently imbibe firewater). I’m becoming something of an aficionado and ambassador for this little known (for the moment) whiskey. Back to bottles: I save all my finished Bombay Sapphire bottles (I have quite a collection in my basement) because the color somehow engenders the appearance of art. I just can’t quite convince myself to throw ‘em out (My wife finds it humorous that I “collect” them. I suppose she’s right). Discarding them seems somehow disrespectful and dismissive. If you keep wine corks, the Bombay Sapphire bottle would make a unique vessel for setting sail messages in a bottle. I did that once, sent a message in a bottle, that is; although it wasn’t in a Bombay Sapphire bottle and it wasn’t a standard rolled up stowaway note, but a book that I launched to be carried by the whim of undercurrents, tides and waves to whatever destination Poseidon desired.

    Oops. I’m rambling. Sorry. Your post prompted a lot of different thoughts flying and bouncing around in my head. It’s good to let ‘em out sometimes. Hey—if you ever craft your Bottle Tree, I’d love to see a picture of it. Maybe you could post it. Reminds me of a beautiful little scene from Kate DiCamillo’s “Because of Winn Dixie” (YA literature), where a particular character has a bottle tree in her yard and it carries a unique and weighty significance.

    I see you reference King quite often. One of his books, “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon,” is one of my faves—actually in my top 10 favorite novels (talk about lists—I’m a list nut).

    Jesus—sorry, did it again. :) Have a good one. Need to dye some Easter eggs with my girls and then off to Jazz dance recitals for them.

  3. I'm the same way about bottles. Just can't make myself throw them away...especially the blue ones. They look like gems in the sunlight. I'll be sure to post a photo of my Jameson bottle tree when I've managed to construct it. And that's cool about the bottle tree reference in "Because of Winn Dixie"--
    will have to re-read it.


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