There may be thirty words for snow up in Alaska, but here in Oregon, in the spring, we need fifty words for green. I’m standing in our kitchen sipping coffee and looking out on the Willamette Valley, which stretches to the south in a narrow band between the Coastal Range and the Cascade Mountains. Deposited by a series of cataclysmic ice age floods that carved out the Columbia River Gorge, the soils of the valley floor are incredibly fertile. Blue-greens on the horizon blend to the soft yellow-greens of young crops, the whole patchwork punctuated by deep green stands of Douglas fir and red cedar, and the lighter hues of newly leafed deciduous trees. As I take this in, I’m struck by the calming effect this palette of colors has on my psyche and wonder what it would be like to spend a spring in the colorless Arctic, and how one would compensate for that.
Yesterday my daughter spotted a vivid rainbow out in the valley, but it managed to hide itself in the image she snapped with her phone. An ephemeral rainbow refusing to be digitized. I found that comforting, somehow. It’s raining again today, a soft spring rain. But with the exception of some tomato starts, our garden is planted, so all is well. The artichokes wintered over this year, and they’re already nearly three feet high. I’d put down black plastic to keep the weeds in check over the winter, and the planting went quickly. Now the stage is set for the seeds—broccoli, beans, onions, carrots, egg plant, brussel sprouts, corn, squash, melon—to do their miraculous thing. I’m told seeds are actually living things with organs and detectible metabolic processes. In any case, when they awaken and push their green shoots through the warm, moist soil, it’s an event I never tire of witnessing.
Gardening and writing have much in common, and I’m sure reams have been written making the comparisons and over-working the seed-as- idea and weeding-as-revision metaphors. My wife says you have to love your garden, which, translated, means you have to put the work in, and it’s a multi-faceted task. It’s the same in writing—it’s not just about the creative process of building a story through plot, character, and structure, but revision, editing, and for those of us writing for small presses, even promotion. Drop one of these balls and your project can be in jeopardy. Do them all well and you have a shot, although there are no guarantees. It’s a tough world out there, in writing as well as gardening.
So, just as soon as I get those tomato starts in the ground, I plan to sit my butt down in front of the computer and get to work…